Kevin Harvick Wins at Martinsville; Team Chevy Drivers Score Four of Top-10 and Seven of Top-10 Finishing Positions
Martinsville, Va. (April 3, 2011) – For the second consecutive race, Kevin Harvick took his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Victory Lane. This week carrying the Budweiser colors, Harvick passed runner-up finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, with four laps remaining in the 500-lap Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
It is the second consecutive victory for Harvick who led three times for a total of six laps. With the win, Harvick, now sits fifth in the standings, just 15 points out of the lead, with six races in the 2011 record books.
With his second place finish, Earnhardt, Jr. jumped four positions in the standings to eighth place. He led once today for 17 laps.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, finished fourth and leaves Martinsville seventh in the standings.
Giving Team Chevy four of the top-five finishers was four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet in fifth place. Gordon moved up four places in the standings to 12th position.
Pole sitter Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Widia Chevrolet, finished seventh today and now sits 23rd in the standings. McMurray led once for a total of 31 laps.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, was ninth at the checkered flag after leading three times for 91 laps. He is 16th in the points order.
Mark Martin, No. 5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, rounded out the top-10 finishers to give Team Chevy seven of the top-10. Martin is 10th in the point standings after six of 36-races.
Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson brought the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the finish in 11th position after suffering a pit road penalty late in the race. Johnson is third in points heading to Texas Motor Speedway.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, fell to sixth in points after a flat tire late in the race relegated him to the 20th finishing position.
Tony Stewart, two-time NSCS champion, behind the wheel of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet fought an ill-handling race car and a penalty to finish 34th. He is 11th in the standings.
Kyle Busch (Toyota) finished third to complete the top-five finishers.
Next on the schedule for Team Chevy is a trip to Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011.
POST RACE INTERVIEWS:
April 3, 2011
An Interview With:
KERRY THARP: Our race winner for the second consecutive week in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is Kevin Harvick who drives the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and is joined give his crew chief, Gil Martin. This is Kevin’s 16th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and this is his first win at Martinsville Speedway. As I said, it’s his second win of the season, second in a row. And also another note about today’s race, 31 lead changes, a new track record. Kevin when you took the last lead there, that was the biggest one congratulations.
KEVIN HARVICK: I’m just glad we led more than one lap this week.
It was just a crazy day for us. We started the race and our car was really, really loose. We came in and made a lot of adjustments, made it a little bit better and we kept working on it and then we wrecked it. And after we wrecked it, it actually got going pretty good. But then we started changing huge swings at it. But just a huge credit to the organization and the team for keeping me sane. I was ready to slit my wrists and they kept me somewhat grounded I think, and then we were able to focus on working on our car and getting back to where we needed to be. Just a great character building day for our team. I don’t know how many character building days we can have but we’ll keep enjoying them as long as we wind up this way.
KERRY THARP: Gil Martin, crew chief, certainly an interesting week here at Martinsville working with the tires and the strategy and managing things throughout the course of the race weekend. How did things unfold for you out there this afternoon?
GIL MARTIN: As Kevin said, our car, we were terrible. No other way to put it other than the fact we were terrible. I think we were set up for the tire last year too much. We needed the car to turn better and we returned to good today. We had to take a lot of that out during the course of the race but I think we waited for the right time to get our two tires because we were able to work on the car and the red flag I think was actually a good thing for us because our team was able to almost be at half time and we went to the bottom of the pit box and six or seven of us together.
And we thought about what could we do with our tire pressures and all to make certain that we had the right tire pressures in the left side tires when we did put two on right towards the end and it worked out. So I have to give everybody a ton of credit for just going through our engineers, Jeremy Bullins and Matt Swiderski going through the simulation and the tire plotters. Because we spent a lot of time on that at the shop but we were able to sit and talk and look at some of that stuff during the red flag and it paid off for us.
KERRY THARP: Richard Childress, second straight weekend in victory lane with the 29 car and the Budweiser team. Talk about winning today at Martinsville.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It’s special because you look at this as our home track now. I know it’s Kevin’s sort of home track because he’s close by. It was a great race for the fans today. I think I looked it up, and I don’t think anyone left the grandstands. Everybody was a little concerned about the tires to start with, but at the end of the day, we had great tires as the track started rubbering up, you were able to put two tires and that was a great call Gil made.
Kevin just kept coming on, coming on. I knew we would have a shot and none of us wanted to see Jimmie get pulled in, because that put him on that outside to come back in fourth and still come back and win the race, I think says something about Kevin and the way his car was.
Q. Richard, it’s been a long time since you’ve put a car in victory lane here, 1995. Wonder if all you guys could kind of talk about getting to do that finally after all that time.
RICHARD CHILDRESS:: It has been a long time, and to be so close to home, you always want to win here in Charlotte and places like that. But for Kevin to take the big win today was really special, and I just walked by and I happened to think and look over there where that old 3 car was tore down, and I don’t know where they will be tearing us down today, but brought back a memory just as I walked in.
GIL MARTIN: For me, it’s a great day because of the fact of we have been so bad here. I mean, I’ve been coming here with RCR for ten years and up until last year, we were hit and miss with all three teams or however many we have brought here and we had an opportunity to win both races last year and messed up and didn’t do it.
To come here and win two in a row, it’s a special feeling for me. It’s never happened for me before, so on a personal note, it’s a great deal for me.
But as far as the company, golly, I just don’t know what to say about it. It’s awesome to win for Budweiser and having all of the new sponsors that we have got on. It’s been a good day for us.
Q. Yesterday Clay told you he would give you two races if he won the truck race; does that deal carry over to today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Clay usually doesn’t back up on anything, so I don’t know, maybe we’ll go to the go kart track and race for it or something since he’s trying to become a driver. Is he in here? He’s trying to become a driver now. I hear he’s racing at Richmond in Denny Hamlin’s race. Maybe he’s out practicing right now; you’re right. But I hope it does. (Smiling).
Q. Kevin and Richard, congratulations on the win, but obviously Junior was up front and people were waving arms and screaming; could you scenes that, and do you feel you made a few enemies by beating him?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I could see the people just going crazy coming off of turn two when he took the lead from Kyle, and I as catching him and I’m like, man, I’m going to be the bad guy here. But I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.
It’s one of those deals where I knew that I was kind of in the same position last year at California where I got a little over zealous and his car was loose getting in the corner and probably needed to protect the bottom getting into the corner the way his car was.
But it was cool to see him back up there in contention for a win and to race with Dale Junior and to win the race at Martinsville is something that I mean I think it’s pretty cool and it’s like Richard talked about, seeing the 3 car, he had memories of the 3 car being torn down over there here.
So it’s just a lot of fun. I know the fans want to see him win. I want to see him win. I want to see Dale Junior win. It would be great for the sport and I think today went a long ways to showing how competitive that they can be racing for wins, and that’s what we need. We all need him to win. But not going to back down.
Q. Understanding every race is a little different, and you probably don’t want to give away too many secrets, you’re getting a reputation of being able to show up in the end at a lot of these races. Is that a product of conserving your stuff through the first three quarters of the race or working the car through the first three quarters of the race or a little bit of both?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I can remember Richard leaving a race in 2001 from Sonoma, and we had wrecked do you remember this? He left the race. Because we had an accident and we came back and I think we finished 9th or 10th or 11th or something like that. The next day I get a call and it’s like, how in the hell did you guys come back and finish 11th from 23, 24, wherever it was.
I don’t know why it’s always been that way, really throughout my whole career, and today it worked in our favor. Our car was bad at the beginning and I had a ton of brakes left at the end and that was really our strong point was getting in the corner, and can that was Junior’s weak point was getting in the corner; he was free.
My dad always told me the pay window didn’t open until the checkered flag was flown, and we survived and raced off of what we won each week. So if you tore your car up my first year, I tore my late model up and we only got to run seven times because he wrecked it every other week. The second time we wrecked one time and we won the championship because we were always around at the end and would take advantage of other people’s mistakes. I guess it’s just the way I was taught to race. You have to be around at the end to win these races.
Q. You had kind of the same characteristics with your car like you had yesterday in the truck race; what did you learn from yesterday’s truck race, whether it be the tires or the way the track drove, to be able to make the right adjustments to be there?
KEVIN HARVICK: We were consistent. We had a really crappy set of tires that came off the car the first time. We don’t know why. We didn’t obviously come in and raise the hood and make some adjustments and front ended adjustments like we did on the truck yesterday.
We were able to I think make huge adjustments on our air pressures and the way I know we were making a lot of weight adjustments on our car. So the truck race, I was just glad I didn’t flip out yesterday to tell you the truth. Stayed calm and everything worked itself out and I had a neat bunch of guys that worked on that truck and we were I guess to able teach them a lot about being able to hang in the race and keep yourself in the game and don’t ever give up.
I’m the first one that wants to quit, usually. And they are like, all right, well we can’t do that. So let’s just figure out what we need to do here and Gil has a good tendency of letting me vent and then we move on.
So, I don’t know. I mean, just track time, to me, I’m a rhythm racer, and I like to get into a rhythm and know where my grip levels are and know the characteristics of a racetrack and the things around me. I think it helps to race both days.
Q. Can you describe where and when the back of your car got destroyed, how that happened, and for Richard, can you talk about it just being bittersweet with what happened with Paul Menard and Jeff Burton today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think when they all got stacked up there, that’s what knocked the hood up, and then I think Paul actually got into the back of me. And that’s what knocked his radiator out.
Just they got stacked up, I don’t even remember when it was. It was before halfway. Everything happened before halfway, thank God, that we were able to work on the car after that.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, I told Jeff after the race was over, it will turn. He’s having some tough breaks right now but it can turn the other way just as quick and as good as what you’re going through right then.
And for Paul, I really hated to see it. I think when he hit the back of Kevin there, you know, everybody just jammed up and knocked his radiator out and ended up burning the engine up there.
Q. When you left Daytona, finishing 42, here we are five, six races later and you’re now fifth in points, only 15 out of the lead. Just talk about that remarkable come back and how that kind of positions you to be a contender for a championship yet again.
KEVIN HARVICK: Honestly when we left Daytona I was laughing because it had been 156 races since we had had an engine problem and it’s hard to get down on anybody for 1 in 156 in this sport.
Our engine guys do a great job at what they do, and from where I started at RCR to where we are today, I feel like we have the best engine department and I feel like when we started, we were mediocre, on the mediocre side of the engine side. It’s one of the best engine departments in the business. There’s no reason to get down on those guys because all I’m going to do is cause are more harm than I will good getting down on them. Just try to support them, and they figured it out and we’ll move forward.
Q. When the field started pitting under green at the end and the caution came out, how close were you to coming in? And after you do come out of the pit road on to that caution you go from lining up on the inside, Jimmie gets a penalty and now you’re on the outside. Where were you being in that top groove?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I wasn’t real happy because I knew that the odds were against us in that particular situation. It was just all a matter of getting down and we were able to race the 17 really hard and get a good drive up off the corner and just kind of squeeze in there.
Then from that point on, there was enough laps left to get by the 42 and the 18. The 18 was struggling pretty heavily through the center of the corner. And we were able to get by him pretty easy. Then was all about chasing down the 88 after he had taken off a bit. But it all worked out.
Q. If you could elaborate on how this positions you to make another run at a championship this year with the way you’ve been the last two weeks.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think when you look at the two wins, I feel it good about our I’ll take our chances on making the Chase with the wild card stuff. So here we are, six weeks into the season, and I feel like we can take more chances than we did last year, just because I’m not saying that is exactly what we will need to be.
Honestly I feel like maybe you guys will disagree but I feel like we can really push the limits on racing, and just the fact that we have got that caution in our back pocket. Something that we have only done I think once before is win back to back weeks, and you know, to come out this season and win at racetracks that we had not won at before but we feel like we have been fairly good at the last couple of years is good for our confidence to say the least.
Q. Kevin, you said you were ready to slit your wrists in the first hundred laps, but in your radio chat you were giving extremely calm, detailed feedback. You talk about this being a character building day; have you already reached the point where you have built enough character and this is par for the course for you guys and you can be that calm, measured driver that can win a championship?
KEVIN HARVICK: You must have just clicked in between the calm points, because there was a few uncalm points. I know when Richard comes on the radio and says, all right, you need to do this or that, I’ve kind of carried it over the edge and I need to shut up and go about my business. Because at that point I need to get back to focusing on my job.
But you know, I just I’m just the highest strung person, and I don’t know, I turn into this lunatic when I get in the car and I wind up apologizing more than I do anything else.
But I just get in this mind frame that I just can’t get out of while I’m in that race car and that’s all I can think about is and that’s all I want to do is do good for our sponsors and for our team. That’s really what it’s all about. You just turn into this crazed animal; I can’t explain it. (Laughing)
Is that not a good explanation?
GIL MARTIN: Somebody brought it to my attention this week that this was my 100th start with Kevin, and I think what happens is he gets the opportunity to vent because the car was terrible and he needed to vent.
I think in the beginning when he would do that, we would somewhat take it to heart and take it personal, and now, we just continue to let him vent. We go about our business and decide what we are going to do on the next change, and we feel good about it and so does he. So it works out good in the end.
Q. I’m sure character building is great, but would it be nice to have a race weekend where you didn’t have to go through a list of obstacles to get to this outcome?
KEVIN HARVICK: It would be nice but I think we need somewhat of a challenge it seems like. I don’t know why that is. how many phones you got in your pocket?
GIL MARTIN: I don’t know. I can’t help it.
KEVIN HARVICK: Man can’t text, but he’s got two phones in his pocket. (Laughter).
You know, I think it’s just kind of been really the nature of the beast, really since I’ve started and I think if you look back, and you really look back at the days when you and Dale and everybody, it was just all about making days out of days that really weren’t there, and you make something out of something that’s not very good.
And when we started the day, we weren’t very good but at the end, it was pretty good and obviously it was the best car on the racetrack. It’s just one of those deals where we were just maybe we were just brought up different, I don’t know. We just race different.
Q. Gil, you mentioned the days of thunder moment at the end where your tires matched up; can you explain that? And Richard, obviously you were close to Dale Junior, too. Any stirred emotions seeing him up there, the crowd going crazy and your man catching him?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I’m like Kevin. We all want to see Dale Junior win a race. If one of our four cars can’t win, I’d like to see him win. But you don’t want to let him win at your expense. And Kevin had to do what he had to do right there at the end and I was proud of him. It’s just Dale Junior will win races. He will come back. We have been in that situation. We have had a long dry spell, so I know what it meant if he could have won that race.
But like I say, we did what we had to do and that was win the race.
GIL MARTIN: I guess what I was letting him know, during the halftime we were able to get what we felt like during the race was our best set of tires as far as the codes and as far as the spring rates on the tires, and we spent a lot of time juggling them around trying to get them the same because we thought the car had pretty good balance. And I told him, it’s kind of a cliché like it was a perfect matched set of tires; hey, hog put the best tires on him. (Laughter).
We made a lot of time making sure the stagger was right and the spring was exactly the same so when we got to the last set of tires that we felt confident that the balance was going to stay the same on the car. And I wanted him to know that we had spent the time to really make sure we had them the same because we were not going to make any air pressure adjustments on the last run.
KEVIN HARVICK: And in the end we are all just a bunch of sarcastic smart asses. That’s really the only way we know to communicate with each other. We can’t communicate like normal people. We have to be sarcastic and smart alecs.
Q. Did you realize that your contact with Newman had cut down his tire, and did you know that that was kind of why he was maybe
KEVIN HARVICK: Cut down whose tire?
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn’t know I had contact with Newman.
KEVIN HARVICK: I did? I don’t know. I didn’t know I had contact with Newman.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Didn’t think he could see out of his rear view mirror there.
Q. Was there ever a point where you thought you would get to a hundred races with Harvick?
GIL MARTIN: I didn’t know in it was that close to start with. I should have went to Richard, he said I should get a medal. I’m glad I did because I told a lot of people, in the last ten years we have been through a lot of ups and downs, and whether we have raced together or I’ve been on another team in the same company; that I think at the same point, Kevin’s matured a lot.
And through his maturity, he’s made me mature in a lot of ways, even though I’m older, I’ve matured in a lot of ways at the racetrack, because there are a lot of things that are much more important to me at the racetrack and we don’t spend a lot time looking for the trick shock of the week or the trick setup or hot tip car. Every week I look at it as his office. He’s familiar with where everything is at in that thing and we make small changes when we get to the race track.
So I think that hundred mark is kind of a short story because I’ve sit and watched it’s probably closer to 300 to know what this guy needs, and at the end he stands up in the seat and gets the job done. So I’m proud to be here for a hundred.
Q. Catching that 88 car, his car had left him and you got around him pretty easy. Did you expect it to be that easy or was you looking for a little battle there?
KEVIN HARVICK: He gave me a couple shots, which I was expecting just because it was so late in the race, and I knew where he was I knew he wanted to win. But for me, you know, I knew my strong point was getting in the corner and I just didn’t want to get hit getting in the corner. If I could get hit in the middle of the corner, I knew I could drive off. It was a lot of fun and obviously there’s a lot of attention on anything that Dale Junior does, and to be racing with him for the win is something that we had not I don’t remember ever doing that before, but was fun to do today.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to Kevin, to Gil and to Richard on a second connective win and we’ll see you at Texas. Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports …
An Interview With:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR
KERRY THARP: We are joined by the driver of the No. 88 Amp Energy Guard Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Tell us about your run there this afternoon.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We really were not a Top 5 car all day. We worked really hard to stay inside the Top 10 all day. Made a lot of changes on the car, we made several changes trying to find that speed. If you look at how Gordon is racing, he clicked on something mid race and got really good.
We were trying to look for that and couldn’t really find it in the car. We were doing some things that were kind of hurting our performance, our ability to perform in traffic and we did a lot of things in the short run and just freed the car up and it really ran great.
As you saw, everybody jumped out there and got a run off on Kyle off of 2. I thought I had a nose on him getting into three and knew he was going to get down and crowd a little bit but I had to try to hold my ground. We were racing for the lead with just a few laps to go, so I think I did what any other driver probably would have done.
But you know, we got out front and you know, just tried to put together good, solid laps and right around ten to go, the rear started to go away and started to slip around a little bit on the braking and down through the center. I was trying to back my corner up because I was wondering if I might be overdriving the car, which I’m sure I was.
But Harvick had caught me, so you’re backing your corner down with a guy in your bumper with four laps ain’t really an option that you’ve got at the time. And he was just real fast. And we slipped off into one and he got under me or we slipped into three and he got under me and I thought the only chance I have was a little bit of a cross every on one and two. I tried to make it work but I couldn’t get really up under him enough. He crowded me the way he was supposed to do. And the next corner down here in three and four and went on. And that was that.
So I want to thank we only got there through the strategy that Steve had staying out. Caught a bunch of guys a lap down, out of sequence on pit stops. So all of the credit really goes to Steve for the finish we had today and the team for really kind of plugging away and making the adjustments, even though some might not have worked as good as others. We still needed to make some effort, put some effort into making the car better and those guys kept going all day long.
Q. You seem pretty pleased having finished second. But is it bittersweet thinking that you might have had it there? Or did you think Harvick was better all along?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I was thinking at the end that I was meant to win that damn race. Hell, I’m not sitting there leading that thing by seven car lengths thinking I’m about to lose. That’s definitely not a good attitude to have at that point.
I was definitely thinking I need to do what I think’s right every corner and try and win this race. I’ve got a hell of an opportunity right here and if I can put together decent laps, I might be able to keep the distance I had on him which was only about three or four car lengths. But I just couldn’t do it. I made some mistakes in the corners and the back end of the car was giving up on me a little bit.
I just didn’t adjust my driving or whatever I needed to do to change my line to find the speed in the car with the way it was handling; as the handling was changing, I didn’t adapt to the line I needed to run I guess to find some speed out of it.
But, you know, I mean, I knew the 29 was fast the run before that, man, he was really quick. We all watched him come up through the pack there. I knew he had speed. But he did have a car in front of him and I was trying to make it difficult for him to get by.
Q. What were your emotions in the car? Obviously you haven’t won in a long time. Are you anxious, excited, nervous? What were you feeling there? The crowd was going crazy waving you on. Did you sense all that going on?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I did. But I was just doing the best could I do with the car and trying to make the best out of the situation. We had an opportunity to win the race. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the job done and it will probably bother me more and more as the night goes on.
But I’ll probably think about it a million times what I probably could have done differently. You know, I think if I know what’s best for me, I should probably have a good attitude about what happened today and probably go into the next race and use it as momentum and confidence, like any other good driver would do, instead of worrying about, you know, how close we came. I should be thankful and grateful that I had the opportunity I had today and for the opportunity I got to work with the team I’m with and to even be here competing, and take this momentum and take what looks like to be a better start to the season than I’ve had in a while to the next racetrack and just keep trying to plug away.
We gained a lot of points on some guys that were around us today. The 4 and the 56 had some trouble. We just need to try to put some distance on some guys and get ourselves the opportunity to be in the Chase when the time is up.
Steve is a good crew chief and he’s going to give me more opportunities like this I feel.
Q. Other than maybe the 18, is the 29 kind of the one car that you really didn’t want to see back there in your rear view mirror?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I was watching the 18 and he was looking like he was having a little difficulty with his car on that particular run. It looked like he was having some trouble with his car on the short run there and I was thinking, all right, I’m going. I was wanting him to take off, and so I felt like I could put some distance on the 42, and then maybe see if I could race the 18.
But I didn’t really want to race anybody with another car behind us that could be bouncing into us and stuff. It’s much easier to settle a race one on one than when you have someone else trying to poke his business into it.
So, we got it going there and we did put some distance on ourselves and I saw the 18 was having some trouble and I tried to capitalize on it and I got a run off of two. I made a couple stabs at it and just couldn’t get up alongside of him and I think I got a nose under him off of two there, and then I started put something distance on him, and then I saw the 29 pull out, and I knew he was coming. But I think he was passing the 42 at the time, and then it didn’t take him long to get by the 18 either.
I ran a couple of laps that seemed to hold him at bay and maintain the distance. We had some traffic; that traffic at the end of that race was terrible, man. I was catching lap cars and up on the inside of them coming out of the corner. You know, you can’t get into throttle. I just didn’t catch I could have caught lap traffic more fortunately but I didn’t. I don’t think those guys were doing anything they had not been doing all day long, they were fine. Just the way I was catching lap traffic was unfortunate, I was thinking in my head at the time, but that’s part of it. He got by it better than I did.
Q. You were obviously concerned about the tires, and as far as the day, were the tires better than you thought they would be, or were you better than you thought you would be?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We were about like I thought we were in practice speed wise, and I felt like, you know, if I can do what I need to do, we should finish in the Top 10, and if we get fortunate and get a Top 5 or a third place, I’d be thrilled with that, because looking that was me looking at our speed all weekend, looking at the lap times versus other cars; me being realistic about the situation.
I thought the tires pretty much performed like they ended up performing today. We really had a lot of, you know, marbles and nobody wanted to be in the second groove. Everybody was chopping each other really hard to get to the bottom. I don’t really recall that being quite the norm here in the past. I think guys were a little more a little more less anxious just to be on the bottom.
In the past, guys were more apt to run corners side by side and try to race guys there on the inside of them, but today was not the case. If you got inside of somebody, you pretty much got the position; so guys were all diving to the bottom of the racetrack trying to cut each other off and stuff. That was pretty interesting. The tires were a product of that, and the track didn’t rubber up, in my opinion. Somebody might try to tell you it did, but I don’t think it did; not what we are accustomed to seeing.
But, you know, I like with I finished. I’m happy about today. I’m not complaining too much. I don’t think it was a difficult job out there on the tires. I will give you one thing: They were falling off and getting really, really slick in practice on Friday. They didn’t do that today. The tires kind of held on a little bit better, and that’s really all the driver cares about. He doesn’t want to be on a tire that feels like junk at 25 laps and that’s kind of the way it was in practice Friday. But that was better today. We just like to have a little bit more than one groove to race in.
But it is Martinsville, after all. We have not really had double file racing, side by side, or the second groove was only preferred when they ground the bottom, remember that, right before it would all come apart on them in one race? I think that’s the best this track has ever been when they ground the bottom because guys wanted to be on the outside sometimes if their car worked up there; it was faster. But they won’t grind the place.
Anyway, I think the tire did okay.
Q. Your lack of success with Hendrick, but seems like no matter the car or crew chief here at this track, always run well. Can you explain how you run so well here and it seemed like throughout the day there was a Hendrick car contending; just the whole team, for that matter, how you guys run so well here at Martinsville.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I felt like for the most part of the day, I didn’t run up to my standard. I feel like my standard here is a third through fifth place run. We all know Denny and the 48 has been winning all the races here recently. I feel like I’m right there behind them and how we performed over the last ten years here.
So we’ve had a lot of good runs and we do put together good finishes here consistently. I feel like we didn’t really run up to our potential today but we were able to stale a Top 5 finish at the end with the way the strategy worked out. It looked like to me we was going to be racing for 7th or something like that. I don’t know where I was all day long but seemed like I was around 7th or 8th most of the day, or 10th.
I’m happy we were able to steal a few spots at the end of the race. I think I run good here because I like short track racing. People call me a restrictor plate driver and we have got a lot of wins there, but there were years in the last ten years there was one year at least where I got more points than anybody at short tracks, and we have always had good finishes at Bristol. Always been consistent. I would love to be able to step it up a notch and come into here and be a threat.
But for the time being, we just have to be satisfied being as consistently up in the Top 10 every time until we can really find out what that package is. We ran a pretty different package than I’ve ever ran here today and it was interesting to do that. Obviously we need to be just a little bit better.
Q. You and Harvick were at the edge much the Top 10 and it went all topsy turvy in the last hundred laps. Can you explain, was track position more important; was it that you got up front and could stay there more?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don’t know, man. You know, when we are under green flag racing, I don’t know what position I’m in and I don’t know who I’m racing really, until maybe my spotter, TJ, will tell me, the car you’re racing him for position. I really don’t know where I’m at and I have to look at the scoreboard if I can, and that becomes a pain in the butt because every scoreboard is different and you don’t know where things are.
But I didn’t know what the strategy was. I saw the 11 pull in to pit and I’m thinking well we must be getting ready to pit right behind him so I thought my car was still running pretty good at that point and I was surprised we were going to have to pit because it still had good grip. And then I saw the 48 pitting or someone else I guess not the 48, someone else. I didn’t know what was going on at that moment. And I don’t have the ability to understand the fuel mileage especially at a track like Martinsville and I couldn’t tell you when the last time I came to get fuel or how many more laps I can go and all those things.
So I just go out there and run as hard as I can run and take care of the rear tires as best I can until he calls me in for some more tires.
You know, the strategy worked out in our favor. And he can see that picture, he can see that all happening in front of him on the pit box. And he’s real good at it. He’s done some good jobs grabbing a couple more spots by using the strategy, and I like that. We need to do that, like today when we were maybe a seventh through 10th place car. We need to steal a few spots on some weekends to try to have a shot at making the Chase and being in the hunt there.
Q. This is your third top ten finish in 2011. What’s it going to take to prove to the pundits that you’re back?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I ain’t really proved it to myself yet. I’ll let you know when I feel like I’m back, personally.
Anyone that watchedhat race today knows that we weren’t a second place race car or even a third place race car all day. We never were up there to prove that point. So there’s no argument. We got some work to do still, and you know, we are faster, we are more competitive than last year. But we are still we still got a little ways to go.
Q. You said that you should feel happy with the day, but are you happy or are you going to be disappointed? What is your emotion leaving this place?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I think my emotion is that honestly the way I feel, I feel fortunate to feel second in a race today we should have finished 10th or 9th or 8th. That’s the way I’ll feel all the way home.
I’ll talk to Steve and if I have any doubts or regrets or problems with losing the race today, I’ll clear that all up with him, and we’ll be I just like being on the same page with him so we can focus on the next one.
I’m really thrilled. I’ve got I know it don’t look like it, but I’ve got such a hell of an opportunity. This is such a great group to be around, and I’m having fun it. I’m racing cars. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I want to run like this I want to finish like this and run a little bit better than this on every weekend, and we are right on the outside of that, you know, and it’s frustrating to be that close. It was frustrating to be leading the race with just a few inside ten laps to go and be passed.
But there’s definitely a brighter side to what’s going on, too, and I won’t forget to notice that.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations on an outstanding performance and good luck next week at Texas.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports …
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