All-Star: Earnhardt Jr - Friday media visit

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS Talked With Media About The All-Star Race And His Fans And The Darlington Penalty And His Discussions With Team Owners And More: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEARD? "I had to do my ESPN glamour shots...

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS Talked With Media About The All-Star Race And His Fans And The Darlington Penalty And His Discussions With Team Owners And More:

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEARD? "I had to do my ESPN glamour shots this morning. They are televising the races, I reckon. My mama said I could keep it if I wanted to, but I had my fun."

ON THE PENALTY "We were told at the start of the year about the money and the points. The suspension was a surprise. It never entered my mind, I guess. In Darlington, I knew NASCAR was going to do something. I just never thought that the suspension was going to be one of them and I guess I should have because we've seen it before. We can handle the other half of it but it's going to be different with Tony Gibson (as crew chief), but me and Tony have talked. We'll do the best we can. I feel pretty confident in him. I support Tony Jr. I was really proud of him. Not to be taken out of context - I'm not proud of cheating, but I was proud of him trying to give me every advantage he can give me. And that's what I want him always to do."

AFTER THE PENALTY WAS ANNOUNCED, WHAT DID YOU SAY TO YOUR TEAM TO LIFT THEIR SPIRITS? "They had built me a new car for the All-Star race and I just wanted to check it out. They were really proud of it and I wanted to see this car. I called Tony Jr. about three times that morning - just telling him what I heard and what I knew. He can handle things like that. It doesn't really bother him that bad. He was obviously upset with being penalized and having his name in the news. But he's pretty tough. He can handle it. We're all good buddies."

ON THE RCR / DEI ENGINE PROGRAM "I think that's a great move. I was telling Richie Gilmore last year at this time that the Chevy teams ought to consolidate down to one engine program. Depending on the teams you brought in, that would cut the costs tremendously. That's probably going to cut 25 to 30% off the engine shop expense on each side - hopefully, if they do it correctly - and I think it's an awesome idea because the sport's getting so dang costly now. They should be able to get an advantage from it. As far as performance-wise, both of them have got a little bit to offer each other, I'm sure."

DOES THAT IMPACT YOUR DECISION ON THE FUTURE? "No, not really. We're still thinking about where we want to go and putting everything in a row and getting everything lined up. It wouldn't impact my decision, though. Absolutely not."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO TERESA EARNHARDT SINCE YOU MADE YOUR ANNOUNCEMENT TO LEAVE DEI AT THE END OF THE YEAR? "I sure haven't."

YOUR MERCHANDISE SALES HAVE INCREASED SINCE YOUR DECISION TO LEAVE DEI. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "It's great. I wanted to say that aside from my crew's commitment to support me and for them to say what they said and how they said it and the delivery and how they told me was great. The other thing that has been overwhelming and a big surprise was the fan support that I've had. If I can take a moment..

"When I first started driving race cars, I got all my daddy's fans because I was his son. I didn't get them by whipping guys butts on the race track because that didn't happen for a long time. And so, throughout my career, I always knew that I had earned some of my dad's fans just by being his son and only by being his son. Once they started pulling for me, whether they found things about me they didn't know they liked, and things we had in common and they got closer and felt closer, I don't know. But initially we earned a lot of his fans, you know. And I always knew that. There really wasn't any way to know where the sport was going to lay and I have gotten a lot of feedback from my fans and I just want to thank them and it's really helped me to sleep at night. I made the decision because that's what I wanted to do and it's what I feel is best for me. But it does ease your mind a little bit when somebody tells you you've made the right decision and they're behind you. Right or wrong, my fans have been great about supporting me."

HOW NERVOUS WERE YOU ABOUT THAT FIRST DRIVER INTRO AFTER MAKING THE ANNOUNCEMENT? "I've done some things and gotten booed before, so I know what that's like, believe it or not (laughs). Had we lost 100% of our support from our fans, I made the decision. Honestly, I feel like if everyone in this garage were saying it's something I shouldn't do, I probably still would have done it. I just felt that strongly about it. And I feel like I made the right decision. I didn't really beg or anticipate my fans to follow me or support me, but they've been really overwhelming about what they've said and writing me. Just coming out of my shop, they've been telling me in person; that was really awesome. I'm sure some of them are disappointed, but I'm pretty proud of them."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME INTO THE ALL-STAR RACE NOW? "Well, my team's really put the pressure on me because they've build a brand new car. I want to run the high line in practice, but we only have one bullet. They've only got the one car. We've got an old one up there (in the trailer) but it's not special. They didn't build it just for this. It's just a regular old car we dragged down here. It don't have the extra stuff you know, like the extra ignition box and extra battery and stuff like that. So I'm nervous to run it hard in practice and get out there and run like I want to run. But I'm excited. I love driving. I just love being in the car and being on the track. It's helped in getting a lot of the stress I was dealing with off my mind. I'm really enjoying driving."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU THIS WEEKEND, THE 20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR DAD'S FAMOUS PASS IN THE GRASS? "I can't believe it's been 20 years. It feels like maybe 10. I can remember it you know, I was here (laughs). It's weird you know, just how time has gone by. Man, it don't seem like 20 years. It sure don't. That was an amazing day. It was pretty wild. Imagine if you will, with the media coverage that this sport gets today, if that race were to happen tomorrow night - that exact deal between two drivers - it would be incredible."

YOU WANT TO STAY AWAY FROM TALKING ABOUT NEGOTIATIONS FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS, BUT ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING SO FAR? "Yeah. I'm very pleased. Things are good. We haven't hit any speed bumps or obstacles, and the temperature of the conversations that we've had up to this point have been very good."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANY CAR OWNERS YOURSELF? "Yes."

DO YOU WANT TO TELL US WHO? "No."

WHAT'S YOUR TIME FRAME FOR GETTING THE DEAL DONE? "I don't really have one. The Motorsports Authentics or whoever we're working with, I guess, the diecast and hats and shirts people and my sister and the owner of the team are going to want to do it in x-amount of days. So we've got this much time to get this much done. But to me, it's about making sure it's the right decision and no matter when that happens, I'll be very, very happy."

WITH ANY OF THE CAR OWNERS YOU'VE TALKED TO, HAS ANYTHING JUMPED OUT AT YOU YET? DO YOU FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT ANYTHING? "They all are fun to get to know. It's really neat to get down to the core of some of these guys and understand them more. You don't have that ability, you know, when you're driving for another team. You can't spend that time with them. That's been really fun. They all can basically offer the same little piece of the puzzle, but it's really the guy and the company, I guess, that seems to be the most comfortable fit for me."

DO YOU HAVE A FEELING YET? "No.

"I'm going to listen to everybody and some guys are such good guys that they'll give you advice on what to do regardless of how to fix them. Some of these people just actually want you to be happy, which is awesome."

DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU? "It's just been a long time (laughs) since somebody has actually talked to you like that."

SO DO YOU REALLY FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHERE YOUR FUTURE IS HEADED? "Absolutely. There's a big, new world out there. I'm really excited about my opportunities and the possibilities and what's going to be on the table. I'm excited about how the response has been from some of the owners. Their excitement really makes you feel appreciated and makes you feel necessary - like you'd be an asset - and that's really a great feeling."

DOES YOUR LEVEL OF ENTHUSIASM SURPRISE EVEN YOU? "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know whether this was going to be good and bad. You know, I just didn't know what to expect. But I've just been open to whatever happens, happens. If it doesn't work out like I thought it would, or should, I'll deal with that and I'll move forward and make the best of any situation I could possibly put myself in. But hopefully it's the best decision I could make for myself. Hopefully I'll be happy with that - that I made the best decision for me."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr.