NASCAR Post-Race Transcript
An interview with:
DALE EARNHARDT JR.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the winner of the first Duel tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale, talk about holding off the 22 and the 4 at the end.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: That was crazy. You know, had to just go where they were going. Everybody knows how important getting the lead is at this race.
I knew how important it was to keep it so I had to do everything I could, get pretty aggressive at blocking and getting in front of them and trying to not allow them to get up on the quarter panel. They had a great car. I know that's evident. But this car is something special.
I was so nervous today about tearing the car up because I know how good it is versus what we have. What we have is a capable car in the trailer, but this thing is special. So I'm real excited.
Hopefully we can get through these next few practices and be able to put the car on the grid on Sunday. Whatever happens after that, I don't really care.
I was so nervous. It's such a tough balance because you got to go out there and try to win, but you can't tear up your car. You got to race like tearing up the car don't matter. It's really crossing your fingers and hoping you get to the finish with the car in one piece.
We did, so I was real happy with that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a couple quick questions for Dale.
Q. We rarely see lead changes on these plate races lately. You were able to pull that off. Did you show your hand for Sunday too early?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Nah. I mean, you got to go win. You can't hold any cards when there's a trophy out there.
I learned about my teammates. Some of them showed their hand a little bit, too.
I never really ran with Brad much as far as 1-2 where I have to defend or try to pass him. That was interesting. He's very aggressive trying to put together a run pretty much every corner, two or three runs a lap he's trying to put together. A lot of guys like myself, we kind of wait for whatever to happen, wait for something behind us to propel us into an opportunity to put a run together. That might happen every two or three laps.
He's very active. So, you know, you learn about your competitors and learn what they're doing. I was surprised that we got by Denny. He's great at plate racing. That's obvious by his success at this track and Talladega. He's always towards the front.
When we got by him, I was really surprised. Then I was nervous when Joey got to second. Joey is very good too, obviously. He's pretty aggressive like trying to get the lead. He has a great racecar.
I was glad to hold them off. But now I'm not too worried about giving away too many secrets. But the car is so good, it's really hard. When you got such a great car, it's hard to defend on a pass with a car like that.
Q. This car you're in, two wins last year.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Three wins last year, won the 150.
Q. How much confidence do you have in this car?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: The car is awesome. I don't really get too confident, I don't want to get overly confident in what I'm doing. But the car really does everything I ask it to do.
When you have a car that you know can do the things that this car can do, you're willing to take those gambles and risks to pull out and pass and not worry about getting shuffled to the back because you feel like the car is really capable of doing what you're going to ask it to do every time you make a move.
It's just a fun car to drive. Really special car. Rick leaned into the window. I told him, Whatever happens to this thing from here on out, he needs to keep track of it. Might be one he wants to put in a museum one day because it's done a lot of good things.
Q. February 18th, the whole week have been tributes about your dad. How special is it for you to have this win on this day?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: It's real special. I was thinking about that. I try not to make too big a deal. I've told all you guys in interviews we've done how much I like people to remember dad, talk about dad. It really warms my heart to see the stuff on social media and so forth. That's probably my best way to gauge the reaction to a day like this. You see a lot of people mention him, even the Braves and all that stuff. It's pretty cool.
I was daydreaming a little bit. I'm guilty of daydreaming a little bit about winning this race tonight because of the day. That was special to me. Glad nothing bad happened, that we didn't tear our car up, because that would have been embarrassing on a day like this.
Q. You said in Victory Lane that there's a lot of guys that have gotten very good at plate racing. Denny sort of said something similar earlier this week. He said these races are not crapshoots anymore. There are certain guys that are very good at this. How did that become and who are they?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We got rid of the tandem. When you had to tandem draft, you basically had to team up. Imagine going to a wrestling event and it was just all tag team matches. That wouldn't be any fun.
The idea of driving a racecar, at every other racetrack we go to, you're single-minded, you're selfish and you're a jerk. You're a jerk on restarts, you're a jerk every time you're battling for position, you're not doing anybody any favors out there, you're not trying to help anybody. That's racing. That's the way it's always been, right?
When we started this tandem stuff, it was like a tag team match. It felt so unnatural to run second by having to draft a guy that was going to win the race. That was the oddest thing to wrap my brain around. Man, we're going to run a race today and I might have to settle for second intentionally.
When that all went away, this package, we got lucky that this package is similar to the '01 to '05 range, maybe even late '90s, similar to that, where you have to look out for you.
I told Chase on the starting grid, we raced a little bit together in the Xfinity stuff, but I'm not going to be helping you tonight. Don't help me. Don't worry about where I'm at. If I'm behind you in one of the lines, don't jump in thinking you're trying to help me. Do everything you can to keep the lead. Don't give the lead up no matter what. Don't worry about me. I'm going to do what I need to do for me, you do what you need to do for you. We're not out there screwing each other over. You don't want to do that to your teammate. Rick will be pretty upset about that. You understand what I mean; you just got to be selfish.
That's what makes this fun again. That's why you see the same guys up there, because they understand the mentality. Different styles work. Denny and mine is real similar. He's aggressive. The 22, Logano, he's aggressive. But Kenseth does well, and he's not quite as aggressive. He's real smart.
Different styles work. But it's a mentality, I guess, where you just have to be a selfish jerk, you know. You can't be like buddying up, Oh, man, let me help this guy a little bit get by this guy for a couple laps. I helped my buddy get clear, now I can start racing again. You can't be doing any of that, you have to be racing for yourself.
Q. A lot of folks are asking you or will ask you what you learned tonight that will help you Sunday. My question is, what will you learn this weekend that you can carry forward to Atlanta and California? Or is next weekend the start of the season?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Next weekend is really the start of something different. The season starts here, but, yeah, we won't be taking any of these notes anywhere but to Talladega.
You know, this is a different style of racing. I've really enjoyed it. But I'm looking forward to, you know, Atlanta. I think the whole series is looking forward to going to Vegas, Atlanta, all them places with this new package. It's going to be a whole new ballgame. Everybody is wondering where everybody is after the off-season. Every year you kind of have to get another measure of your competition because everybody kind of gets a little better in the off-season, see how that all works out once we get to the next couple of tracks.
Speedweeks has always been a little bit different. Not a true measuring stick of what the rest of the season might look like or who might be the dominant team.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thank you, congratulations, and good luck on Sunday.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Thank you.