FONTANA, CA – Behind the wheel of his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, Dale Earnhardt Jr. avoided a late-race accident between the leaders to collect a second-place finish at Auto Club Speedway, Round 5 of the 36-race 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Earnhardt, Jr. and his No. 88 Chevy SS team are off to a fast start as the schedule swings into full gear.
The team has already collected five top-10 finishes in the first five races; the only team to accomplish that feat this year. Earnhardt, Jr. also is now the series point leader with a 12-point advantage over his closest competitor.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
THE MODERATOR: We have our runner up finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet. Can you just talk about that last lap there and what happened?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I wasn’t racing up there, so I couldn’t really get a good view of it, but I was running around the bottom of the corner, and I knew they were going to they were slowing up and battling real hard, so I was just trying to get what I could get. I felt like on the back straightaway Kyle had the best shot at winning the race because those two guys were slowing down running so hard. Just lucky we were able to get by on the inside there. I got turned by Harvick one time when he had a flat tire back in ’01 or ’02. Man, turned into a wall there, and I didn’t want to have that happen again today because that’s what I thought was going to happen to me. So I was a little that was the world I was in at that moment. I really wasn’t worried about those guys too much and how they were wrecking and all. I was just glad to get through and get a good run.
We had a good car all day, and sort of just got off sequence and all screwed up on tire strategy there at the end with all the cautions and guys coming for four and two, and we were able to take advantage of that on that last caution, get four tires, and starting on the inside was terrible. I would lose five, six spots down there trying to get going on the inside, and finally that last restart we started 18th but we were on the outside and we were ninth by the time we come back around for the first lap under green. Just really important to get that outside restart, and we weren’t getting it there near the end, so we were just going backwards.
Just happy we were able to finish. I thought the car was good enough to finish in the top 5, so I’m glad we got a good finish up there.
Q. Can you just talk about what a team effort it took from where you got knocked down to the back? You guys had the tire changes; you came to fight for where you are, now you’re the points leader.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we had a little problem on pit road on one of our stops and lost a lot of positions. But we’ve always we just stick together, and everybody was just kind of patted each other on the back and we was going to get another chance to redeem ourselves on pit road. We had a good car. On that next restart we drove back up to 10th before the next caution, so I felt like we were back up in position to run well and everything was fine. We got a good pit stop on the next caution and put that mistake behind us.
You know, then the race sort of got weird. I’m not sure exactly when we would take two tires, our car drove really bad. It just didn’t like that old left rear on there, and it would we’d just get really, really loose. So that was giving me some problems. And we were fading there at the end of the race, but we got an opportunity to fix it when we got that late caution.
But yeah, we just stick together. We got we were pretty good at closing races, something I never really was good at for years, and now we’re doing it as good as anybody. Just riding the wave. Just real happy with how things are going for our team.
Q. A lot has been said this weekend that the track hasn’t been resurfaced or redone in a while. Some people are calling it character like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. What’s your take?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think it’s great. Do everybody a favor, whoever owns this place, and pave the back straightaway. If you pave the back straightaway, there’s some real bad bumps, we all watched it on TV in the Nationwide race and I’m sure you saw it today. It’s just going down the back straightaway. It probably doesn’t cost much to pave the two lanes that we race in, and that would really cure any complaints that I got. I think the corners are perfect. I wouldn’t pave anything or change anything about the turns. This place has got this is the age of asphalt that I think tracks strive for. This is what places like Michigan and Phoenix look forward to, you know, when they get a good 10, 15 years on their asphalt. This is really right in the ballpark, right in everybody’s wheelhouse. I think everybody that runs in the Cup garage really likes the surface. It’s just real bumpy down the back straightaway for some reason, and it doesn’t have to be, and I think they can fix that with a couple lanes of asphalt on that outside toward the wall, and like I said, the corners, man, you couldn’t ask for a better racetrack.