We'll roll right into our post race for the 62nd Annual Goody's Fast Relief 500 here at Martinsville Speedway and today's third place finisher is Kyle Busch. He drives the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota. Kyle, talk about your run here this afternoon.
KYLE BUSCH: It was really good. We had one of the best runs here we have ever had. And I probably had the best car here today. Unfortunately just didn't win with it. Coming down to the last run of the race here, kind of a short run, and we just didn't quite have the car to do it on a short run. Every time we had the lead off pit road, we lost it and took about 28 laps to get going again.
I think the last run was about 28 laps and that's when I started catching those guys a little bit. They were racing. They were battling but we did get back up to them. Probably would have had something to beat them with, but can't seem to find speed at Martinsville when it matters most.
Q. Was the bump by Junior fair game?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I was holding him up. I sucked. So it was good for him. I mean, he took the lead. No harm, no foul.
KERRY THARP: Thank you. 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 watched that 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.
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