An interview with:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. and TONY EURY, JR.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by tonight's winner, driver of the No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale, tell us about your run.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, when the race started, we practiced, and the car felt great. When the race started, I just kind of tried to run in a straight line, tried not to slit my tires off in the corner, really work the tires too hard. There were some guys racing a little bit harder. Felt like it was gonna be important to take care of your tires.
Near that middle part of the race, we were sitting there with the best-handling car on the track, and we took the lead. Felt like I could hold it till we pitted, which was going to be real short. But the caution came out. We had a 30-lap run till the end. Harvick just set in second place trying to position himself for the finish.
We had a green-white-checkered. I told Logano that his best bet I thought was to try to push us off into one and get both of us clear of the outside row, and then whatever he wanted to do after that was up to him. That's basically how it worked out.
He had a pretty good run on the last lap, the back straightaway. He kind of ducked out a little bit and then thought twice about it because I don't know if the guys behind him were going to do it. Once they got back in line and felt that little shove I got off into three, I felt pretty confident we was gonna win.
I'm happy for Wrangler because they've been a great friend to our family for all these years, and I've enjoyed the relationship that I've had with them. They didn't put anything into the racecar because that's what I asked. I asked them if I could take some of my personal service that we'd already agreed on and carve some of that over to the racecar to run this race. I just wanted to run this paint scheme once. So I want to thank them.
I want to thank Hendrick engines because they improved for us for this race. They worked especially hard to help us for this race. We got a great qualifying run. We had a great, great car in the race power-wise.
Tony, Jr. did an awesome job. He managed his people well and prepared a great car that never had any bugs in practice or never had any flaws throughout the weekend. We had the 88 boys from the AMP Energy National Guard team pitting the car. I want to thank them for volunteering to do that. I hope they volunteered (laughter).
But it was just a fun, fun deal obviously. I was happy to see Richard. He told me before the race we were gonna win, and if we did, he was going to Victory Lane. I told him he was on the car listed as the owner. Rick called me in Victory Lane after the race. He was happy. I thanked him for allowing us to maneuver what we had to to make this package work.
He had to step aside on a few things even though he did build the chassis and the engine. He foregoes some credit toward helping us get here as an owner of our company for the last several wins and this win.
So it was great. So that's it. You know, pretty much a real emotional win. But, you know, it was for obviously to honor my father, but for his fans, too. They were so supportive of him, and still are today. So I want to thank them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Dale.
We're also joined by tonight's winning crew chief, Tony Eury, Jr.
Tony, your thoughts as the race unfolded from on top of the box.
TONY EURY, JR.: I mean, the way we started out, we had a good qualifying run, like he said. Basically we got a good qualifying run. When the race first started, we was kind of worried about the way the race was going to play out with the incidents and stuff, the car being brand-new.
But as the race started, he looked pretty strong. Like he said, people started racing a little bit hard. He kind of fell back a little bit. Then once I seen him on I think it was the second stint, he really started coming up through the field by his-self running the top groove. I was like, Okay, we got something that's capable of winning this race at the end.
Like he said, the 88 AMP guys really stepped up on that last pit stop and got us back out in front. That was pretty key to get back out there in fresh air. From then on, it was just pretty much everybody kind of chilled out and waited till the end.
You know, it was a pretty special win. It's kind of like old times there. Like Dale Jr. said, it's more of a tribute to Dale Sr., the things he brought us. I think we've always had a real good restrictor plate program. Now we got Rick and Richard both involved. That was a real special night for me personally.
You know, to be able to work with Dale Jr. again, I guess caught my first win as a car owner.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Forgot about that. Hell, yeah. Congratulations. Awesome.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
We'll now go ahead and open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Dale, you made it pretty clear here this week that you don't plan to drive the 3 again. You saw again tonight, though the incredible fan emotion tied to all this. Does that make you rethink it at all or are you decided on that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I will never do it. I'll never rethink it. I'll never consider it. I think that it's important for everybody to know that that's as concrete as it gets. I'll never do it again.
So I enjoyed it. It's hard for me. It's a balancing act between you and the public and myself and my own feelings. I mean, I kind of, you know, look to what you guys are putting out there to kind of get a temperature of how the public's feeling. It's such a tough deal. It's real emotional for me preparing for it and putting it together. Is Rick okay with it? Did Rick mind? Is Richard happy with his role? Is Teresa truly okay? It's just so damn hard to know how everybody feels about it.
Hell, I just want to come race. I just like cool-looking cars. This was a helluva cool-looking car. I always loved the scheme. That's all that mattered to me, was just the scheme. I just love the car. I wanted to race it once, and I did.
I'd run the number before in this series, so I didn't really put a lot of stock in the fact that the 3 was coming back like a lot of people did. I didn't approach it that way mentally, where everyone else was thinking, you know, 3 is back, Earnhardt's 3 is back.
But when I started hearing all that, you know, how everybody was making such a big deal about it, I was like, Shit, man, this is like pressure, man, this is a big deal. So I was a little nervous.
But I don't know if I'd have liked that or not. Regardless of whether I did or not, I made my life pretty much driving that 8 and now the 88. It doesn't make sense for me to do this again. I think in the Nationwide Series, it makes enough sense, and I really wanted to do it, and I've done it.
I don't ever want to do it again. And I'll never change my mind, ever.
Q. Junior, you won not only in the 3 but the first race with the new car for the Nationwide Series. Joey was in here talking about how similar the new Nationwide Series car is to the Cup car. What are your thoughts on the new Nationwide Series car? Are you happy with it? Would you want to drive this version of the car again, not the 3, but obviously for your own team or somebody else?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Would I drive the new COT again? Yeah, sure, I'm gonna, I guess. I mean, I'll probably drive next year. My sister won't let me off the hook, which I enjoy. I enjoy working with my employees. I don't want to run in the Busch Series over six times a year, more than five times a year. I enjoy running a few races and working with my team.
It helps me kind of know where we are as a company. But, you know, other than that, I mean, it's so hard to be competitive in the Cup Series that every time I drive a lap in something else, I feel like I'm cheating my team and cheating everyone who's trying to get me where I need to go on that side of it. I'm just shorthanding them people.
So my focus is there, and that's where I want it to be. There was times this year where our company could have benefited from me running the car instead of maybe Jamie and a couple other people. But I want to focus on what my goals are in life, and my goals in life are not to win more Nationwide Series championships or races. Those aren't my goals. My goals are to win Sprint Cup races, win the championships in that.
Really I don't think I answered your question (laughter). But this car was nice. It did drive like the COT. My car was. If you got toward the back, it was a little bit tough, but still drove really similar to the COT. I didn't think so in practice, but the track really improved or something with all the rain and it getting cooled down and running late. We hadn't really run at night yet.
I'm really happy with what NASCAR did first time out with this car. They will work on it, improve it, learn a lot from it. But the first go-round I think was a great success.
Q. For Dale and Tony, with all the publicity and buildup of the car, you guys being back together and everything, was the pressure any different for you guys to win this race today?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It wasn't for me. It wasn't different than it always is. And I work with Tony, Jr. He wants to win. Anytime you work with a Eury, the whip's out, so you better be on top of the sheet in practice, qualifying, it don't matter what, and you're working till the damn red flag comes out.
But he let me off a little easy this week. I guess he's getting old and soft. But I enjoy working with them. But there's a little bit of pressure because our company needs the boost. Our company needs to finish well. I was worried about tearing up cars. I knew we was going to get late cautions, which they were legit, but I knew we was gonna get 'em.
I was just like, Damn, I hope we don't leave this racetrack with three tore-up cars and be another $600,000 in the hole. We're just happy, you know. I mean, there's always pressure driving with that car, that sponsor. To everyone outside this room, maybe some of you guys here, anything less than a win was pointless. What did we do this for? Did we even honor him by bringing it out and running fifth? What the hell.
So I felt a lot of pressure to win. I didn't know if we could pull it off. But we were very lucky and very fortunate to have made some of the moves we made, and we had some great luck. It just all worked out. I feel lucky.
TONY EURY, JR.: I mean, I feel the same way Dale Jr. does. You know, when we come to a speedway race together, you know, I look at it as I better have my A game on because I know how good a drafter he is, I know how good of a driver he is. So when I come to these tracks, it's like it's more emphasis on the car being fast, you having the car ready.
You know, I put a lot of, lot of effort into these cars, just every nick and nanny that I can think of. It kind of shows in qualifying. That's why you got guys that earn top five, because they're doing every little thing that you can do to get that 10th of a second.
You know, like he said, I've got a new group of guys. I mean, this is the 5 guys, the 7 car. Those guys there, they haven't won a race in probably two years. So to see their face today and bringing them to the point that they are where they just won this race with Dale Jr., it's big. It's like he said, it's like you didn't want to come out of here running third or fifth, you know. That's not what we come here for.
So, you know, we put our best leg forward. Like he said, a lot of stuff worked out for us. You know, the story ended like it should.
Q. Dale, you said I think last year how you really had started to treasure wins because you never really know when your next one's gonna come. All the pressure of the 3 car aside, what kind of relief is it just to get back to Victory Lane and to win a race, and to get Tony, Jr. back to Victory Lane with all the crap he's taken over the years?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, you know, tonight I couldn't even -- you know, I didn't have the typical reaction I guess I normally would from a victory. There was so much relief and just pure satisfaction. I didn't have the jubilance, just the explosive excitement that you really have when you win because, uhm, I was just happy for everybody else simply. I was happy for Tony, Jr. He's worked so hard this year, so hard. I tell him he don't need to work that hard.
I'm trying to make you an owner. They're not supposed to be under the cars. But he can't help it.
I was happy for Richard to have been a part of this and allowing us to run this number, and Teresa and my sister for all they did putting it together, all the things they went through. You know, my team, all the fans that this made happy. I was just relieved.
But I told somebody out there, Victory Lane, when you're a little kid, you got a treehouse, or you and your buddies got a clubhouse in the woods or whatever, that's what Victory Lane is to me, and I like going there. You miss it really bad. But you know it's there and you can get back there again if you try really hard. It's not gone, but it's very difficult to get into.
Yeah, every time I win, I mean, I just really soak it up like a sponge because, you know, we've had such a trying time over the last several years. Sure, I'd like to get back to where I could win multiple races a year, but that's not where I'm at right now. So we just got to be happy and feel lucky and blessed for how it's going right now and keep working hard to get better and do more.
Q. At this stage of your life, Dale, at this stage of your career, does it mean more to you at all to win at Daytona? Is this a more special place to win?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I like winning here. I saw where daddy had two more Nationwide wins than I did, so it meant something to get closer to him there. He's at the top of the list in the record books. It would be cool to tie him or surpass him, which I still have a good opportunity to do. Chances are Kelley will still have me running some of these races here.
Now, if I can get Tony, Jr. out from under the car, he might be in a position to persuade me as much as she does.
Winning anywhere means a lot, sure. Daytona is a special place to me because of, you know, my father dying here. I'm totally a part of this place for the rest of my life, regardless of the history of the track. Just this area, this place. I used to come down here as a kid and hang out. I got to be good friends with Jamie Foster, ran around town with him, clubbing and carrying on with him in my 20s. I've seen every corner of this place. I love it as a town. And it ain't changed much to me.
And the track just has such a beautiful history, so many great things have happened here. To me it's 'the' track in our series, it's the mother of all racetracks in this sport, in NASCAR racing. Everything about our sport leads back to this place, to me in my mind, so it's very important.
Q. Dale, two things. Can this give you any kind of a boost on the other side of the garage? Who actually owns this car now? Would you have any special plans for it?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I do believe this helps me tomorrow because the COT or the Nationwide car now kind of drive similar. This helps my confidence. You know, every time you win and do good, I just think it will. I told Rick I had another tank in the bus for tomorrow and we'd bring it out.
I don't know who owns this car and I don't care. I think I'll take it and give it to Winston Kelley and let him have it for a few months and then maybe send it up to Richard and let him keep it for a little while. Hopefully it ends up back in my hands eventually one day. But it's just nuts and bolts.
You know, I think Winston Kelley said in Victory Lane he would love to have it. It would be an honor, one helluva honor to put it over there in his place at Charlotte for a little while.
Q. Dale, if you are willing to take on the burden that you've talked about with this race, driving this car with this sponsor, with the win or it's not worth it attitude, should anybody question your commitment on the Cup side if you were willing to take that kind of burden?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don't think that they should. I think people can stop questioning my commitment, whether I care, whether I have the passion anymore, enough passion. I have worked my ass off to get back just to subpar. Are we right? No, I'm still wrong (laughter)? Anyways, to be above average, I have busted my ass. I mean, I can't drive and work any fucking harder than I'm working right now. I can't. This is all I got. And I'm doing it hard, man. I mean, I cannot work any harder.
You can't do this half-assed. You can't do it 90%. You'll get eaten up. It will be obvious to everybody around you, your team, your crew chief, everybody who builds your motors, builds your cars, they'll still stop giving a shit because they know you're not giving a shit and you won't go anywhere.
So you can't go half-assed. I tell myself every year, I go, you know, Am I working hard? Yeah, I can't work any harder. And I've asked myself, you know, maybe people are right, what more can I do?
But this year, I mean, we've wore it out trying to get back to where we need to be. I'm not burnt out. I still got a lot in the tank. We got a long season left. But I got the passion, man. I want to win. I want to be here for a long, long time.
But I guess, you know, people will question that until you're done. I mean, not just me, other drivers, too, I'm sure. I shouldn't take it so personal. But, man, when you work so damn hard, I mean, you guys know how it is. You're working your ass off to try to get somewhere, do the best you can to do your job, whatever it is. For anyone to ever wonder whether you're giving it all you got pisses you off. But that's just the way it is.
Q. Tony, can you talk about how hard you see him working.
TONY EURY, JR.: You know, it's hard for me to sit back. You know, I think when they split us up, that was the one thing that probably bothered me the worst is because I know how hard he's working. I know that it takes one slip-up, whether it's one lug nut, whether it's the guy missed a tire pressure, whether the guy put a half-around the wrong way on a pit stop. That one thing can take you out of a race.
It's not a one-person team, you know. It's everybody on that team. There's 18 guys here every Sunday. Every one of those guys has to be busting their butt. And I know how hard he works and I know what kind of feel he's got. And it starts on Thursday. I don't just start on, hey, Sunday when they drop the green, this is where it goes. It starts on Thursday when we land here.
And everybody has to do everything. You have to have every minute of practice. You have to get everything tried. And it can't be one screw-up. And the communication's got to be there. Nobody's head can be somewhere else.
You know, Jimmie and Chad are great because they're doing that, they're clicking right now, you know. And I know Dale Jr.'s got it in him to do it. It's just a matter of getting every little piece of the puzzle.
It kills me, like last weekend, to go to Loudon. I'm sitting there watching him. He's following Jimmie right up through the track. I'm sitting there working. I get out, Jimmie wins. I look, he finished 10th.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I finished seventh.
TONY EURY, JR.: I said, What happened? You know, Walked by the computer screen and you was here. He's like, Well, I don't know.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: When I got to seventh, I stayed there and he kept going.
TONY EURY, JR.: Yeah. So, I mean, you know, it's hard for me because, like I said, I want to see him do especially good, and I'll do anything I can for him to make it better.
You know, that's kind of where I think Rick seen that side of it, where I was getting too ate up into it, and it was killing my personal life, and I was getting unhappy. You know, so we decided to go a different route.
You know, I'm perfectly happy with what I'm doing. I think he's in a good route where he's going. Him and Lance are communicating good. Just to see those 88 guys out there in Victory Lane with us tonight, that's going to pump them up for tomorrow. He's pumped up. You know, hopefully tomorrow night when I'm sitting there cooking my rib-eye, he's leading the race.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yup.
Q. Just on the subject of the cost of these cars. I saw Pop in the garage area. I said, How about tonight, Pop? He goes, All three cars came in without any problems. So that's what he was excited about. My question is, Dale, is it possible that you like overdo it, overthink things?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No.
Q. Anything like that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, sir. I mean, look at my beard. I don't really overthink too much. I grew the beard back because I've been running better, y'all. Have y'all not matched it up? We had those first 10 races where we hauled ass, then I shaved, we ain't running worth a damn. Then I grew the beard back. Also I started drinking beer on Monday. I don't know. The beard ain't got its own personality. The beard does have a Facebook page, but it's not a real person, it's just a beard on my face.
But I quit partying so much. I drink beer every Monday and I grew a beard back. Those two things seem to be helping me. So really those two things deserve the most credit (laughter).
Q. Tony, the criticism that you've taken for God knows how long, this must be a lot off your shoulders. And for Junior, what did the comment mean when you said over the radio, We shouldn't have won that damn race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I meant because Joey had a pretty good run down the back straightaway. I was really shocked that he didn't get on the outside right rear quarter of our car. I'm not real exactly sure what was going on behind him. But from what it looked like, when he peaked out, the 6 wasn't having none of it. The 6 was going to get up there behind me. So he said, Well, I'm not gonna get shuffled to fourth or whatever it was, I'll just get back in line and see if I can get back up and get a run off of three. 'Cause he still had a good opportunity between three and the checkered to make a pass.
You know, I'm just as shocked as everybody else, I guess. I guess everybody was shocked. I don't know if everybody expected us to win this race, but I sure as hell didn't. I mean, I knew we had a fast car. But shit, man, it's such a lottery.
You know, everything worked out. Tony, Jr. and the motor was great and everybody did such a good job. I'm like 5% of what it took to get into Victory Lane with that car. So many other variables made it fast, got it here. Body men building a good body, getting through tech, not having problems with that. All kinds of little things. You just go on and on.
But I thought Joey would try that. I've tried it before and it didn't work. You just get shuffled to the back. So maybe that's what he thought about when we got back in line. But his run wasn't very big, but it was good enough to get on the quarter panel and slow me down a little bit.
Q. Is some of the shock just the emotional weight you've been carrying just leading up to this week, too?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I wasn't really shocked about anything else. I was just pleased. We needed a win as a company. We needed to prove that we are still -- I mean, Brad Keselowski, an amazing racecar driver, he's gone on to a different race team this year and is doing so well. We've struggled as a company really to put together consistency.
It's a good feeling to know we're putting together cars that are capable of winning. I was so proud to see Arpin up there battling with us. He come over to the bus before the race and was asking me, What do I do if we're around each other? What am I supposed to do? I said, Hell, if you can pass, go, win the race. So he did. He was racing on up in there. I enjoyed watching him.
So I don't know, you know. It was just fun. I had a blast. Like I said, all the cars get tore up. Even if you win this race and you tear just one damn car up, man, as an owner, it's so hard. It just breaks your heart. Breaks the bank, too. So we feel pretty good to get out of here in one piece and one of 'em's in Victory Lane. We're really lucky.
Q. Tony, could you talk about the decision not to come in the pits there on the last caution, keep the lead.
TONY EURY, JR.: Uhm, I mean, yeah, we had -- when it come down to that, I mean, you're basically sitting there with a green-white-checkered. The last couple times that they've had 'em, it's just been a crapshoot and things happen on the last lap. So we knew that there was a lot of cars on the lead lap.
You know, I figured, okay, 15th on back is going to pit. Because the guys that are running 20th, they got nothing to lose. They're going to stay out and get the position. We just decided to stay out. We figure if you run one lap, just make it back to the caution, that's where you're going to finish. Four tires in one lap, you're not going to come from 13th. I think that's where Kyle come out at, like 13th. I don't know where he finished. I'm sure in two laps, he didn't get too far.
But, you know, it's just one of them deals where it's like a no-brainer, just go. If it had been 15 laps to go, you had that many laps on your tires, it would have been a totally different story. But there you just had to kind of roll with it.
Q. Dale, I know you said beforehand this was a one-shot deal, and now you've made it really clear that you'll never drive again. With all the pressure, if you didn't win, do you think maybe you'd think differently?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. I just think it ain't in the cards. This is it. I just knew before the race, and I said it. I felt 110% sure before the race, regardless of whether we finished or even started the damn race. So, yeah, I'm so glad we won. It means more to me now knowing that I won't ever do it again that I won.
You know, we can all just remember this, squash it, finish our lives, you know, do what we got to do, what we need to do, till we get too old to do whatever we want to do.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations and thanks for your time.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Thank you.
TONY EURY, JR.: Thanks.
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