NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
QUICKEN LOANS 400
MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
June 17, 2012
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/THE DARK KNIGHT RISES/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – WINNER
A SPECIAL DAY; WHAT A PARTY IT’S GOING TO BE FOR JUNIOR NATION. A DOMINATING DAY, JUNIOR WELCOME HOME. WHAT DID THE BOSS, MR. HENDRICK, HAVE TO SAY?
“Oh, he was just upset that he couldn’t be here. That was a great race. I want to thank my sponsors: National Guard, Diet Mountain Dew, it was great to have Batman on the car today. We just had a really good car and this Chevrolet was real fast. It’s just pretty amazing. Those last 15 laps were the longest laps ever. I don’t know what to think about it just yet, do you know what I mean?
YOUR FANS HAVE STUCK BEHIND YOU; STEVE LETARTE HAS STUCK BEHIND YOU, WHAT’S THE MOST SATISFYING PART OF THIS VICTORY?
“To do it for my fans, they’ve stuck behind me for all these years. And I know exactly what they’ve been thinking about and how long they’ve been wanting us to get into Victory Lane. And so this is for them. I appreciate their loyalty and their support. And we wouldn’t have made it back to Victory Lane without it. That’s who I’ve got to give all the credit to.”
THERE WERE SO MANY CHALLENGES IN THIS RACE: NEW TRACK SURFACE, THE TIRE CHANGE, THE WEATHER ITSELF; WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE? WAS IT THE CHANGE STEVE LETARTE MADE ON THE SECOND STOP WITH THE SPRING RUBBER?
“Well, yeah, I don’t know what all he did, but he made it right. And the thing was real fast. I want to also thank Sprint; they do a good job supporting our sport and don’t get enough credit for it. I appreciate what they do. The track surface was great today. The tire was a tough one, a little bit of a curve ball, but we didn’t have any trouble. We got to put on a race and I thank NASCAR and Goodyear for the work they did.”
ON THE WIN: “Man, this is incredible. I just didn’t know when it would happen. I knew it was going to happen, just didn’t know when. We were getting pretty impatient. I gotta give Steve Letarte (crew chief) and my team; the team he puts around us, all the credit. They’ve been building some great cars this year. We’ve been really strong every week and we have just been getting better and better. Last year we couldn’t really get better. We just stayed the same all year. This year we’ve been faster and faster. Hopefully we can win some more races. I just real proud of Diet Mountain Dew, National Guard, Sprint, Chevrolet, all of our partners. All the fans for sticking behind us through all these years trying to get back to victory lane. I’d say this win right here is more for them than anybody because they’ve supported us through everything. So, we really appreciate that.”
ON THE TIRE CHANGE YESTERDAY AND CHANGES STEVE LETARTE MADE TO THE CAR: “You would have to talk to Steve about that. He made a few changes in the race that helped the car a lot. I have some great engineers, Kevin Meandering, Dave (NEED LAST NAME), all those guys do a good job helping sort the car out with Steve. They get all the credit. They made some great adjustments today, really made the car fast. I can’t thank my team enough. Those guys work so hard. We all say it all the time, but this car did it all today.”
CAN YOU PUT INTO WORDS WHAT IT MEANS TO WIN TODAY? “No, not really. Winning races is all you ever want. You work real hard to get there. I have got to thank Rick Hendrick and the whole organization really for sticking with me. They could have taken another route, but they stuck with me, and we are back to Victory Lane. I appreciate everybody’s support, Rick, the company, the fans, my team, everybody.”
DID YOU EVER LOSE CONFIDENCE? “It was pretty tough for a couple years, but we worked hard. Back when me and Lance (McGrew) were trying to figure it out, we worked hard together. We didn’t beat on each other too bad, but just couldn’t get it figured out. It takes a unique combination. You can put the best people together, and sometimes not get it to work. It takes a certain combination, and we found one that works for me.”
RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER, NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/THE DARK KNIGHT RISES/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – First of all, we’re sorry you couldn’t be here to actually witness this thing. Logistics kept you away from it. How satisfying is this and how well is the season going for you guys? “Well, you know, a little bit of a slow start, but we had a lot of speed. Then we get the 200th win and then the All-Star race, and Kasey gets a win, Jimmie gets another one, and I thought Dale had a real shot last week at Pocono. But to get it this weekend, that’s outstanding. It’s like a huge load off our backs.”
Everybody has been looking to this team, and again, you never lost your focus and the confidence in this group as a whole. Steve Letarte as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr. … what kind of advice have you given these two? “You know, they just get along so good. I think the chemistry is the best I’ve seen with any crew chief and driver. And you just look at the way they’ve been running and had a lot of speed, you knew it was going to come. And just try to say, Dale, don’t worry about that, man. You’re almost leading the points here. You’ve got more top tens than anybody. When you run second, third and fourth, you’re going to win races. And we hated Pocono, took a chance, but there was too much on the line. I can tell you that’s the longest 18 laps I’ve ever spent, at the end of this race.”
We’re having fun with this victory. You know where you were at when you got married, what church. On this day where were you exactly when you saw Junior cross the start/finish line and win this race? “I was doing laps around my couch, trying to end this race, man. Batman was in a hurry. I was too nervous to stand still. Linda and I were just watching it, come on, no problems. I was so afraid there was going to be a caution, or something was going to happen.”
What do you think about the championship potential for the number 88 team? “Well, you know, when you see a car, and a driver get momentum, and all of the cars are running real well, they’re sharing a lot of information, and Dale is just — he’s just switched on. He’s got the confidence, Stevie has got the touch and every week they’re the best by far. I think he’s sitting in the cat bird seat to win his first championship.”
What will you guys do to celebrate this? “Well, we had Brad Paisley come down and play for our 200th win. No telling what we might do for this one, I don’t know, but we’re going to do something. We do like to celebrate together, because the organization just works so hard, and they want to see Junior do so well. So stay tuned.”
STEVE LETARTE, NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/THE DARK KNIGHT RISES/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – RACE WINNING CREW CHIEF
I’M SURE THE CREW CHIEF IS SMILING AS WELL. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF BIG WINS IN YOUR CAREER, WHERE DOES THIS ONE RANK AMONG THEM?
“Oh, this one is up there a long ways. I just want to thank everyone involved: Diet Mountain Dew, Chevrolet, the National Guard. We couldn’t do without them; and HMS. Dale Junior drove a great race and this crew, it’s been a long time since they’ve won and they really deserve it.”
IT’S HARD NOT TO BE EMOTIONAL. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE EMOTION, IS IT ALL THE WORK THEN WENT INTO IT THAT MAKES YOU EMOTIONAL? “Yeah, there were a lot of close call; a lot of seconds. It’s good to finally win one. Now this one’s off our back. We’re looking forward to the Chase.”
HOPE YOU WEREN’T PLANNING ON USING THAT ENGINE AGAIN, WERE YOU?
“No, I can’t thank Hendrick Engines enough. We went way over our limit in practice and that was 200 beautiful laps and their engines are unbelievable.”
HOW HAPPY ARE YOU FOR HIM?
“I can’t say enough. Him; he’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. I know he’s taken a lot of criticism in his career but I’ve never seen one ounce of criticism he deserves from me. He’s driven the wheels off every lap and it’s just been fun. It’s been a lot of fun.”
DID YOU HAVE DAYS WHEN YOU WONDERED IF THIS WOULD EVER HAPPEN?
“Yeah, I’m sure there was. But these guys kept my head up; my wife, my family and Mr. Hendrick, they always keep me pointed in the right direction.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – FINISHED SECOND
FROM WHERE YOU GUYS WERE YESTERDAY, WORKING TO GET THE CAR TO SECOND TODAY, WAS A MONUMENTAL EFFORT. TALK ABOUT THAT RUN
“Yeah, it really was. We were 27th quick on the sheet yesterday. So we had a lot of curve balls thrown our way but I was really proud of (crew chief) Steve Addington and these guys. It’s amazing what one night and those guys thinking and what they came up with. It just was a totally different race car today. I’m really proud of them.”
ON TODAY’S RACE:
“Really happy. From where we were yesterday, we were 27th on the sheet. For Steve Addington (crew chief) and all these guys on the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy team, they just did an awesome job getting this thing ready for today. We had an awesome car all weekend.”
WHAT DID YOU NEED MORE AT THE END TO GO CHALLENGE DALE, JR.?
“A lot less lapped traffic that were racing right in the groove for no reason.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED FIFTH
YOU HUNG ON FOR A FIFTH PLACE FINISH; AND MAN THAT LOOKED LIKE A ROUGH RIDE ON THAT LAST RUN
“Man, we were coming. We were really flying. And then I blistered the right rear again and had to just hang on and let some guys go. And then I ran out of fuel going into Turn 3 and coasted around and made it to the finish line (laughs). So, it was a tough day; but a good finish, so we’ll take that. I just couldn’t be more happy for my teammate. Junior has been chipping away at it and has been so close to victory and I’m real happy for him and for Stevie. What we have going on at Hendrick Motorsports, especially inside the No. 48/No. 88 shop is really special and I couldn’t be more proud of everybody involved.”
YOU CAME RIGHT OVER HERE TO SAY CONGRATULATIONS
“Yeah, I had to get over here quick. I know how hard he’s been working on this and how bad he’s wanted it and how good this is going to make him feel. The confidence it’s going to give him and that race team for the rest of the year and for the time to come, I’m just super-stoked for him.”
ON DALE JR.’S WIN:
“I had to go see him and all his guys (in Victory Lane). We’re in the same shop, and his guys work on my car and my guys work on his car. Seeing those smiling faces made it an awesome trip over there. I just could not be more proud of Junior and the dominating win he had today. As a company we’ve know the confidence that was growing in that No. 88 team. And, having them go on the race track today and kick everybody’s butt like they did was pretty awesome.”
ON HIS RACE:
“Man, we had so many issues throughout the day. Blistering right rear tires, and ran out of fuel coming to the checkered. A variety of things, so coming out of here with a top-five with all those troubles, I feel good about that. But, hate not being able to race for the win.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET – FINISHED SIXTH
THAT MIDDLE PART OF THE RACE YOU LOOKED TO STRONG AND THERE WEREN’T TIRE ISSUES BUT I JUST LOOKED AT THE RIGHT REAR AND YOU’VE GOT SOME BLISTERS. “I knew something happened in that last run. We took off and it was really good; and boy, it just went away fast. It got really, really loose. So yeah, that’s unfortunate. Man, what a great day for Hendrick Motorsports and Junior and Stevie and all those guys on that No. 88 team. I’m so proud of them. I’m proud of my guys too; we fought hard to come from 28th. It was not easy. We had a really good race car today. So Happy Father’s Day! I know to Rick (Hendrick), especially. Happy Father’s Day to you, Rick; I know that was a great Father’s Day gift. And I’m just glad we had a solid day as well. It’s something to build on.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR HENDRICK ? I KNOW YOU WANTED TO WIN AND NEEDED YOUR OWN WIN REALLY BADLY AND YOUR FOCUSED ON YOURSELF, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ALL OF HENDRICK TO GET THIS DONE SO YOU GUYS CAN ALL MOVE ON? “Well we are next on the list now. I think when Rick (Hendrick) brought (Dale Earnhardt) Junior on and especially when they made the swap a couple of years ago there is a lot of pressure that comes along with having Junior on there. You get beat up by everybody if he is not winning. Even Junior has gotten beat up some himself. There is a lot of pride on the line. You know that when Junior wins it’s going to be great for the sport. You know that it’s a great thing for the whole company. Yeah it’s a win, win.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TIRE SITUATION? “I don’t call it a tire situation I call it a track surface and whoever the people who pave the race tracks situation. I mean when the tracks are smooth and grippy, it’s going to be fast and there is not a tire in the world that can handle that. Today was a best case scenario; we didn’t have any real issues.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – FINISHED EIGHTH
HOW WAS YOUR RACE? “It was good. I will tell you the truth, yesterday when they changed tires I was really worried. I called my dad this morning to wish him a Happy Father’s day and he said ‘how is the car?’ I said ‘if it handles the way it handled yesterday we are going to get lapped every 20 laps (laughs).’ Our team has a lot of potential and today we showed a little bit of what we can do. I think we still have a lot of work to do, but I’m happy, really happy.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 14TH
ON HIS RACE: “I’m proud of the effort from our McDonald’s team. The car was a bit of a handful at the start of the race. We were really loose and the car felt like it was going to wreck every lap. The guys made so great adjustments and it turned the car around.”
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