DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed Tony Stewart's ownership announcement, losing the Navy as a Nationwide sponsor, wining at Michigan, and...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed Tony Stewart's ownership announcement, losing the Navy as a Nationwide sponsor, wining at Michigan, and more.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TONY'S ANNOUNCEMENT OF TAKING ON TEAM OWNERSHIP? "Oh yea, he is good. He is set. Tony will be fast, he always is. Who says Tony Stewart doesn't know what he is doing, you know what I mean? He has proven that he knows what he is doing. He has got a lot of confidence, people like him. People like to work for him. He should be fine."
WILL YOU WORK WITH HIM WITH THIS NEW RELATIONSHIP? "I work with him regardless. I have been working with him all the time, no matter what he is driving. He is a good guy to draft with at the speedway races. He takes care of you on the mile and a half tracks, give and take with him; he will take care of ya."
HOW WILL IT BE FOR HIM RACING FOR HIMSELF? "It should be better, working for himself, not having to answer to nobody."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT LOSING THE NAVY AS YOUR NATIONWIDE SPONSOR? "I was a little surprised but, the Navy just decided to take a step in a different direction for their advertising and their marketing. Unfortunately it won't be with us and our motorsports program. It is part of the business; we are having a good year. We will focus on the rest of the season, trying to do as good as we can. We have a great shot at the championship; it would be great to win the championship with them. I can't do the Nationwide team without them giving me the money that they gave me for the last several years. Without them, I am not where I am today at JR Motorsports. Everything changes; all good things come to an end. We are at the end of the road with this deal."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE POSSIBILITY OF DEI BEING FOR SALE? "This is first I heard of it. I talked to Truex on the Internet, it said something about it and I didn't know what the hell he was talking about or where it was coming from."
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF IT WERE TRUE AND IF MAX SIEGEL WERE GETTING INVESTORS TOGETHER TO BUY IT? "Well, all I could tell him was good luck. I think the company is doing really good. I just never felt like she (Teresa Earnhardt) would be interested in selling the company. I don't think that is in Teresa's character to give that company up. She feels that strongly about it. She felt that strongly about it a couple of years ago, I would be surprised. But, maybe she sees the trend and some of the other things that are happening in the sport with other owners and it has changed her mind."
WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN BUYING IT? "No, no, I would not. I think that if there were a time for it to be sold, this would be a good opportunity. It seems to have stepped forward over the last couple of years. It has improved itself. I don't mean this in a bad way, but I do not and would not have any interest in purchasing it. I would not have any interest really in purchasing any race team just to have the ownership. That is really doesn't seem like a good deal."
DO YOU THINK THAT TONY IS KIND OF CRAZY TO DIP IN TO THAT? "Tony has been crazy, always. (LAUGHS) But man, he makes stuff happen. I think somebody wrote a column on the web saying it was admirable and it certainly is. He is taking such a risk, but that is his style man. I mean, a lot of people may look at that team and go well, the caliber isn't correct. It doesn't match up, why would he do thing. But he will make it the way he wants it, you know. He does has done that with everything. That race track he owns is superb. His race teams he owns, the sprints and what not, are first class. Everything he does, he gets the right people and he gets them motivated and he is a good guy. He is fun to be with, fun to work for. So that is pretty cool for him. I am happy for him. He has earned it. He has put a lot in to this deal. He has put a lot in to this sport and he has earned it. He has earned to do whatever he chooses to do I feel like."
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES RICK (HENDRICK) HAS IN TRYING TO WIN TITLES FOR YOU, TITLES FOR MARK, TITLES FOR JIMMIE, TITLES FOR JEFF? "It is hard to tell really where he gets his motivation from to take on. I thought taking me on when I was talking about changing teams, 'well anyone would love to have him.' But the way I saw it was a lot of people wouldn't want the headache. Like Burton said, it is a pain in the ass being next to him (me) in the garage cause you can't move around. I don't know, if I were an owner if I would want that much trouble for a guy with the record I had. He did, he took it on and that was a hell of a deal cause now he has got to make it happen.
"The same thing with Mark (Martin). Mark's depending on him to give him that chance. Mark is making the commitment to come back after he had obviously not wanted to run a full schedule not feeling like doing that. Now, I think this is the only situation that would have caused him to come out of his current schedule to come back full time. I don't think he would have done it for anyone else. The responsibility is squarely on Rick's shoulders and that is something."
WHEN YOU OWN A STAKE IN A RACE TEAM, WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY OWN? "I don't know, parts, pieces, the building."
IF YOU OWN A FOOTBALL TEAM, YOU HAVE SOMETHING. "You have the stadium. Well, think about it. The Redskins or any football team, you have the stadium, they have a lot of rights, you have a franchise. With a race team, you still have a franchise on a much, much smaller scale.
"I think where the number comes with a football team, you have the licensing, the merchandising and all that stuff, this history that they have built. They have a certain reputation and the reputation is valuable and a race team doesn't really carry that. You don't see people running up and down here wearing or buying Haas stuff or buying just Hendrick Racing stuff. You see a couple. But the fans are more loyal to the drivers when it comes to the souvenir sales. Tony has a lot of that and he is carrying that to Haas, he is taking that over there and that is valuable to whoever his partner is because now the partner shares in the wealth of the licensing that Tony brings on. But I don't know man, I think race teams, I mean. If I sold my Nationwide team, I would happy to get $20 million out of it, you know. For what I know I own. Personally, not really because we have spent a lot of other people's money too. The Cup teams are selling partnerships for; I am hearing $80 million, right? That is a lot. Geez, that is a lot of money, you know what I mean. For what you get in return, I don't think $80 million is worth it so hopefully Tony didn't have to go that route."
DO YOU THINK THE RACING WILL CHANGE A LOT HERE RACING AT NIGHT? "I like it. This track is aging and turning grey and losing grip. So at night, it will bring in some grip. But since the track has aged, you will still be able to move around on it. It will be kind of fun. I really like this track. It has got some bumps and stuff that are getting worse and worse in turn three, but it is still a fun track. Great, great market for us. Really like racin' here with the fans and Chicago. It is a challenging market, but it is obtainable, unlike other markets further West from here."
HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE SINCE YOU WON AT MICHIGAN? "It has been pretty good. I ain't run that good since I won as good as I expected. I sorta got what I could in Sonoma. I had a good car last week; I didn't get myself the right opportunities last week at the end. I made some moves, I guess some bad moves to finish where I did, didn't make the right ones to win. The car is great here. I like this place, my car is good. I am driving for Hendricks, so I got a great car. I just have to make sure I treat it right and me and Tony, Jr. (Eury) and we have made some pretty good ones so far today."
HOW WILL TONY'S MOVE ALTER THE LANDSCAPE OF THE SPORT NEXT SEASON? "It is hard to tell how competitive they will be out of the box. But Tony will get it to where it needs to be. He will make it happen. I think he is a great race car driver, one of the best we have had in our sport. But, I almost feel like he enjoys the art of creating the team and building up things around him as much or maybe more than the driving. You know what I mean? I mean why else has he taken on such a challenge and such a tough task. So he must really enjoy that, I expect him to succeed because of that. Out of the box, he might, he is Tony Stewart, he will make it happen. He will make it run good a couple times, he struggle in some other areas, but I am sure it won't take long for them to find they need."
WHAT EXTRA CHALLENGES ARE THERE RACING AT NIGHT? "No real challenges; all advantages. Just grip, extra grip, cooler temperatures, Saturday night, Sunday off, all advantages."
DID THE NAVY HAVE ANY CONFLICT WITH YOUR NATIONAL GUARD SPONSORSHIP? "No, they worked together really good, you know. We were kinda wonderin how that was going to work out, but they worked together really good. You have to look at it like the Navy is in the Nationwide Series marketing their product, or whatever you want to call it. That is quite a bit smaller scale and budget than the Cup Series. With the relationship with them and knowing them the way I do, really in company, they always evaluate and re-evaluate every year, and look at different directions of how they can improve recruiting. Their deal is just trying to get more recruiting, so where can they go. Apparently they have seen a new avenue or another avenue that will help them effectively recruit more young men and women for the Navy that with our racing program. I think both the Navy and JR Motorsports will honor the rest of the agreement and we have enjoyed it. Like I said, I can't afford to run that program without them and I couldn't afford to build it the way I did without them from the start. They are huge of the company's history regardless of where it goes from here. We will entertain discussing our options with new sponsors and potential sponsors as soon as we can, but, also want to show a lot of respect for the Navy and what they have done for us."
ARE THEY LEAVING MOTORSPORTS ENTIRELY? "Well, in my personal opinion, there are a lot of places to recruit. You go where the kids are, you know what I mean. The demographic for them is here, but there is a larger demographic group of younger adults in other areas at maybe other sporting events or whatever. I would be sad to see them leave motorsports entirely, I like their relationship with NASCAR if they fit in and work with another team, I would like to see that instead of them leaving the sport entirely."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHEN NASCAR MIGHT APPROVE THE CHEVY ENGINE FOR THE NATIONWIDE SERIES TO EVEN THINGS OUT AGAIN? "I don't know. I would like to see it soon. It would be fun to stomp some ass, you know what I mean. They (Toyota) are just stomping our ass over there in the Nationwide Series and we sure would like to return the favor."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT CHEVY IS DEVELOPING A NEW ENGINE WITH THE ECONOMY AND THE AUTO INDUSTRY BEING WHAT IT IS RIGHT NOW? "Well, the development doesn't have much money to be poured in to it because that motor has been around for a while and shouldn't be too much engineering and design changes to be make it fit the protocol for the Nationwide Series. I wouldn't think. I am surprised with the industry the way it is that they have done what they have done, period. We have this Chevy Dinner at Vegas every year at the start of the year and they tell you about their programs and they tell you about what they are doing and how involved they are in motorsports they are, it goes a lot further and deeper than you anticipate. It surprises me with the way the industry is that they are able to do that and their commitment stays as strong as it is. I guess they are married to it in a sense, you know what I mean."
DO PEOPLE HERE TALK ABOUT THE AUTO INDUSTRY HERE OR ARE YOU KIND OF INSULATED? "We are insulated from it. In the '60s and '70s, you can ask Richard Petty this, the auto industry would be in and out of the sport and it gravely affected the participants and how they were able to perform and whether they were even able to show up. I don't know what that would do for us today if that happened. It is scary as hell. It is something you do think about, especially with the economy the way it is. I will say this that we pretend to know what we think we know about the industry, but Chevy has always remained really confident in front of me when I have listened in on their ability to provide us with everything and maintain their foothold in the sport, I really quit kind of worrying about it after a while."
HOW IS THE NEW CAR GOING TO BE AT INDY? "I tire tested up there and I was kind of happy with how the car drove, I was really happy. I think the tire testing that we did with Goodyear was pretty good and they learned some things. Tire wear was a big issue. When we first started out, you recall last year and in years past, when we first get there, we go to the cords in about five laps. It takes the whole weekend to build the rubber up on the track before that goes away. We did that again, and we found a tire that will work with another tire that lasted quite a bit longer and ran just as quick. I was really happy about that. I was wearing the right rear to the cords with is really really good to do because you don't like pushing, you like the car to be loose, so wearing the right rear out first is great. But that track is so tight, way way up as it always does as the weekend goes, hopefully we will be turning better than the rest of 'em because it will be tight son of a gun goin' around there."
-credit: gm racing