Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the plans for his company, JR Motorsports, in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series, racing his last race for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and in the No. 8 Chevrolet and anticipation for the 2008 season with Hendrick Motorsports:
ON EXTENDING AGREEMENT WITH UNITED STATES NAVY AND NAMING BRAD KESELOSKI AS THE DRIVER IN THE NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES (NNS): "I would just to say that it is a great opportunity for our company, JR Motorsports (JRM) to continue our relationship with the Navy. A sponsor as supportive as the Navy is, is a huge boost for us. We are very proud to represent the men and women that serve in the Navy as well as helping the Navy bring awareness about the opportunities you have to serve our country. It is great for us.
Along with that, I would like to say that we are excited to announce that were signing a two-year deal with Brad Keselowski as our driver. We are hoping to give this guy all the equipment and success he needs to find himself where ever he wishes to be and reach the goals that he wishes to obtain in his driving career.
"We are very excited to be able to announce both of those things today."
ON HAVING A GREAT EYE FOR THE TALENT OF BRAD KESELOWSKI: "I would like to think that I had a pretty good eye for talent. Every driver that we have been associated with definitely gave us great ideas and great reason for us to put out support behind them. Brad has done the same thing. I felt like when he was racing for his previous team, he was pretty sought after and well watched amongst the guys in the garage area in the Busch Series (NBS). He did a couple of things such as qualifying at Bristol and a couple of finishes that he had in the equipment that he was running in that was pretty impressive. He was really good at taking great care of his race car. He comes from a racing family, so he knows about saving his equipment and what the dollar is worth on the market when it comes to parts and pieces. He knows a lot about his cars, he has worked on them. I knew that if he was given a good opportunity, that he would succeed. I felt like at the same time, we ne eded a driver to compliment us and to help us improve our equipment. To help us understand our personnel, build our program to where it is really strong program. We needed a driver that could get in there and get it done, get finishes in the bag and get a lot of information for us. Brad is really good at describing what the car is doing. We had been friends for probably about a year, year-and-a-half before this. Having known him and having heard some great things about him from some pretty credible sources, it was a great opportunity to be able to work with him."
ON WHAT WILL BE HIS ENDURING MEMORY OF 2007: "Well, I would like to keep the questions and discussions here to related to our announcement here to do. But, I think, answering your question, we have had a lot of changes. I think the things that we have done at JR Motorsports and the things that we have went through, our trials, have been just as much of a learning experience as anything else as a lot of the stuff that has been well publicized in the Cup Series with the changes we made there. The NBS can be a lot of work. There is a lot of attention and focus that it requires, so we have had our hands literally full all yearlong. Brad has done a great job about coming in to our car and calming our program down to where we can finish races, where we can understand and learn and move forward and build new cars and try to get a direction. That has really helped us get us to where we are today. I feel like that if we continue on that path, we will have a lot of success and we will have an admired program. That is what my goal. Our ultimate goal is to get Brad in to the Cup Series, but we also want to have a program that is envied and admired and that has been our goal from the start."
ON OTHER PLANS FOR JR MOTORSPORTS IN OTHER SERIES: "We are putting a lot of programs in place to support this. Our late model program with Curtis Truex, he has had a lot of success. Jamey Caudill will continue to drive with us. We are working in a couple of other areas with a few other drivers. We moved Rick's (Hendrick - Hendrick Motorsports) over there, the No. 24 program. We are going to work with many different drivers in that car next year, very similar to what he has done this year with a lot of the same names. That is sort of what we have been calling our All Star car to be able to tell the two apart. We have the Navy team and then sort of the All Star car, with many high profile drivers. That is going to be a lot of fun. We are also working with Landon Cassill to try to bring him in to the ranks through that program as well. Brad is going to run for the championship both owner's and driver's. That is the goal for that team, to win races and continue to mak e the Navy proud and make the whole relationship really successful for all of us. The other car will run for the owner's championship as well as help to build the overall company as a whole.
"We have no plans to venture in to the Cup Series. If Brad has a lot of great success, we can entertain options, to help him get a few rides in that series, but we are really focused on our NNS program and supporting the NNS. We really enjoy being in that series and that is where our total focus is going to stay."
ON POSSIBILITY OF NNS CHANGING CAR STYLE IN 2009: "There are two points to that. No. 1, NASCAR has been very vocal in staying in contact with the owners about what the best options are for us and how we can pursue going to a COT style of car. Obviously it is going to be difficult for a lot of teams and NASCAR is really looking in to making that transition as easy as possible with whatever they need to do with a timetable or what-have-you. I am not going to sit here and tell you what I think the will do or predict what will happen, but they may not be in quite as big of a hurry as everybody might perceive.
"The other thing is, we have worked really hard in the last year since we heard those discussions were happening, to put our program in position to handle that and sort of brave ourselves for such a change. It will be quite expensive for a lot of teams. For us, we are in a fortunate situation having the support of the Navy and all of our other partners; we should be able to handle the process, at least better than most teams will. I can definitely understand, looking at other programs, how they may struggle and have difficulties with that. I think NASCAR is well aware of that and they don't want to be doing anything detrimental to any of those programs and run full programs out of the sport. That would be against their better judgment."
ON IF LONG RANGE GOAL INCLUDE A CUP PROGRAM: "That is not our main focus. That is not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal right now is to stay in the NNS and to work there. I enjoy that series; it is part of my history. It is part of me as a driver. That is where I hope to stay and enjoy a lot of success and be formidable for many years. We have aspirations to look farther ahead than that. I think it would do an injustice not only to our partners such as the Navy, but ourselves, if we do not tackle the challenges we are facing now. We are still trying to become a successful team in the NBS. Until we are and have mastered and seem to be in control of that, we can then see what other places and opportunities we may to grow. But that is definitely not even in the back of my mind right now."
ON GAINING REPUTATION AS A TEAM OWNER: "I have learned a lot. There are so many things that you tackle, things you enjoy. The relationship with the Navy has been really fun. Working one-on-one as the owner with a sponsor was new to me. We have really enjoyed the relationship. I have learned a lot through the Navy and how that actually works and how you have the working relationship and compromising. With the drivers it has been challenging as well, an enjoyable challenge. Brad is a likeable young guy and we have a lot of things in common. We get along great. I want to see him succeed. That is sort of my motivation is to help to achieve whatever he wants to achieve and get to where he wants to go. I feel like the credibility I seek has been in respect from the community, whether it be my sponsors, the drivers and crew members that work for me and amongst the garage. It is great when you have guys come knocking on your door on Monday wanting to know if there are openings or opportunities for them to work in our program. That is a compliment for us every time it happens. It has been happening quite often."
ON NASCAR CONSIDERING CHANGING POINT STRUCTURE FOR FULL TIME CUP DRIVERS RUNNING IN NNS: "I think it is a direction that is very positive. I think it is something that has needed some attention over the last several years. I enjoy racing in the series myself. I do it because I enjoy it. I don't do it to challenge for the points. I think to challenge for the points, they could allow Carl (Edwards) and those guys who do put in that effort. I think you have to reward Carl and those guys for the effort when they show up every week to make the race. To shut a guy like that out of the NNS would be bad for the sport. For the guys who are only showing up for a handful of races, I don't think it is relatively important where they are in the points and how many points they accumulate. I think it gives these other teams to lock themselves in to the owner's point system next year going in to Daytona and those races to be able to make the top-30. To be locked in would be great for some of these other teams that are under funded and showing up every week and putting forth more effort."
END OF AN ERA FOR 8 CAR: "It makes me feel good that people even call it an era. I had a lot of great wins with that car and a lot of great friendships made with that group. The hardest part for me this weekend is knowing that when I walk into the garage for my first practice in Daytona, most of them faces won't be in that stall with me. That's really, really hard because I really like all those guys and feel like they're my brothers and we all really got along great. I didn't see that sort of camaraderie through other teams.
"I'm going to miss driving for Budweiser and the relationship we had. I like that car, am used to being in it and am going to miss that part of it, but I guess the hardest part is the personalities and friendships and relationships I have with all my guys on my team because it's really, really strong, stronger than a lot of people would assume. We all work together and people think we just show up on weekends. We call each other on Mondays, hang out and get everybody together at a pub, and still do that."
BLOCK OUT FATHER TEAM: "I will be sad for my father that things aren't different. I'm sad for him, not for me or anybody else. I'm just sad because his vision was different. He was such a great person and his visions were great and worthy and should be realized. That'll be a shame. I got some great support from Rick (Hendrick) whenever I need it and that's going to help a lot to get from one place to another. He knows exactly what I thinking and what I'm going through, he knows exactly what kind of guy I am and the things that matter to me. He's just great at reading people. He'll be great support for me as we move from one thing to another and adapting. I'm very anxious and nervous about the challenges I face going over to Rick's and trying to be an asset to that company and trying to be everything I can be, be impressive and get the job done. I'm anxious to get going on that and make those things happen. But, there's some things to finish and we'll get them finished."
HOW WOULD YOUR FATHER HAVE RACED JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THIS SUNDAY? "Real hard. He raced real hard all the time. That whole group, they didn't care who you were. They ran the heck out of you all the time and still do. That generation, that's their style and a lot of it rubbed off on some of us because it's good. He would race hard, really hard."
WOULD HE PUT A FENDER INTO JIMMIE IF HE NEEDED TO? "Sure, why not. I mean, he was the best at doing that."
ARE YOU MORE EAGER OR NERVOUS MOVING TO HENDRICK: "More eager. People are like, 'You haven't won championships. Now you're going to a team that has won championships, and what if you don't?' That's sort of the opposite of the mentality. The mentality is where can I get that opportunity? Where can I find the chance? Where is the best place, the best shot, and put me there, place me in that situation and give me the tools because I want to know. I don't walk around with a question mark overhead that y'all can see, but I have questions about my ability and whether I can get it done. I'm confident in my talent and I want to be in the best possible shape every single year of my career. That's what every driver wants. So, that's why I'm going to get it, that's why I'm going there. I'm ready to get into the car. I want to see how good we are. I want to see Tony Eury Jr. and what he assumes on what he sees around him as he's working there and how good we'll probably run. I'm ready to find out. I want to race. I'm ready to work. That's pretty interesting. I never really felt like that before. I was ready for the season to be over when it's over, but I'm ready to work tomorrow, I'm ready to work Monday and Tuesday. I want to go test, I want to get right. I want to start off like a Roman Candle: I want to get it done, you know."
WHAT DOES YOUR OFF-SEASON LOOK LIKE: "Whatever it needs to look like. Tony Jr. is going to tell me whatever I've got to do. Whatever he thinks we need to do, we'll do it. They've already been testing a little bit. I'll do whatever they need for me to do. I started bow hunting, which was pretty fun. Me and Tony Jr. went to Oklahoma and I killed my first buck with a bow. That was exciting. So, I'm enjoying those types of things where I can spend more time with Martin (Truex Jr.) because that's all he does in the winter time. You can't hang out with him because he's deer hunting. That's great for me and I really enjoy that and I like Martin's friendship. But if Tony Jr. says we have to work every day in January, I'll be the first one on the sounding board making it happen and helping him. I want to be right and I want to do whatever it takes to be right and will work all night.
KEY MOMENT IN HIS CAREER: "I hope it's The Winston and the Daytona 500, those two wins. How we won the Winston as rookies, battling back and just dominating the end of that race. That was such a surprise to us. We had no tricks up our sleeves. We were so shocked and nervous to be in the event. I can recall exactly how that felt, to even have been competing for third with my dad at one point was amazing to me. And then to go the next week and run the (Coca-Cola) 600 and challenge him a little bit for the lead, that was awesome. But the Daytona 500, the way that race feels and the way that win feels is like nothing else. I think we worked real hard and that was a huge goal for that company to win that race. They won it time and time again, and I was glad we were able to do it as well. I was glad to have it on my resume and it's one of my prouder accomplishments as far as wins and statistics goes."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN IF YOUR FATHER WAS STILL HERE WITH US: "I try not to really think about that too much because you could really think long and hard about that because there's a lot of meat to that, a lot of substance to that. There's a lot of what ifs if he was here: what would the sport be like, what would my life be like, where would I be living, what would I be owning, what would my salary be, how would my friends be, who would I not be dating because he didn't like her, whatever. He had a lot of control, but you let him because he was right. I miss that, but I've got a great supporting cast waiting on me at Rick's (Hendrick), I got a great one with me right now that's made sure everything's been on the up and up and that the cars have been right and safe. So, I've been fortunate. I'm fortunate to have a group of guys that have taken care of me till the end, and I'm really fortunate to be able to go somewhere where I feel like I'll have as much support as I have."
HAVE YOU KIND OF CLEARED OUT YOUR LOCKER AND TURNED IN YOUR PLAYBOOK, SO TO SPEAK, AT DEI? "Not really. I don't require a whole lot when it comes to a breakup. However it needs to go is however it needs to go. That's how I feel about it. I would like a couple of uniforms and my helmets and seats would be cool, but normally you have to buy the seats from them. So, I'll probably just see if I can buy a couple of seats and I'm sure they'll take care of me and make sure I have all my helmets and stuff like that. But the information about what's under them cars goes in one ear, stays there for three days and goes out the other. Tony Jr. is the guy that probably knows more about it and what I've been running and what I like. I'm not the guy to be worried about as far as taking that kind of information. But, I think Tony Gibson coming in early has allowed that team to help mold themselves and prepare for next year. That was really a smart move and he's doing a great job at it."
IS THERE ANY FEAR INSIDE OF YOU? "Well, there's pressure. When I went to test at Atlanta, there was pressure to run fast, be fast, be quick, show everybody. But that's always there. You control that. If you let it get out of hand, it gets out of hand. But if you know how to control it, you control it. The stuff I have trouble with is last week, self spins, things that I'm in control of and when I fail my team, when I let myself down, when I don't meet my potential, when I'm not giving myself the opportunity to run the next lap and run the next lap and run the next lap, that's when I get upset and that's when I have a hard time getting through a week. But if we're out there running and doing our thing and running as good as we can and giving a good effort, I can sleep at night."
COULD YOU HAVE ASKED FOR A BETTER PERSON THAN RICK HENDRICK TO COME INTO YOUR LIFE AT THIS TIME? "Anybody that knows Rick really appreciates having him a part of their life. Jeff (Gordon) and those guys are very, very lucky. Jeff's such a lucky guy to have Rick support him through his whole career. He don't always agree with everybody and I'm sure there'll be times where me and Rick will not always go, 'Yeah man, whatever.' It's not always going to be like that. But he's a businessman; he knows how to compromise and how to get what he wants. He treats you the way you treat him. If you're respectful and sincere to certain situations, he pays a lot of attention to that. I think I'm going to be just fine. I think he's going to be great for me as a person and as a race car driver, I think equally as much for both."
-credit: gm racing