NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500
Topics: Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
February 14, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our post race press conference for the 52nd running of the Daytona 500. Joining us is Greg Biffle. He finished third in today's race. Driver of the No. 16 3M Ford.
Greg, certainly a lot of emotions running out there, a lot of hard racing, a super finish. Tell us about it.
GREG BIFFLE: It was a great day for the 3M Ford Fusion. Best car really I've had here at Daytona in quite some time. Probably best car since I sat on the pole here in 2004. Car drove really, really good.
There was the middle part of the race where I lost a little track position, but ran in the top six the entire day, once I got there, top eight. Pit stops were phenomenal. Again, my 3M guys, pit bulls, I gained five spots on one, then gained three on the other to take the lead off of pit road, beat the 33 out. Unbelievable what they did.
There at the end, the restarts, I guess I couldn't get anybody to push me. Seemed like maybe they were spinning their tires on the restart or what. The outside lane kept getting a run. Those guys were better at getting to the throttle. Truex gave me a huge shove down the back. We broke away. I was just hoping we could get to the white flag. I was half a corner from winning the Daytona 500.
You know, I pushed Jamie. Spun his tires on the restart. The final restart. I was able to push him easy till we got straight, then continued to push him all the way to turn one. First time in Speedweeks I pushed a guy in a corner down in turn one and two, trying to keep him straight, trying to push him around the corner, then got locked on him down the backstretch, then shoved by. I feel good about helping Jamie get clear, get out front.
Wish I would have waited till the backstretch to make my run. I had a huge run. I couldn't clear him, couldn't get by him. I tried him on the frontstretch. Gave Junior and all those guys a bunch of opportunity to get back up beside us.
I'm just real happy I finished third going to California; happy I had an opportunity to win the Daytona 500.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Greg Biffle.
Q. Greg, Jamie was talking in Victory Lane about how you gave him a great push going down the back. Obviously you were giving him that push from the start/finish line trying to get by him yourself. What do you think when you hear guys talk about, They gave me a great push, as if you were trying to do him some favor, and were you down the backstretch?
GREG BIFFLE: I was. I was trying to get us both out front so I would have a shot at making a move on him on the last lap. I just wanted to get clear. You know, second place in the Daytona 500 isn't too shabby either. You know, certainly not like winning.
That's the best spot to try to win from, is following the leader, you know. I was glad I was out of that gaggle of cars. When we're three-wide, people are slamming each other, then we're in big trouble. But if we can get singled out, we can push out there. That's where you get your best opportunity to try and get pushed by him.
I just made my move too soon. I tried it down the front. It was just a mistake on my part probably. I should have waited till down the back. I should have pushed him down one and two again, then pushed him down the back and tried it on the short chute.
KERRY THARP: We're also joined now by tonight's race runner-up, that is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drives the No. 88 AMP Energy National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Dale, you went from 10th on that final 'green-white-checkered' to almost claiming victory. Your thoughts about how things unfolded.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really remember much about it.
GREG BIFFLE: I don't either (laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It was all a blur. I was just going wherever they weren't. I really don't enjoy being that aggressive. But if there was enough room for the radiator to fit, you just kind of held the gas down and prayed for the best.
It was a lot of fun. It went by so fast, I couldn't really tell you the process. But I just remember going down the back straightaway and getting in between Greg, and I don't remember who was on the outside of me. We all kind of wiggled through that whole deal. Jamie got away from us. I didn't even know where I was. Then we got into three. I was counting in my head how many laps we ran. I knew we were coming to the checkered, I was running second, this is awesome, but it kind of sucks at the same time.
It was frustrating to come that close. But, hell, we were running 22nd at the first 'green-white-checkered'.
GREG BIFFLE: A little improvement (laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel pretty good. I'm happy for my team. They worked so hard. Awesome engine. Several engines that were great this week. I'm just proud of the whole AMP Energy National Guard team. They made a good call at the end to put tires on. Everybody had 35 laps on their tires. That just made everybody with tires, even right set, made them look like Superman. So it was a good call for them to make that choice. We weren't going anywhere otherwise.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Dale or Greg.
Q. Dale, I know Daytona doesn't really have a lot to do with how the rest of the season goes, but is it nice to get a boost? Does this kind of dull the financial pain from yesterday at all?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, no, nothing will dull that unless someone has a $600,000 check they want to give me (laughter).
GREG BIFFLE: Sorry I hit you in the floor pan.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't see you.
GREG BIFFLE: I was looking at your feet.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: That was a mess. It's great for our team to have a finish good anywhere no matter what. I was happy. I'm happy for the finish and it validates the changes they made and the hard work they've done over the off-season to get better.
You know, I just hope we can keep it up. This was a little bit of a handling race. We didn't have too bad a racecar, so...
You can say that this is plate racing, but it really wasn't today, most of the week anyways. It was more of a who could handle the best.
I don't know. I feel good about our chances going into the next couple weeks.
Q. Dale, you went from 22nd to 2nd. What are your initial thoughts on the change of the rule?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The rules are the rules. We all sort of have to race by 'em, whatever they are. I think the change is coming. They made a lot of good choices on what to do to sort of put the racing back into the drivers' hands. There was a ton of bumping out there. I never once felt like anybody was looking over my shoulder, you know. I mean, everybody took care of everybody as far as I know.
At the end, you got to go. People are doing some things they typically won't do. I never once felt like I had NASCAR looking over my shoulder while I was doing it. That made it a lot more easier for me to just form my game plan and hope it worked.
The plate was awesome. I like going faster. You know, hopefully when we start racing these things with the wing, it will change something else that everybody else will like. I don't know what it will be. I think the three 'green-white-checkers' will take more time. It's kind of like a basketball game, last two minutes, all the timeouts, who is going to win, who is going to win, just takes over. That's just part of it.
I just have to get used to it. I like getting it over with and done. We'll see how it goes.
Q. Greg, with so many restarts there at the end, this was actually the Daytona 520, as it turns out, were you getting the sense that you were never going to be able to get through two laps without something happening?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it seemed. You know, I was just hoping something would happen when I was out front and I took the white is what I was hoping for. It did, where I was out front, in a regular 'green-white-checkered' I would have won the race here today, tonight.
But I'm with Junior. I think maybe two attempts or something at the 'green-white-checkered'. Three might be a little excessive. We kind of got caught because the one attempt wasn't considered a 'green-white-checkered' because it was under the normal amount of laps and the restart was under the normal. That kind of made it extraordinary. I think we could have done it two more times. It was sort of unusual the way it happened here tonight.
Yeah, I mean, a couple times you need to try and get it to finish under green.
Q. Dale, as far as the second time that the track came up, didn't you say you hit the hole and it gave your car a pretty good lick the second time they patched it?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, everybody was hitting it. I never saw the hole till they -- they threw the caution out, said there was a hole. I didn't see it. They patched it. We went back out. Then I see it. We were driving through it. Eventually we removed everything they put in there, then we started hitting it if you weren't careful.
But you just tried to be careful. You could go below it or straddle it if you were in the bottom groove. Every once in a while you'd get crossed up or whatever and have to drive through it. Sounded like it was tearing the jack stud off the right side. But it was probably banging the pipes a little bit on my car. I know a couple guys were hitting the trailer arm mounts. That's probably what started it in the first place.
They filled it back in. I don't know. You know, if you ran over it, you felt it. I don't know what else to tell you. It wasn't like a big issue there at the end. I don't even remember it. During those 'green-white-checkered's, there's so much else going on, you don't even remember it.
Q. Greg, here you are leading, heading to what should be the end of the race after the first 'green-white-checkered', then the crash behind you. Did your heart start to sink thinking, This could have been my moment?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, I was thinking, Why do I have to be the first candidate after the rule change to get the guy that didn't get the win?
You know, it's just the way it is. Like Junior said, we got to race by the rules. That's what they've determined that we're going to do. We would have been fine if a couple of the guys on the restarts wouldn't have spun their tires. We got a better push. Every time I got going there, nobody was behind me. Then Jamie, you know, spun his tires.
But, you know, that's the way it is. We got to go by the rules. Yeah, I wish I was out there spraying some champagne right now.
Q. Greg, I know you're disappointed, but at the same time, your buddy Jamie won. Talk about everything that he went through last year. I'm sure you're happy for him.
GREG BIFFLE: I'm so happy for him. I went straight to Victory Lane after I got done with my interviews. I felt like I was a big part of getting him up there. He spun his tires like crazy. I was against his bumper all the way through second gear, third gear, and fourth gear. I pushed him across one and two, which I hadn't pushed anybody all night. I just really eased his bumper and stayed locked on him. I was able to stay against him down the backstretch and we just took off.
It was pretty cool. I feel like I'm one of the guys that helped him get his first Daytona 500. You know, I was trying to get out front. Like I said, I think I really made a mistake by trying too early. I maybe should have stayed behind him till maybe going down the back or something. But I'm really happy for him.
Q. Dale, you said during the race this place was a hole. How do you really feel about this place, especially after a finish like that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, I was just joking about it being a hole. You know, y'all know how I feel about Daytona, it's a special place.
But the surface has some pretty big bumps. I like the grip. I like the lack of grip, whatever you want to call it. But coming through the tunnel, man, I mean, it's just hell trying to get through there, especially when you're two or three-wide.
You know, it's sort of like you need the loss of grip, but you don't need the bumps to go with it. They could patch this thing up a little bit in a couple spots. It wouldn't take long for them patches to get wore out. I know they're probably thinking about repaving it.
They should have repaved it several years ago. We'd have it all weathered and ready to go right now. It would be in good shape. But it will get there again one day. It wasn't paved -- hasn't been paved since 1978. It's due, I would say.
Q. Fun place for you still?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I had a hell of a time tonight. When you got a good car, one that will make some moves and don't wreck. I wrecked out of the last couple 500s. I figured, What do I have to do to finish one of these things and finish it good? I might have been a little too careful, you know.
Tonight I just let it all hang out. If there was a hole in the middle, I went there. Wherever it was. I just didn't really like being on the bottom. That seemed to be kind of hard to do.
But a lot of luck, too. I'm not complaining up here about running second. I'm pretty happy about it.
Q. Greg, could you talk about your feelings about the racing. Was it better racing because of the rules today?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I mean, I think it was. I think that we felt like we could push and shove more. I think there was more of that today. You know, it's unfortunate that they're going to pave this racetrack because the grip level is about perfect. I mean, you know, the cars slide up the racetrack. You can't go around this thing wide open like you can Talladega and stay in line. You got to come off the gas a little bit, get back on the gas. It is rough from the bumps. It is tough on that.
But I think the rule package is good. The cars race around here really good. You know, it's going to be completely different when they pave it, you know. So the rules package will probably change again because the speed will be much, much higher.
Q. Did the pothole affect the outcome in any way? Do you think it might have changed what happened?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think so. I mean, I know when I was hitting it, I hit that thing three laps in a row, then the caution came out. I was like, Damn, I got to quit hitting that thing. I know it's going to blow the right front tire out or screw the splitter up or something.
But like Junior said, he get down in there, you got the wheel in it, you're against a guy, you can't see it, you kind of know where it's at, you know, you run through it.
When I was leading, I never went through it. When I was back there, I went through it.
But I don't think it changed the outcome at all.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don't think it changed the outcome at all. A couple guys got some holes in the front of their car. 17 had a big old hole in the front of his car. Changed the outcome of his day. As far as the finish, didn't have nothing to do with it.
Q. Dale, you seemed a little frustrated during your TV interview. Can you talk about your day as a whole, despite the outcome how you feel coming out of here.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel good about the finish. It's just frustrating coming that close. Hell, I don't have anything to be -- you know, when you're running 22nd, you're mad because you just want to get a top 10. When you get a top 10, you're pissed off because you can't get in the top five. Then when you're running second it gets you mad because you didn't get a win. That's how racecar drivers are, I hope.
We worked hard all week. I felt foolish about what happened to us in the 125. We beat the fenders off the car and had to drop back and punt. I just didn't like racing that way. We were able -- we ran pretty hard today, we had a car that got ill handling. We faded a bit. We worked on it. We had all kinds of messes going on there.
When it got cool, everybody's car gripped up. The outcome, I don't know. We worked hard. I'm pretty happy for my team. They needed a good finish.
Q. This is NASCAR's marquee event. There was a two-hour delay. Some fans left the racetrack. When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had their tire debacle in '08, attendance dropped. Are you concerned at all with NASCAR trying to reconnect with the fans that what happened today with the hole might impact attendance for Daytona 500 and just the sport in general?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think it will have an effect on it at all. Track surfaces are going to have problems from time to time. Like I said, I mean, this wasn't a fault of NASCAR. It wasn't a fault of Daytona's or nobody's. It was probably more or less everybody's cars beating on the racetrack with trailing arm mounts and tail pipes. That's going to knock a hole in some asphalt, I don't care where you're at.
They'll patch it or whatever they'll do, and it won't have this problem again, I promise you that.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, it was unfortunate for the fans and the people watching on TV that we had to have that big delay. Certainly nobody wants to sit around and wait all the time.
But it was nobody's fault, I mean, that the racetrack came apart. It wasn't neglect or anything else. Like Junior said, it was the thing, our cars beating on the racetrack. It can only take so much.
Q. Dale, in Victory Lane, McMurray said he had the lead and all of a sudden he looks in his rearview mirror and he sees you, he said, Oh, no, not Earnhardt. Did you ever get the sense you were going to get him?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well I didn't have any more momentum when I went three-wide with Greg and I guess the 33 or somebody. But we kind of all stalled each other down the back straightaway a little bit anyways. I had them tires. I was thinking, Oh, well, maybe I can -- maybe I'll gain a little bit on him through three or four or off the exit. It didn't happen.
He had an awesome, unbelievable car in the Shootout. You know, this was basically the same -- he ran good today even in the sun, but this was exactly about the same time, at least the same conditions for the Shootout. His car, you know, was there for him at the end when he needed it. They were good all week. I knew that he was going to be a contender if he was there at the end.
But I didn't know where I was, you know, till I really kind of got done almost wrecking down the back straightaway. Then I looked up. There's just one car in front of me. Jamie's gonna win this damn race (laughter). I was happy for him. He deserves it. They've been through a lot. It's a great team.
Q. Greg, you mentioned being happy for Jamie, I'm sure some of that former teammate. Can you talk about he was a man without a team for a little bit, odd man out with Roush last year.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, we do stuff away from the racetrack quite a bit, Jamie and Christy and Matt and Katie. The three of us, you know, do different stuff. We go on ski trips, you know, out to dinner, do different things. I probably hang out with him more than any other driver.
So I was really excited. Plus I was his former teammate. Yeah, he didn't win any races last year. This is a big, big win for anybody's career. You got to be happy for anybody that ever wins this race. I was especially happy, the four guys, I was up there beating and banging with, you know, I would rather see Jamie win than those guys for being a teammate. Now I can get him to take me out to dinner and pay for it.
He was on an island, but we certainly didn't leave him to hang out to dry. He had all the information and all that, but we knew he was leaving at the end of the year.
Q. Dale, long off-season for you. Lots of talk and speculation about what happened last year. How important was this today for you to have a good run like that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's just one race. We got a lot more racing to do. It's not your typical style track that we run on all year. If we can go to Fontana, Vegas, be competitive at any point during them races, it would be a little more validation.
Q. Dale, you benefited from this, but this three 'green-white-checkered' finishes, it kind of looks like one of those futuristic movies like Mad Max. Do you think this is a bit much, a little bit over the top?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't. I feel like, you know, the fans deserve probably more of a show, so that's what they got. They want to see, you know, the 'green-white-checkered' was put into play to give us an opportunity to finish the race under green. Finishing under yellow is, you know, quite a melodramatic moment compared to having the race finish under green. This gives us the opportunity to get it done if we don't get it done the first time.
When we go to tracks like Bristol or Martinsville, maybe it will be more appealing to you, or some other racetrack. Maybe it wasn't tonight. I think for the most part, I'd like to get it done and go home. But it worked out in my favor tonight. It might not do that every time. I kind of realized through the off-season, after the meetings and all the stuff, just getting some information myself, that we need to do whatever we can to get these fans excited, you know, get 'em pumped up about these races. I don't think you can ever go over the top really in that regard, because it's everybody in this room's livelihood that's at stake.
Q. A lot of us have seen kind of a renewed sense of confidence in yourself this season. You talked about how important it would be to get off to a great start. Even though this track doesn't translate till later in the year on a restrictor plate track, is the confidence back? Does this put more boost inside of you to head to California this week?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, yeah. I don't like going out west, but it's much easier to go there after you run good somewhere else. You know, I look forward to seeing how we are as a team.
Like I said, this is not a true gauge on what the changes are going to do to our team. The next couple racetracks will definitely give us a better understanding of where we are.
Q. This is the third straight year we've had a marquee owner have a car wind up in Victory Lane. Chip Ganassi is there, a guy who has won the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. Any comments on that, seeing another good owner ending up in Victory Lane?
GREG BIFFLE: I think it's great for those team owners to end up with wins like that, trophies like that. I know Jack cherishes that win that Matt was able to get him last year.
The owner goes through the same thing as a driver. People come here for 15, 20 years without ever winning. You know, so it's just as special for those owners to win here. You know, like Junior said, that's a great organization. They've worked really, really hard.
It's not only the owner, but it's the crew chief, it's the team, it's the guys at the shop. It's that whole organization. It's such a morale booster for them all the way through.
It's a neat deal.
KERRY THARP: Dale and Greg, put on a great race for us tonight. Thank you.
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