Q.: Great way to start the season, a first at Daytona, a second here. Talk about your run out there today.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than anybody all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal. To be able to run with them as we did all day was a big confidence builder for us. Even at the end of the race I thought our laps we put together coming up to the checkered were faster than him.
I would have loved to have won the race, am a little disappointed to have come that close. But our team is performing so well. Got a lot of great chemistry and good communication going back and forth. Everybody’s confidence is very high. Everybody’s mood and morale is really high.
Hopefully we can maintain that and not have any bad luck or make any mistakes and continue to keep working towards winning more races.
If we run second enough, we’re bound to at least trip into one or two (smiling). We ran second quite a few races in the last 10 or so races we run. I feel really good. I feel like we’re coming around the corner, peaking at the right time this season to try to run for the championship.
Q. Dale, right before the spin, you ran your fastest lap of the day. If it had gone green from that point, do you think you would have had something for him?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don’t know. For whatever reason, on that particular run, we were running about the same times I guess, maybe he was just a tick quicker. I was going to need some traffic to back him up to me.
Then the last run, which I cleared the other cars around me, I was much quicker than him the last four laps or so.
It’s weird because you won’t change anything, won’t even pit for tires. The caution will come out, your car will drive different, the caution will come out, it will drive a completely different way again. You just hope that that rule comes in your favor every time the caution comes out. On some restarts I had a loose car for 10 laps, then I would have a car that wouldn’t turn for 10 laps on another restart.
I don’t know how that happens or why that happens. Everybody sort of battles a different balance every time we this a restart and get going again, cycle the tire, have a caution, cool the tire off, get going again. Makes the balance of the car a little different.
For whatever reason, that last run was the best compared to Kevin. Before that I don’t think we had anything for him.
Q. Obviously Daytona is one thing, but when you get here, the real season starts. Did this run that you had today answer even more questions in your mind than maybe Daytona did because of the way this applies to some of the other places?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was wondering if we was going to carry on the momentum from last year, running so good in the Chase. Also with the rules, I was wondering where we were going to fall in performance with the competition, what did people learn during the off‑season, who was going to stand out like the 4 car did today and all weekend.
Seems like we aren’t behind. We aren’t where the 4 car is, but we’re definitely close. Hopefully we can learn what we need to learn rapidly in the next several weeks so we can get up to par and win some races.
There’s a couple teams out there that are behind, not onto the new package and new rules. I’m glad that we’re doing pretty well. The performance is there for us.
Hopefully we can maintain it. We go to a completely different track at Vegas, but we have a whole day Thursday to figure it out. It will be good to have that track time.
Q. You talked the other day about how hypothetically having won a race under this new scoring system could give you some latitude to try some things. What sort of things were going on in the course of the race that might have been a little different if you had not won Daytona?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We probably would have went with the same strategy as we had today as far as stretching our fuel mileage. We were stretching it thin. We would have went with the same strategy regardless of the situation. But it wouldn’t have been as nerve‑wracking. It wasn’t as nerve‑wracking today.
Normally you’re just biting your fingernails when he says, We’re two laps short, we have to find two laps. The yellows are coming out, you think you’re saving, but you don’t know how much. Today, If we run out, we run out, no big deal. We can gamble with a better conscience.
Q. During the final caution, did you even think at all about the battle that you ended up with Keselowski? Is that what took away any opportunity for you to win?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. Kevin’s going to jump out there and get away from us. We just didn’t have enough laps. For one, we didn’t have enough racecar all day long. He’d just been faster. For whatever reason, that last run, we reeled him in a little bit. Cut it probably in half. We needed another 10 laps, but we didn’t have 10 laps.
Q. Brad was talking about when you guys were close, he saw the fans standing up when you were going to maybe take a lead. Do you pick that up during the race as well ever?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I’m concentrating as hard as I can to make sure I get the left front tire where I want it to be on the entrance to the corner, and make sure I got the rolling speed I need so I don’t drive through the fronts in the middle of the corner. You’re thinking about everything going on in the car. You can’t really think about that.
This place really requires your attention throughout the whole lap. There are some tracks that are bigger where you can see that, like the front straightaway at Michigan or something like that, where you can get a good idea as to what the fans’ reaction is to what’s happening on the track, but it’s usually much larger racetracks.
Q. On the restarts, was it strictly Kevin had the horsepower to jump out or was he getting a push?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: He gets to go first (laughter). I mean, I can’t go when he goes. I’d be cheating.
I tried to go in sync with him. I think the last few restarts, I matched it up. He got a push from the 22. I’m on the outside line, which ain’t the preferred line on that corner. The leader really has a great opportunity to maintain the lead here if he doesn’t make any mistakes on the restart.
But the first several restarts, he was just kicking my butt at the line, then I started seeing what his pattern was, what he had been doing, was able to time it a little better so I didn’t look so foolish.
It was going to be hard. I tried really hard to get down on the corner to stay on his quarter panel off of two because then I would have a great shot, maybe racing him some. But his car was so good, he had me cleared pretty easily.
Q. Were you surprised, with all those restarts, that there wasn’t one where he slipped up a little bit?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. He’s not a rookie. Guy’s been around a long time, knows what he’s doing. He’s won some races here. He feels good and confident about what he’s doing here. He won last year here. When you’re winning at a place with regularity in recent months, you got a lot of confidence.
He wasn’t going to be rattled by anything. I would have had to get to his bumper under green to try to get him loose or do something like that, which I might have been able to do. We just ran out of laps.
He was going to be very, very, very hard to pass. I knew that.
Q. I’ve been watching you race for a long time, and I know you have the ability. The biggest change I’ve seen this year is you seem may more comfortable in your car. Is that so?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think we just got a lot of momentum carried over from last year. We were running well in the Chase. I think the Chase performance we had got us pretty excited, real happy to look forward to this season.
It’s hard to take away a lot from two races. Such a long season, so many things can happen. So many teams can learn and progress and the competition gets tougher and tougher throughout the year as everybody starts seeing what is happening in the garage. Secrets don’t last long.
We just got to work hard, harder than everybody else. We got a lot of tests lined up. We didn’t test much in the off‑season, didn’t want to burn ourselves out before the season started. That’s going to help us, I think, really learn a lot more. We’re already relatively competitive now. The testing should help us even more.