Continued from part 2 Q: We don't talk to Teresa. So maybe you can help us out and let us know whether you finally told her the decision. What was her reaction? Was she surprised? Did she see it coming, did she try to talk you out of ...
Continued from part 2
Q: We don't talk to Teresa. So maybe you can help us out and let us know whether you finally told her the decision. What was her reaction? Was she surprised? Did she see it coming, did she try to talk you out of it?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: She said she wasn't surprised because she said she read it online last night. I think she is focused mainly on keeping the morale of all of the employees as high as possible. I think she is focused on what they need to do as far as looking for drivers, whatever they need to do to prepare for 2008.
Sort of it's unconventional to be able to be making these sort of changes and announcements and what not in the middle of the season. But to be prepared for 2008 for both sides, me and DEI, it has to happen.
So I think that obviously I told her what my decision was and that it was final. She thanked me for what we've accomplished up to this point, and I told her and the employees that I appreciate everything they've done for me to make me who I am and to have the success I've had up to this point. I think that now she's looking around the corner to do what she needs to do to prepare her company and everything there for 2008.
Q: So there's a lot of speculation and wishful thinking amongst the fans. The decision is final. One of the teams you were talking to a last final ditch effort will not be DEI. And then I wanted to add to that, what conversations have you had with Rick Hendrick up until now?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: You know, we haven't started working in that direction as far as who we'd like to drive for and what not. I've sought advice from several key individuals within the sport to get personal advice from people I consider friends. I think that the reason for this press conference was to address this as our final decision. So we're just looking to move forward, me and my sister and all our employees here. We're looking to move forward and see what we can develop into you know some success next season and beyond.
Q: For Kelley and for Dale, a lot of people are going to want to know why have this press conference today when you didn't have the second half of this to announce? You're not going to go here, but going here, that's the two pieces. Why have this sort of press conference to say we know where we're not going to drive, we don't know where we're going to drive. The timetable kind of situation of when did you come to this decision? Has it been days? Weeks, months, whatever. And why do this now?
Because the question that Junior gets every day is going to stop being are you going back to DEI? Now it's going to be where are you going? It's the same number of questions, it's just a different question?
Kelley Earnhardt Elledge: I think the biggest thing is the fact that you all know in this sport you don't keep a secret very long. And as we have to move through the discussions with sponsors, employees and what not, you know, you can only tell so many people before the world knows. I think our fans deserve an answer on one of the questions that lay there, and that's whether we would be at DEI or not. And now we can focus on what the next question is, and that's where we're going.
But from a timing standpoint, you know, we could tell sponsors and work with DEI and all of that scuttle-buttle would get out there and be wrote about. And I think Dale and I both agree that we like as little rumor as possible, and as little discussion as possible when we know what we're doing. We usually speak about what we're doing and say what's on our minds. So there should be no question that when we have the next steps unravel that we'll have another announcement.
Q: You said you wanted to have a larger, more personal interest in the running of DEI. If you had ownership in running and were able to run DEI, do you think you would have been able to get them to a competitive level quickly? Or is the competition side and the ownership side two separate issues here?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: No. I mean, if you're going to be the owner of anything, I think the competition is part of it, and that would be a part of your everyday activities within the shop and the employees. But DEI, you know, they're a functioning team and they have, you know, mild success throughout the season to get to where they need to be is going to take a couple of years. It's going to take some good people, and it's going to take a lot of right decisions, you know.
I personally want to focus and go in another direction you know, again, I don't want to talk about the technical part of the contract and what each side had proposed and what not. But like I said, I'll just say we never got close. Never got in the same ballpark. We'll continue to support DEI, however we can. And we'll probably do a lot of things on the side, a lot of projects on the side through our relationship with Teresa and the family aspect of it. I'm just going to take my job as a race car driver somewhere else.
Q: Just to clarify, you mentioned Tony Jr. will do what he wanted to do and Martin and everybody. Just to clarify: Are you saying that what goes on the open market as a free agent here is Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and nobody else, no other person is necessary in any kind of package deal?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: No, not necessarily. I don't think that that would that would be wise to put any kind of package together or include any other individuals in this. I think like I said, Tony Jr., will make the decisions he needs to make for himself, and I'll support him 100 percent whichever decisions he makes, whatever he chooses to do.
He's my cousin, I love him like a brother. Whatever he decides to do I support him 100 percent, I expect him to do the same for me. As far as Martin, same thing. We've got a pretty good relationship and we're really good friends. I would support him with whatever he wanted to do and whatever he decided to do. I feel like those decisions are solely up to him and his father and whatever plans they have for Martin and whatever they see Martin's opportunities are. If they feel like DEI is a great place and it's a good package for him, I would assume he would stay there. And I would support that as well. That's really my personal opinion about all of that.
I can't assume really anything. Like I said, this is a unique situation, and it's going to be -- I can't compare it to any other driver. I can't really go to Jeff or anybody else and say what did you do in this situation? Because it's just going to be different. I'm trying to focus what I'm doing and what I'm deciding to do and what I want to do. Again, like I said, I'll support the other guys, any guys on my team. Any employee at DEI and whatever their decisions are.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you sought the advice of key individuals in the sport as you're going through this process. What were you searching for from them and who did you talk to?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I don't really want to name names. I talked to a lot of people just about everybody. You know, I've been in this sport for a long time, and I've got a lot of relationships with owners and people within NASCAR itself. You know, when my father passed away, that dependancy on advice and information started going in a lot of different directions. Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte were two of the guys that I would go up to and ask about a track or a line I'm running or the way my car drives or maybe a personal problem I'm having at home or something to do with my family. How am I supposed to handle certain things? And for the most part I've found a good group of people that I can really trust and that I feel can shoot me straight.
I take that information and talk to my sister about it. This is really uncharted territory for me and my sister. And we're both trying to make the right decisions about what's in the best interest for me. I try to keep my sister's best interest at heart. And even though I try -- even though some of my decisions, some of the things that I decide and want aren't exactly in line with her beliefs. But we try to do the best we can to compromise each other.
But it's important for me to be able to seek advice from certain people that I trust and be able to keep that personal and private. I feel like those relationships are gone if I start to discuss the advice of the people themselves. That's why I go to them, because it's private and it's trusted information.
So, you know, none of those things really effected my decision. They just sort of backed up some of my beliefs and where I felt like I was right or wrong. I've always had a real hard time knowing what kind of weight I carry in the sport. And through other drivers and my sister, and other employees of mine, I've been able to sort of come to an understanding of what that is and what that means. And that's helped me make the decision. But nobody, and I can tell you no one person has convinced or swayed my opinion as far as the decision I'm making today and whatever decision I make in the future.
Q: You said earlier that you want your new deal to be something that compliments what you're doing here. Might that also include you starting to drive cars out of JR Motorsports, yourself?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I've always been interested in the opportunity to race my own Busch cars. And I will look into it. I'm definitely going to look into that being an opportunity and becoming a reality. I haven't, you know, we've just been concentrating so hard on trying to work the negotiations with DEI to see what opportunities those are, but there's a lot of interest there, a whole lot, for me to drive some Busch races here.
I have to hire some more people, which is something I'm against. But my sister seems to have no problem with it. We'd have to get a couple extra cars. There's a few things I'd have to do, and we're that small of a company to where those are pretty big decisions. So we'll have to sit down and decide what's best for the company. Obviously, if I drove a couple cars here, that might help the company. But I want to make sure that everybody understands I don't want to confuse the focus of what this company's really about. But at the same time, I would like to know what kind of cars we're preparing here. I know Martin's drove them, and Robby Gordon drove them, and they ran well and enjoyed the cars and enjoyed the employees and the guys at the track and what not. I, myself, would like to have that same experience.
Q: Have you encountered any, you know, when you met with the people at DEI, did you encounter any hard feelings with anybody? And do you expect there will be any sort of friction as the season goes on? It's a long season to go.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Well, anything's possible as far as that goes. Like I said, I don't expect all the guys at the shop and the fans to totally understand this. And I would appreciate anyone's support. But everybody's going to have their own opinions and, you know, they'll decide those for themselves. I'm sure some of the guys at DEI are disappointed and upset. But like I said, I support those guys however they need it. And one or two, or maybe a handful may be pretty mad at me right now.
I still support them in everything they do. And I'm going to give them as much as I can give them the rest of the year as far as my effort and what not.
Q: You just sort of answered what I was going to ask you. How much will your heart be in it for the rest of the year for No. 8? How hard will you try to get that in victory lane?
Dale Earnhardt: That's really easy for me. I love driving cars. The business, itself, you know gets pretty hard sometimes outside of the car. But that motivates me behind the wheel, because I know when I get behind the wheel, that's why I'm there in the first place. You put up with a lot of things outside the car, just to get in it. And I can't wait to race, and I can't wait to go to the track.
I'm going to work hard. I think that for me personally, the best thing that I could do is go out there and be ridiculous about my effort, you know? And really try to give, leave a good impression on those guys. You know, it matters to me that they do the same thing.
I don't expect everyone to have their entire heart into it, but I know that, you know, when I'm behind the wheel, I'm racing, man. And I do it for me and for the team. There's a lot to be gained. So I think we can have a successful season. I know that these types of things have happened before, and it sort of created, you know, a mess and turmoil within those teams. But I'm going to try my best to keep that from happening to my team. They're too good of a bunch to begin with to have that happen to them. They don't deserve it. They deserve my full effort.
I'm all about it. I'm all about going out there and running as hard as I can run.
Q: If your dad was making a move similar to this 15 or 20 years ago, if he wanted to leave a team that he was with, he would have had 20 or 25 car owners that he could have gone to to pursue a dream or to win races and championships. It appears now that the juggernaut in this sport with Rick and Richard Childress and all of that, they seem to be the guys to beat even team owners like Evernham are struggling to win races, and Roush is struggling to win races. What do you see as a possible scenario that you could perhaps start your own team or go with a second tier team and do something that DEI could not. And that is to give you the ability to win races and championships. It seems to us that that's a difficult scenario in this sport right now?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: There's not a lot of parody right now. I know NASCAR will do everything they can to get that back. I don't think that if one team or one car make is dominating, NASCAR doesn't let that happen for a very long time. You know, you've got a lot of new things happening. You've got Toyota in the sport, and you might have other car manufacturers eyeing the sport, and attempting to come into the sport. Things will continue to change and evolve. The success seems to cycle throughout the sport. Obviously Hendrick's has been strong for a long period of time. But the success cycles around. I'm going to look at everybody from a competition standpoint, I mean, that's important if I want to win races. But I want to be comfortable with the teammates I would have. I want to feel welcome by the employees at that place, wherever it may be. And, like I said, I need to find a way for it to complement this building itself, and the people here.
Also you know, it's got to give me the opportunity to be able to take care of my family. So I won't really allow myself right now to try to narrow it down, because I feel like I wouldn't be giving myself every opportunity.
I want to listen to everybody. I want to listen to what everybody's got to say because just like the advice that I seek from a driver and what not, it only helps you understand the situation. It only helps you understand -- it helps you make that decision a whole lot easier once you know what everybody's opinion is about you personally, about you as a driver, about what you would be able to accomplish. About what they're willing to offer as far as, you know, support and resources and what not. So that's a whole other game.
MODERATOR: Dale, Kelley, thank you for your time.
-credit: jr motorsports