NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CAMPING WORLD RV SALES 500
TEAM CHEVY POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS
OCTOBER 20, 2013
JAMIE MCMURRAY AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. TAKE 1-2 FINISH AT TALLADEGA
JIMMIE JOHNSON MOVES INTO SERIES POINT LEAD WITH 13TH PLACE FINISH
TALLADEGA, Ala. – October 20, 2013 – With 15 laps remaining in the 188-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, Jamie McMurray powered his No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet SS to the front of the pack and held off a charge by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the No. 88 Mountain Dew/XBox One Chevy SS to win the Camping World RV Sales 500.
The race ended under caution when a crash on the final lap involving rookie Austin Dillon, who was subbing for injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS and another car froze the field and secured the win to McMurray.
The victory was the seventh in 398 Sprint Cup Series career races for McMurray, which also squashed his 108-race winless streak. It marked McMurray’s first victory and eighth top-10 finish in 2013 and his second win and seventh top-10 finish in 23 races at the 2.66-mile track.
Earnhardt Jr., who led eight times for a total of 38 laps, gained three positions in the standings and gave Team Chevy a one-two finish. He moved up three positions in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings and is now sixth in the hunt for the title.
With a 13 place finish in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, championship front runner Jimmie Johnson moved into the Series lead and now holds a four point advantage over rival Matt Kenseth (Toyota).
With a solid day in his No. 27 Menards/Duracell Chevrolet SS, Paul Menard finished fourth in the final order. Rookie-of-the-Year contender Stenhouse Jr. (Ford) was third, and Kyle Busch (Toyota) finished fifth to round out the top-5.
With four races remaining in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, five Chevy contenders finished as follows: Ryan Newman, No. 39 WIX Filters Chevy SS was ninth and moved up one spot in the standings to 11th, while Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS finished 12th and dropped one position in the order to fourth. Jeff Gordon scored a 14th place finish in his No. 24 Axalta Chevy SS and is now fifth in the standings, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Wonder Bread Chevy SS finished 18th and is ninth overall, and Kasey Kahne’s 36th place race finish in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy SS held him in 13th in the order.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup resumes next Sunday, October 27th with Round Six in Martinsville, Virginia.
JAMIE McMURRAY, KEVIN ‘BONO’ MANION AND FELIX SABATES, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNERS
KERRY THARP: Let’s hear from our race winning team of today’s 45th Annual Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Talladega Superspeedway, and our race winner is Jamie McMurray. He drives the No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing, and he’s joined up here by his crew chief Kevin Manion and car owner Felix Sabates.
Jamie, congratulations, just a super win for you here today, your first win in 2013, but your seventh win in the Sprint Cup Series. You’ve won twice now here at Talladega. Talk a little bit about what your strategy was there at the end because it certainly worked.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I felt really good about our car in practice. When you come to Daytona or Talladega you run 10 laps of practice and your car is either good or it’s bad. Spring race here I didn’t feel very good about the car, didn’t suck up very well, just didn’t seem to have any speed in it.
On Friday I felt really good about it. I told Bono, it’s really good, it’s fast, it sucks up, it drives well. If we get ourselves in the right position we can win on Sunday.
Just overall had a really good week leading up to this. Bono and I were talking about it just a little bit ago. When you come to a plate track, the mentality, it goes both ways. Sometimes you’re excited, sometimes not so much. I just was really excited about and looking forward to coming here this weekend. Had a good week leading up to this. We had a good practice on Friday.
I was a little discouraged that I couldn’t get to the front earlier in the race. I felt like I put myself in a good position a few times, and I just could never get to the lead, and I felt like we had a car that had enough speed in it that if I could get there it would be hard to pass me. I saw the 48 and I think the 88, it looked like they led a lot of the race, and they could change lanes and kind of pull each lane with them.
And finally at the end with 25 or 30 to go I saw the outside lane come in, the spotter is like the 17 and 88 are really moving along quick in that lane. I got up in front of them and then I was a little bit shocked that the 24 and the 18 let me have the outside. Those guys were in the middle and I got a big run off 2 on each of them at different times at the end, and both of them let me go to the outside, which I was shocked that they did. Once I was able to clear them, though, it went single file and then you’re just kind of counting the laps down at that point trying to figure out what the 88 is going to do for a move.
KERRY THARP: Kevin, maybe just talk about some of the things that you all worked on from the time you unloaded in practice Friday and now to victory lane that you saw were some of the keys maybe in today’s win.
KEVIN MANION: Yeah, really not too much over the weekend. You know, preparation on a plate track, especially these impound races, are all done at the shop. So this is the same car we had in Daytona that led a lot of laps and finished seventh. We were able to have a well‑prepared car from the guys at the shop, and like Jamie said, we unloaded and made just a handful of laps in the first practice, went from the back of the pack to the front of the pack, felt really good about it, and made one small adjustment to adjust the toe, the wheel, more so that the wheel was centered for Jamie, and pretty much parked it. Just waxed it and fluff and buff and do the things you do and just prepared for the race.
Really, like Jamie said, it’s been a good week leading up to it. We had a good practice, had good speed, and really ‑‑ I’m not going to say this too ‑‑ but an easy weekend, so to speak.
KERRY THARP: Felix, congratulations. Talk about just the thrill of this win here today, and I know it’s important to obviously Jamie but important to your race team.
FELIX SABATES: It was ironic; I have never missed a Talladega race since I’ve been in racing, and last night I had a long night, and when the alarm clock went off this morning, I said, man, I’m not going to Talladega. I got up, yeah, I am going. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.
And when I got here, I sat down with Bono just before the race, before we left to go to pit road, he said, we’re going to win this race today. He had that feeling, which was a great feeling.
We’ve struggled this year a little bit. This does a lot for both of our race teams. It shows that we’re capable of winning. Jamie can drive at these places. He can drive anywhere, but any time you get Jamie on a superspeedway, he’s a force to be reckoned with. I’m not surprised that we won because we have a team that’s capable of winning every week.
Let’s go to Martinsville and win Martinsville, and that would really make for a nice month. Chip won the championship in IndyCar last night, so it was a great weekend. Last weekend we won the Grand American Series Championship, so the last 10 da
ys have been pretty good for us.
Q. Felix, you kind of just hit on this, and any of you can speak to this. Obviously not being in the Chase, this is the kind of thing, though, that moving forward and looking towards next year, there’s a lot of exciting things happening with the team, if you could just talk about looking ahead and what this does going forward.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, from my perspective, it’s weird the things that go through your mind after you win a race. I talked to one of the guys from ‑‑ one of the main guys from McDonald’s last night, and he had sent me a text, and he said your car looks like it’s going to be good. I said, I really think we have a chance to win. And we got into texting back and forth.
I feel like every time we’ve had McDonald’s on our car, we have not run as well as we have when we’ve had Cessna or LiftMaster or any other sponsor, and McDonald’s has 20‑some races.
So when I crossed the start‑finish line, as excited as I was, I was thinking about that text message and a phone call, and I’m like, I would just love to get McDonald’s to victory lane. They’ve been in our sport for as long as really any sponsor, maybe not full time, but McDonald’s has been around for a long time. It’s nice to be able to win with any of them, but I feel like in 2010 when we won three races we had Bass Pro Shops on our car for all three races and then Donald’s on the car for the others.
It’s important for the whole organization, Chip obviously winning the championship on the IndyCar side and the Grand‑Am side. But Chip has made a huge ‑‑ and Felix, have made a really big financial commitment to our team. The switch to the Hendrick engines was not even par with the ECR engines. It was a big financial tax on the team, and I think it’s made our cars better.
Our cars have definitely been better this year, but getting to victory lane, it really doesn’t matter what track, it definitely is a momentum builder for our whole organization.
Q. Felix, could you speak about that, too?
FELIX SABATES: Well, you know, looking ahead is what we do in this business. You can’t look backward because what happened today is history. We’ve worked very hard this week. We spent millions of dollars on the new seven‑post shaker. Every car we have is new. We switched to the Hendrick motor. We have made a big, big, investment, and we did it because we think we can win. If we didn’t think we could win we’d just take our money and go home.
I think we’ve had a lot of opportunities to win this year, and we have some bad luck. If you look at all our races this year, some it’s our fault that we lost, but some of the races we just get caught in accidents that wasn’t our fault. I’m excited about next year, but I’m more excited about the next five races because we have our own Chase. The guy that finishes first out of the Chase gets a huge bonus and that could help a lot of the expenses we had this year if Jamie finishes the first guy out of the Chase.
Q. Jamie, Earnhardt was in here just a while ago describing coming through 2, out of 2, and he said, I felt the run end, and then I looked in the mirror and I saw guys out of control. Could you talk about what you could see? You said you could see the 88 coming. Can you talk about what you could see from the middle of 1 and 2 on and what your thoughts were as you saw that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I ran the last 20 laps, never looked at the windshield. I looked out the rear view mirror the whole time. The one thing I noticed early in the race was when they would get single file and everybody would run against the wall. The guys on the bottom could make up a lot of ground because it’s such a shorter distance around the bottom, and then as we’d get towards the front, the guys that were on the outside that had been leading would move down to the middle of the track and it would stall out the bottom line.
So when I got to the lead I was trying to enter a little bit lower so we weren’t using so much racetrack so that if everyone behind me would follow, maybe the bottom line wouldn’t develop and move up as fast.
That being said, every time I entered lower, I would get away from the 88, and I feel like he was getting more of a run on me off the corner. As those laps counted down I was kind of trying to do something different each lap so that he couldn’t prepare for it. That’s exactly what he’s done for the last 15 laps; this is what I’m going to do. I was trying to do something different each lap.
And the other thing I noticed about this package is it’s easy to get a big run, but the car will stall out if you don’t have another car behind you helping. The package, I think it races really well. I felt like a lot of racing today, but when we all got single file, I didn’t really think the 88 could get me if the 14 wasn’t pushing him, and I ‑‑ I’m looking in the mirror and I saw the wreck before the spotter said anything. Honestly it didn’t cross my mind that the race was going to be over at that point. I thought we’d have a green‑white‑checkered. You’re so focused on what’s going on that I’m like, we’ve actually taken the white, so if I could just get back to the start‑finish line, you’d be the winner.
Q. So there was no sigh of relief there when you felt the pressure come off you from the 88 car?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, when the 88, when a car gets a run behind you, you can feel your car accelerate a little bit. You can hear the engine change pitch. Honestly I didn’t feel like he had stalled out. Like from my perspective I was getting ready to start swerving to try to get in front of him. If the guy behind you can break that plane of your rear bumper, it’s over, and so I just wanted to make sure I could keep my car in front of him.
He would have had a much better opinion of what was going on because I don’t know how much he had left or what he didn’t.
Q. He also said it might not have been the greatest run in the world but it might have been a run that got him up on your quarter panel and then you go from there. If you said once he broke your bumper that would be a problem, if he could have got to your quarter panel, would that have been a real tough situation for you at that point?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, if he would have gotten to my quarter panel it would have slowed both of our cars ‑‑ honestly I don’t know if the 88 would have won if he would have gotten to my quarter panel because I feel like it would have slowed both of our cars down, especially in the middle of the back stretch. Maybe coming to the start‑finish line it would have been different. But the closing rate was big for the guy third or fourth back, and earlier on in the race you would just go up to whoever you wanted to push because when you would pull out of line it would only benefit you for a couple of ‑‑ for a mile, and then you would fall back.
But coming to the start finish it just would have fanned out. I don’t know, it would have been interesting to see if he could have broken the plane of our bumper where we would have ended up.
Q. Jamie, you said earlier that winning at any track is a good momentum builder. How about for you personally? Obviously over this past season you guys have improved and you’ve had better finishes, but is that enough for a driver’s confidence, or does winning and getting to victory lane kind of ‑‑ because it’s been I guess 108 races since you won?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I appreciate you pointing that out. That’s nice.
I mean, winning, it’s not just about me; it’s about everybody within our whole group. You know, probably more so the 1 guys because they’re the ones that are in victory lane. But it’s so cool to se
e their faces in victory lane and know that when we go to Martinsville, you have confidence, everybody does. It’s so big for us because Martinsville ‑‑ to me plate tracks are probably my best tracks, and Martinsville is probably my next best. I love getting to go there.
This is a great place to be able to win at to take not only my confidence but everybody else within our group to that track where I feel we’ll run really well at.
Q. You talked about not having McDonald’s on your car. You had the Auburn logo on the car. Did you pay any attention to the game last night, Auburn getting a big win, and also, what reaction did you get from fans today with that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I really wanted to watch the game last night, but it was Halloween night in the motor home lot and I had a three year old to dress up as a dinosaur and take trick‑or‑treating, and that took priority over watching the football game. I did Google it as soon as I could to see who won because I knew I was going to do a meet‑and‑greet with some of those guys today, and I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight.
It was really cool to have that on our car. Cessna has done a really cool thing with putting their customers on the hood, the deck lid, bringing them, letting them have the NASCAR experience. A lot of people that can afford a jet airplane can afford a lot of luxuries in life. Getting to come to a NASCAR race and come to the hauler, sit on the pit box, have that, it’s something you can’t buy.
It was cool to have Auburn on here. When they told me they were going to do the paint scheme here, I’m not a huge college football fan, but I know enough that this would be a 50/50 crowd here of some liking and some not. So it was interesting. It was fun to see the fans in the garage area either high five you or the opposite.
Q. Jamie, you were mentioning that the last ‑‑ pretty much after you took the lead with 15 to go you were watching your rear view mirror the whole time. Usually in a restrictor plate race the last 10 laps lines there’s mad scrambling going on, there’s lines forming, but here there was virtually single‑file racing from like 14, 15 laps to go until pretty much the final lap. Were you surprised looking out your rear view mirror that you didn’t see that kind of charge coming or did you expect people to start making moves?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, completely surprised. I don’t know how many laps I led at the end once we finally got single file. But I felt like that was going to last about five laps, and then the bottom would start forming. Because earlier in the race it seemed like if the guys were running against the fence single file that you could get the bottom to make a move, and definitely in these races when you get towards the end, it becomes much more intense and everyone starts taking bigger risk, and I was listening to the spotter, and he’s like ‑‑ he said there’s a line forming, but he said it’s not very organized and they’re not really making up any ground.
I was, I was really surprised that they weren’t able to put something together and make more of a run. Yeah, I was shocked by that.
Q. You said you were shocked by it. Any theories about why kind of the way we always expect it to go here the last 10, 15 laps didn’t materialize this time?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I really don’t know. You know, I don’t know if you can see it on TV, but when you’re the guy that’s 10th or 15th in line, you’re getting out of the throttle 50 percent entering 1 and 3. I don’t know why. You get big runs and you have to let out the throttle, and the further back you are the more you have to get out.
Yeah, I really don’t ‑‑ I really thought that the bottom would form. The flipside is that you get that big run, and if you make the commitment to go to the bottom and you can’t get 10 good cars to make the commitment with you, you go backwards. And so if those guys don’t go with you, then you lose 10 or 12 spots, and the risk isn’t worth the reward. I thought guys would take a bigger chance at the end. I know the 29 car run the back most of the day. I thought he would be able to get a group of cars together. It seemed like the 31 could always make the bottom work and move towards the front. But they just couldn’t ever put it together.
Q. You talked about the trick‑or‑treating last night with a three year old. To be in victory lane with your child, who now probably has a little bit more understanding about victory lane, what was that like? What was it like to see your family there?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, that was ‑‑ I mean, that’s top two or three moments of my life, to get to experience that with them. I don’t know if you guys heard, but when ‑‑ I remember going to Matt and ‑‑ I rent a space from Matt Kenseth to keep my go‑karts and stuff in at his shop. So I was out in the front where they have some office space, and he’s got pictures hanging inside, some trophies, and there was a picture of Matt and Katie and Grace and Kaylin, and I think it was Dover victory lane, and I remember seeing how excited Kaylin was. She’s a little bit older than Grace. I remember seeing how excited she was, and seeing that picture, I’m like, gosh, I went home and told Christy, I hope that we get to have that moment. That’s a really special ‑‑ especially having a little boy who is into Lightning McQueen and racing in general. That would just be the coolest thing ever.
Yeah, to get to have that with my family is really cool.
Q. Did he get that picture do you think?
JAMIE McMURRAY: He was more excited about ‑‑ I said, Carter, look at the camera and smile, and he got shy, and then I informed him he could have all the M&M’s he wanted if he would just do one picture, and he turned right around, smiled and held his No. 1 up. It was a good compromise.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Jamie. Congratulations, Bono, and congratulations, Felix Sabates. Big win here for your race team, and we’ll see you at Martinsville.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW/XBOX ONE CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 DURACELL/MENARDS CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED FOURTH
KERRY THARP: Let’s roll right into our post‑race for the 45th Annual Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, race No. 6 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Our race runner‑up is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He drove the No. 88 Mountain Dew/XBox One Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale, certainly you were up front just about all day long, led some laps, and just talk about your run out there today here at Talladega.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I was wondering if we might have led the most, but if we didn’t we were up there close.
We had such a good car. You know, since I’ve been working with Steve, we just haven’t really had a good combination here, and maybe I’ve torn up some really good cars and just never got to see how good they were in races in the past. I knew in practice the car was strong, and just wondered if everybody was showing everything they had. Once you get the whole field out there it’s a little bit different, but our car was a rocket and we were able to be aggressive, and I just tried to lead every lap of the race.
I felt like what I’ve seen be successful with this package and this car this year, if you’ve up front all the time, you tend to be there at the end when it counts, and we were. We got shuffled out there on that last run when we come out of the pits. I thought we pitted a little bit early, gave up a lot of time. My crew chief Steve di
dn’t really agree with that, but I just felt like if we could stay out on the racetrack we had a better shot at coming out in front of them guys. We ended up coming out behind a bunch of people and worked our way up toward the front there on the outside.
It’s all kind of a blur as to how we ended up in second, but I had no reason to make a move before the last lap being in second place. I was in perfect position to be patient and wait as long as I wanted to. So that’s why we didn’t go any sooner than that. I just can’t anticipate a caution coming out every single time we run at Talladega race on the last lap, so I just assumed it would go to checkered and was planning my move on the back straightaway.
We sort of let the 1 car get out there a little bit going down the front straightaway into Turn 1 and we mashed the gas in the middle of the corner and got a run with the 14, and I was moving around just a little bit to see where the 1 thought I might be going, because I gotta sort of fake him out, and I noticed the run stopped, and I looked in the mirror and guys were out of control.
We didn’t get an opportunity to see what would have materialized. It wasn’t the best run in the world. It wasn’t what I dreamed it would be, all those last few laps. But it was a good enough run I think to get up to his quarter panel and get beside him, and then we would have found out who our friends were at that point.
But really happy with the way the car ran and it was good to run up front, good to lead. We’ve really struggled this season with being competitive, and to drive up through there and do that like we did today, and it felt great.
Q. So many different things can happen here, but we have had situations recently where a lot of the races that have ended with a situation where you at least have to think about, well, maybe there might be a caution that’s going to end like that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Can you remember the last race here that didn’t?
Q. Exactly. How much does it go into your thinking maybe I might need to be out front just in case we get…
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I wished I was out front, I really did, but I knew that I had everything to lose and really one spot to gain by going early, and if I waited until the last lap I could possibly defend off a failed run and get a relatively decent finish.
I guess pulling out early and that not working and finishing 25th was worse than trying to take the chance. Waiting and being patient I thought would pay off. Every race we have here we all wreck on the last lap, and it’s fortunate that that wreck wasn’t any worse than what we typically see here. But for some reason it was a lot calmer the last few laps. Everybody was pretty good about staying in line.
I would have been a little more antsy if I would have been back there in 5th or 10th, but they weren’t jumping out, and had they jumped out and moved with five to go, nine to go, whatever, that would have changed everyone’s strategy, and we might have went sooner, been forced to go sooner than we did. But nobody moved, so I was like, hey, I’m just going to wait until the end. I don’t have to try until the very end. I’ve got one guy to pass, and all I’ve got to do is make one run happen, and maybe it’ll work.
KERRY THARP: Let’s hear from our third‑place finisher, and that’s Paul Menard. He drives the No. 27 Menard’s Duracell Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Paul, maybe just talk about what you saw from your vantage point.
PAUL MENARD: Well, first off, we started deep in the field, I think 34th or 35th, and knew that we had a real good car. We just didn’t do much drafting on Friday. Knew we had a good car, knew it was pretty stable but wasn’t totally sure how it was going to handle in a big pack.
At the start of the race we took off and tried to learn more than anything, and car drove really good, was fast, drove to the front, kind of hung out in the top 10 all day long and just could never get to the first couple rows to lead a lap.
Had a good Duracell/Menard’s Chevy all day long. We could make the middle groove work to gain spots and then get to the outside and then ultimately the outside lane kind of won out over the long run. That’s kind of where everybody shuffled out to. Kind of riding around the last 10, 15 laps waiting for somebody to make a move. I didn’t want to be the first guy to do it and get shuffled back to 30th. I was kind of waiting for Dale to make something happen.
Q. Dale, you said on TV just a minute ago that you were talking about your plan was you were figuring the 14 was going to go with you and you said whoever else wanted to come along. It appears the 17 was what kind of glitched the situation back there. Did you see him back there? Did you know he was going to be ‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: A wild card?
Q. Yeah, part of the mix?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I knew everybody was going to be a part of the finish somehow. I’m pretty sure Jamie wasn’t just going to let me go by. He was going to side draft and it was going to ‑‑ we were going to play hell trying to get the lead from that point. But I thought Austin would ‑‑ I don’t know what Austin would have done for sure, but I assumed, knowing him as I do, he was probably going to help me once. You know what I mean? And after that you’re on your own.
But other than that, Ricky, I didn’t know what his plan was or anybody else’s. We really hadn’t talked to the 14. We were just kind of waiting until the last lap and going to make a run. That’s what we were trying to do.
Q. Paul, as you rode in line there those last 10 laps, were you kind of surprised that everybody kept waiting and waiting, that you didn’t go any earlier?
PAUL MENARD: I was. I thought for sure, as good as the middle was all day long, I thought for sure the 20, the 22, 48, some of those guys would get that rolling at the end, and it just never happened. My spotter kept telling me where they were, and I think the closest guy was like six cars behind us. I’m pretty surprised that it didn’t make further headway.
Q. And June, you said you had the best car of the race, that this was the best car that you’ve had since you’ve been at Hendrick Motorsports. Was there anybody in particular that you worked better with drafting with, one driver or the other?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, not really. We had a really good car. We’ve had some good cars at Daytona. For some reason we come to Talladega we haven’t been able to get them to run or we’d tear them up and never find out how good they were. For some reason today the car was fast. I didn’t really have to worry about who we were working with or around. I really didn’t try to piss anybody off, but I just didn’t worry about trying to help everybody and trying to be everybody’s friend out there. You’ve got a run, you take it. Everybody sort of understands what the situation is. When you get a good run, they don’t come every lap, you’ve got to take your opportunities.
Q. Junior, one of the things that we saw some people immediately went to the back and tried to use that strategy. You never did, you raced up front all day, and obviously that worked out well. If you could talk a little bit about that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, when you try to ride in the back and you try to go, it’s usually typically the race is two or three wide for the first 10 rows and you can’t go anywhere. You can’t go anywhere. So we always end up packed up behind that mess, and then we find our way into the last lap wreck. So I decided that the car was pretty good in practice, and I felt like that if I could get
up there up front, that seems to be working for Matt. He’s been doing really well this year on the plate tracks, and he’s always toward the front and never has to worry about working his way through the pack if he’s coming out toward the front on that last pit stop, and we were good enough today to be able to do that. In the past I’ve tried to do it and just make the wrong moves or whatever and find myself in the back anyways. But the car was really strong today.
Q. This is for Paul. I get the impression that Junior was going to wait until his moment to make the move, but for you guys is it kind of a risk versus reward scenario where you don’t want to be the guy to pull out and you’re waiting for the guys behind to make their move before you jump out in front of them?
PAUL MENARD: My plan was to wait for somebody else to go to the bottom first and keeping track of where the 20, the 22 and those guys were, and I’d try to pull in front of them when they got to me. I wasn’t going to be the first guy to do that because I’ve done that before and been shuffled out pretty quick. I was going to wait for somebody else to make the move first and try to piggy‑back on.
Q. How long do you let your breath out that this weekend is over and that you’ve got great finishes before you turn your mind to Martinsville?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We’re testing in Texas Monday and Tuesday so we’re working on that and trying to prepare a good car for that race. Looking forward to Martinsville. We didn’t get to run there last time and feel like we always run real good there, so looking forward to that.
PAUL MENARD: We all leave tomorrow morning for Texas to test for a few days, three 12‑hour days, and we did the same test that Ricky did at Martinsville to prepare for this coming weekend. I think of Martinsville as a lot like a plate race. You prepare all you can and then the last 20 laps all hell breaks loose. You never know how you’re going to end up.
Q. Dale, just looking at some of your stats, 22nd runner‑up in the Sprint Cup Series, four this year, four at Talladega. Do they feel like a near miss or…
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I’m not going to complain too much because I’m driving some of the best cars in the garage and got some of the best engines being at a place like that. It really means a lot.
It’s frustrating because the worst part about it really is you go home and you’ll spend months thinking about what you could have done to not be second. That’s the worst part about it. Actually the process of it happening and doing it isn’t that bad. You’re kind of happy with being competitive and it was a good result. But you’ll go back and think of a million things you could have tried different.
Q. You said you’ll replay it and think about what you could have done differently. It seems there really wasn’t anything you could have done differently because it all played out behind you, right?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I guess. We have a last lap wreck every time, and I guess next time we are in that situation we’ll try to go a lap sooner. (Laughter.)
Q. Dale, obviously as they pointed out, 22 runner-up finishes. You run as hard as you can every lap and try as hard as you can. What do you say to the multitude of people out there that every time Jimmie Johnson passes you as a racetrack, they’re screaming it’s team orders, it’s team orders. We know that’s not true.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, we hear about it on the radio every Monday on the Reaction Theater about how disappointed they are we haven’t won yet. We’re close, man. I’ll tell you, looking at our runs since Chicago, this is the best my cars have been all year. I’ve had some of the best cars the last five races that I’ve had all season, and they say they’re not doing anything different, but they sure are running really good. I think we’re right around the corner from winning one of these races, and we’re just going to keep trying.
Q. Paul, can you talk about the improvements that RCR has made in the closing months of the season, and what are your expectations for 2014 with the new lineup?
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, I’m excited for next year. We did a lot of work in the off‑season getting ready for the Gen‑6 car, as everybody did, and I feel like we started the year pretty strong as a company. The 27 team particularly, and then the 29 and 31 have come on really strong thesecond half of the season. We kind of fell off, and now we’re picking back up.
Yeah, I feel pretty good about where we’re at as a company. I know we’re making big gains, chassis, aero, and the motor has gotten a lot better, so small improvements everywhere make a big difference. Ryan coming over next year. He’s going to bring a lot of knowledge, too, and looking forward to working with him. I don’t think we announced the third driver yet.
KERRY THARP: Dale, Paul, Ricky, congratulations. Good luck this week testing. We’ll see you at Martinsville.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES