DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the yellow line rule, the economy, tomorrow's race and more. Full Transcript: COULD YOU PICK A FAVORITE IN THE CARL EDWARDS / KEVIN HARVICK...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the yellow line rule, the economy, tomorrow's race and more. Full Transcript:
COULD YOU PICK A FAVORITE IN THE CARL EDWARDS / KEVIN HARVICK FRACAS? "No, that would be tough. Kevin would never back down from anybody and you know that Carl is pretty tough, a pretty strong dude."
COULD KEVIN HARVICK BE PLAYING MIND GAMES WITH CARL EDWARDS? "I don't know, really. I just think that there is just a disagreement there. It's probably nothing more than that. It's just a big disagreement between two guys."
IS ANYONE GOOD AT PLAYING MIND GAMES OUT HERE? "Not really."
WHERE DO YOU STAND WITH YOUR NATIONWIDE PROGRAM NEXT YEAR? "We've got it just about entirely finished as far as putting together a program for all the races for each car. We still have a couple of gaps to fill. We started working pretty early and we've had a lot of interest. We've been really more fortunate than most, I'm sure. I feel very confident that we'll be able to get it wrapped up."
IS IT HELPING YOU BY NOT HAVING TO DEAL WITH THE COT NEXT SEASON? "That's definitely going to help us make that decision on what our plans are. The CoT is really going to take quite a bit of discussion just amongst us and how we want to progress in that."
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT SHOULD THE YELLOW LINE RULE BE ON THE LAST LAP OF THE RACE? "Well, I feel like the rule is pretty clear. You don't go below it. You don't race below it. I feel like it is unclear as to what is exactly being forced below it. In my opinion, the No. 01 (Regan Smith) was forced below the line. The two didn't make contact. He was on the inside of Tony (Stewart) and he had no other choice than to move away from Tony and that sends him below the line. In my opinion, the No. 01 wins the race. I feel like Tony did what he had to do. In the car, everyone would have done what Tony did. Everyone would have done what the No. 01 did. Neither one of them were wrong or right.
"What's curious is when are you forced? Show me some video. I want to know what's forced and what's not. I feel like that was being forced. He can't sit there and hold his line, he's going to wreck Tony and probably wreck himself. That's ridiculous to expect someone to be that bullheaded about a situation like that and put everyone in jeopardy just to not be accused of passing below the line. I don't think he went down there, he didn't pull down there and then go by Tony. He was forced down there.
"That wasn't his choice. He made a great move to go high and fake Tony high. He went underneath Tony when there was enough room for his car to be there and race and Tony came down and forced him under the line. And so if that's not being forced, and what I don't understand is that everyone that saw it didn't ask the same question. How is that not being forced?"
DID YOU ASK MIKE HELTON OR JOHN DARBY THAT QUESTION? "No, but I wasn't in the No. 01 car either. Why are you'll (the media) asking that question?"
THEY SAID HE WAS NOT FORCED Y'all saw it. Yet he was forced. Why is that not the common opinion in the media?"
I THINK IT IS. AND I THINK IT IS IN THE GARAGE TOO. "But I haven't seen it or read it."
IF YOU FORCE A CAR DOWN, AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO LET HIM BACK UP? "Tony did do that."
IS THAT MAYBE WHAT NASCAR IS SAYING, THAT HE LET HIM COME BACK UP? "Well then, what's the problem?"
WELL AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO COME BACK IN THE POSITION YOU WERE IN? "If you watch the replay, he did."
NO, HE CAME OUT IN THE LEAD. THE NO. 01 CAME OUT LEADING. "He's forced below the yellow line and the checkered flag is waving, he's not going to get back in line. Tony moved up and the No. 01 moved up and when they crossed the finish line, they were back up on the racing surface. I was in the same situation in 2002 or '03 going into Turn 3, and I was forced below and that was declared okay. And it was exactly the same. It was exactly the same. So, I know for a fact that Regan didn't go down the front straightaway and plan to pass him on the apron. Regan was not going to the apron. He was actually under the No. 20 car and passing the No. 20 car on the race track there for a split second when Tony came down and they actually touched. And then he was forced onto the apron. So, I could actually almost live with saying Tony is the winner and the No. 01 ran second, but he got told that he was not forced, which was wrong, and then he got sent to finish 18th. That's the only rule about the whole deal that was clear, was that he would be penalized for whatever the infraction was and moved to 18th. But I don't know. It's just really tough. I'm not complaining one bit. But I've always felt pretty good about everything we've done with that rule because it's a very tough rule to govern. It's very, very difficult to govern. And it takes a lot of criticism from the media off and one about it being a gray area and it's always going to be a gray area until you put a wall there, you know. But I don't understand how that wasn't being forced down."
IF IT'S REVERSED, AND THE NO. 01 PUSHES THE NO. 20 DOWN, DO YOU THINK THE CALL MAYBE GOES THE OTHER WAY? "I feel like my feelings would be the same. I can't tell you what the call would be, obviously."
THE FACT THAT THERE IS THIS MUCH CONFUSION ABOUT THAT, AND ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN OR CAN'T DO ON THE LAST LAP AND THE FACT THAT NASCAR HAD TO PUT OUT A CLARIFICATION ON MONDAY, DOES THAT ENCOURAGE THE DRIVERS TO FIND OUT THE ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS? "Yeah, sure. Maybe it's a good idea to sit down and really go over it and have some people that have the guts to do it stand up and ask some questions. Because I mean if you're in that situation, the No. 01 had two feet up on the No. 20 and the No. 20 comes down, the No. 01 is forced onto the apron and the checkered is 200 yards away, he's not going to give the spot back. Coming under the checkered flag, this is Regan Smith, if it's a guy who has won seven championships, maybe it's a different discussion, the this guy ain't got a job next year as far as he knows. And he crossed the finish line thinking he might have won a race and he ends up going home 18th. He's got to climb on a plane to go home finishing 18th. And you can tell them all day long that everybody in the garage knows who won that race and this, that and the other and try to make him feel better, but it don't help. It's just tough. It was really tough."
IF YOU FATHER WAS HERE TO DEFEND HIS COMPANY, COULD THE OUTCOME POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN THE SAME? HE WAS THE GUY WHO COULD GO INTO THE TRAILER AND MAKE THEM LISTEN TO REASON. "Well I think that I would never go as far as to say that Dad would go in there and tell them what to do and they would do it. That wasn't the way it was. They never had that kind of a relationship. And he never looked at himself as that; he never put himself in front of the officials and beyond the officials. He was good at giving good, valid reasoning. He had a lot of common sense and they always liked to hear it and they always used it whenever they felt like it. But I really trust Mike (Helton) and (John) Darby and those guys to make the right calls and I feel like they do a hell of a job running the sport, but that's just a tough situation for a driver to not feel forced down below the line there, that's a tough deal to swallow when you're in that No. 01 car and you're being told you weren't being forced below the line because you can't sit there and watch that and not see that the guy was forced down on the apron of the race track. Now what is he supposed to do after that? Then we need a clarification. Even 200 yards from the line, if he supposed to give the spot back or whatever, fine. But he was forced below the line and that's the way I saw it."
I DON'T RECALL SEEING YOU ASK A QUESTION IN A DRIVER'S MEETING. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE ENOUGH CLOUT OR RESPECT TO DO THAT? REGAN SMITH WANTED TO DO THAT IN THE MEETING LAST WEEKEND, BUT DIDN'T FEEL LIKE HE HAD ENOUGH RESPECT "I don't like doing it in front of all the other drivers. It's really a soapbox that I don't really like to climb on to and if I was to give Regan any advice I'd tell him to go ask that question of them guys personally hours prior to the race or before the race. That's how I'd do it if I had a question that I'm curious about, I go ask it myself. Standing up in front of everybody in the driver's meeting, a lot of times you don't get the real answer. When they have to give you the answer in front of everybody, a lot of times you're better off to go get it behind closed doors and hear exactly what you need to hear."
DOESN'T THAT DEFEAT THE PURPOSE OF THE DRIVER'S MEETING? "Who are you kidding?"
BUT REGAN HAD A QUESTION BUT DIDN'T WANT TO STAND UP. HE WAS TOO SHY. AND YOU SAY IT'S JUST LIKE BEING ON A SOAP BOX. "That's not NASCAR's fault that we're too shy to stand up in front of everybody. That's just the way it is. But the driver's meetings, we go through the same thing, and it's a necessary part of the process before the races and we all know what to expect and hear the same thing every week, but it's a necessary part of the deal. But if I have a question about those types of situations, I would definitely carry it on man-to-man, face-to-face in the hauler. They welcome that. They welcome you coming up in there and asking those types of questions. And they give you a lot of respect for doing those types of things when you're able to come up in there and ask them those types of questions and that's what I'd tell Regan to do."
DO YOU THINK YOU WILL DO SOMETHING BEFORE OUR NEXT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO? "Yeah. I'll make sure I'm clear. Because that situation with our cars and the way these cars are, that's going to happen more often than now. If you have ten races, you're going to have more than five finishes exactly like that, where we can basically pull down and pass each other at will, at any time we wish, and so the finishes are always going to come down to the last 200 yards and that dogleg and the guy that's leading is going to protect the bottom. So, we're going to have to deal with that over and over."
HOW BIG WOULD A VICTORY BY REGAN SMITH HAVE BEEN FOR THE OVERALL HEALTH OF DEI? "It would have potentially put them into the spotlight of a couple of sponsors. There's no telling what would have happened past that point, but it definitely would have impressed a lot of people for Regan's sake, because I think he's a really, really, good guy and I think he's got a lot of talent and there are a lot of drivers in the sport with jobs that he probably deserves. So, there's also the chance, like I said, that it would help DEI nail down some money for next year for that team."
WOULD YOU INVEST IN THAT TEAM AT THIS TIME? AT ONE TIME YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO BUY IT BUT THE TERMS WEREN'T WHAT WANTED. BUT GIVEN THE SITUATION NOW, WOULD YOU RIDE IN ON YOUR WHITE HORSE? "I've got a pretty healthy company right now at JR Motorsports, as delicate as the situation is, financially, across the country and across the world, I think that I would be best to be idle in that type of situation. But I feel like that's something that would be good if somebody was to do that. I mean I don't know enough about it and haven't really had good contact with anybody over there and I haven't pushed my nose in there and asked too many questions about really what the situation is and it's obviously it seems from the outside looking in, pretty dire. But I feel real confident in Max (Segal) and his ability to get them what they need to do what they need to do next year. I feel like he's got exactly what DEI needs as far as a front man to make things happen and I feel pretty confident in him. He's got a great personality and I feel like he can get the things that they need as far as the finances and the sponsorship relationships they need to get going for next year."
REGARDING THE ECONOMY, THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE. YOU HAVE TO ASSUME THAT NASCAR IS PART OF THAT. WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN FOR ALL THESE TOP TEAMS THAT CAN'T GET SPONSORS? "I don't know. I wish I knew. I ain't been in the sport long enough to understand really. There are a lot of people around here that probably know the answer to that question, but I don't know it. I know that with our program, our mindset for our Nationwide Series program is that we'll race the races that we can afford to race. A lot of teams go by that mindset and a lot of teams don't. Obviously we have a lot of people that come here that race more than they can afford to race, but that's their prerogative to do so and that's what they feel like they have to do to maintain some sort of level and just to be involved in the sport and just be around.
"But in the Nationwide Series, we really enjoy going for the championship with Brad (Keselowski) and we really feel like that's a lot of fun for us and Brad has given us a great opportunity to win that championship and hopefully give us the same opportunity next year. But I'm in the business more so of caring for the individuals that work there, and the ability to maintain those employees and keep those employees in house and keep those people working there and so we'll run our company accordingly. We run our company with the priority of the employee first and then driver development and all the other things (like) running the full season and racing for the championship and top fives and all the stuff comes second. A lot of the people that work there are family and so that place has to be open and has to be working and has to be functioning and whoever decides to be a partner with us, like the great people at Unilever and whoever else decides to be a partner with us next year, will determine how many races and events we're at."
NOBODY IN THIS GARAGE AREA IS REALLY BULLETPROOF, BUT IS JIMMIE JOHNSON AS CLOSE TO THAT AS YOU CAN GET RIGHT NOW? "He appears to look more and more so every weekend. At the start of the Chase, it was really up for anybody, but he has really put together a really good consistent start to the Chase and he's gained more points than any other person has ever gained in the Chase at this point, so I feel real confident for Jimmie right now and we're going to do everything we can do to help him."
ON TOMORROW NIGHT'S RACE "I feel pretty good. We ran really good here last time and I feel like we let one slip away at the last event (Talladega), so I'm really excited about coming here. I love racing here. I've got a lot of family that really enjoys seeing this race and coming here and I'm excited to see the growth and health of the complex itself past the Humpy Wheeler era and moving forward and seeing what happens with that. It's always fun to race at Lowe's. It's always a good time. It's close to home and we have a lot of things going on this weekend with the charity auction and the concert Sunday and Monday, so it's a good weekend for us and I'm really excited."
HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY? "Oh, I'll probably just go to the concert and the charity auction and that's where I'm going to celebrate, I reckon. It's only 34 (years). I feel good."
-credit: gm racing