DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA met with media and discussed the importance of getting off to a good start in the season, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski, female NASCAR fans, and more. DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You got...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA met with media and discussed the importance of getting off to a good start in the season, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski, female NASCAR fans, and more.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You got to go to Fontana, Vegas, those places, run good. Even with a win, nobody is going to give us any credibility until we go to them other tracks and start running good.
Q. Is it important to get off to a quick start?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Pretty much for any team, yeah.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: If I want to run good this year and make the Chase, it is.
Q. Where will you be during the ARCA race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Depends. I don't know what I got to do during the race. No damn telling what they got me doing. Might be working. Normally I don't get to watch the ARCA race. I've always had something going on during that race, like a drivers meeting for the All-Star Race or some mess. I'm sure - or the Shootout. I'm sure the drivers meeting is in the middle of that race. They don't normally carry it live. Sometimes they have. I don't remember what they did last year. Normally I just watch it in the bus.
Q. Obviously you have a vested interest in how that race goes.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah.
Q. Your thoughts going into it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. I don't even know how she done today. I only talked to Danica once in the last six months. She's working with Kelly and Tony, Jr. Those are the people that are going to be in contact with her. She don't need too many people in her ear talking to her, giving her too much crap to think about. She's been around racing a long time. I think she's smart enough to know what she's gotten herself involved in. And she doesn't need everybody trying to tell her what's good for her, you know, that kind of stuff. Annoys the shit out of me when I got six, seven people trying to tell me what is the right thing to do, what the next move is to make.
You know, she seems to be pretty smart. So I try not to really get in her ear too much. I just hope we give her a good car and when she mashes the gas it puts a smile on her face. As long as she's having fun out on the racetrack, I'll enjoy that part of it.
Q. Do you basically feel you don't need that to be a distraction?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't mind talking about Danica. I know we do have some vested interest in the races that she'll be involved in. Everybody wants to know whether she's going to run in the Nationwide race, all that stuff. I don't mind talking about all those things. I know it's a responsibility of mine, being an owner of the company. I don't want to personally be physically active in all of it just 'cause I got a lot going on myself.
Like Tony, Jr., he can handle it. You know, I got the right people in the right places to make sure it goes as good as it possibly can go.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, and there's a part of me that hopes that Kelly gets to drive. There's a part of me that obviously hopes Danica does so good in this ARCA race that we would want to put her in a car, too.
But Kelly, you know, we're in a tough situation financially. To bring a car down here and run without a sponsor is about $150,000 at the cheapest. We can't afford that. I'm gonna run Kelly in a lot of races we don't have sponsors because we don't have a full season yet on the 88, but we can't afford to have three teams here. We don't have that many people. It basically came down to trying to make the best of the situation. That's what we're going to try to do.
Q. Are you anxious to get back in the car?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm really looking forward to getting in the car, do some driving. We didn't do a lot of testing in the off-season. So I do like to drive. So I'm looking forward to that.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we're talking to a couple people that might fill that out quite a bit more. We're working on a couple other things. But we still haven't secured an entire season for the car.
Q. What do you see in Brad Keselowski?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: What I like about Brad was he drove his own equipment and he knew how to take care of cars. If we have to build more than five brand-new racecars at any point during the season, we're going to go into the red on the books. So I look for a driver that could get us to the end of the year, because we built five new cars working with Shane. We were going into the red in the books. He sort of kept us build a balance for the rest of the season.
He ran really good. I thought he would. I saw him run in that 23 car, be real fast in it, when he probably shouldn't have. And he worked on it himself. He had a lot to do with how well his stuff ran.
So, you know, he got out there and he did wreck a couple cars, but once he got to winning and running up front, you know, he got more competitive and started wrecking more cars. It's different when you're wrecking up front than when you're wrecking at 15th or so. You kind of put up with that a little bit.
He just did a good job of helping us be a responsible company. That was the main thing.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, I think Brad has a lot to learn. He's a rookie coming into the sport. I've never met a rookie yet that's known it all. He'll learn his lessons, whatever those are. Hell, everybody's still learning. I'm still learning. But, you know, as a rookie, you know, you go through a lot of things that will teach you a lot. I bet you at the end of the season he'll be the first one to admit all the lessons he got taught this year.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Tired of shaving.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, well, it's definitely going to come down to a handling car. The race is going to end during the afternoon where the track is really going to be in the worst shape pretty much. There will be a lot of changing in the track from 2:00 to 4:00. There's a big swing in that time period in how the track handles. The car that handles the best will be in the best position, guys with the clean air.
Q. What's the most enjoyable thing you did in the off-season?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't do anything. I just sit at home and, you know, watching all that snow was great. I hadn't seen a snow like that in North Carolina in a long, long time, if ever.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. Just being with my family and all that, all those good things. Same things you probably enjoyed.
Q. Do you like that NASCAR has turned things over to the drivers to police?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's good for the drivers to have a lot of control in their judgment, what they want to do on the racetrack. I'm glad NASCAR is making the rule changes that they've made, said the things they've said. I feel like it's going to be good for competition, which should help the way the races appear.
Q. Jimmie Johnson talked about the merger of the garages with the 5 and the 88. He is willing to make that partnership work. Can you talk about that. In the past, you have been reluctant to talk to other guys and get advice.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. I definitely haven't been reluctant to talk to anybody. But, you know, Mark has been a great supporter of mine for years. He's a lot of fun to work with. Definitely he's one of the guys I definitely listen to. Obviously Jimmie and Chad had a lot of success, so I look at their setup a lot. If I have questions about what they're doing, trying, I talk to Chad quite a bit.
So that's one of the greatest things about being in this company is being able to look right over on somebody's desk and see what they're putting down for answers. I enjoy that part about it quite a bit.
You know, I think I'm kind of shy at times, but I've never really been - I've never been against really working together and trying to take two teams and be stronger. We did that at DEI for years. At least we tried to make it work.
Q. As you approach this season, what can you do differently, how can you focus, and what are you doing to correct things?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm just paying more attention when I'm coming down pit road, try to do a better job prior to the race of studying my pit box position, get a good idea of what that looks like, where it's at. Just try to do the best I can.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really daydream about it. You know, I know it's our goal. It's what we set out to do. You know, it would definitely be a big boost for our team and a big confidence builder for us. Yeah, I mean, we would definitely feed off of that, I'm sure.
We'll try to do the best we can. We got the Shootout to run. The start time I like. I like that the race is running all during the day and there's no swing into the nighttime where the track grips up and everybody's car just suddenly turns into the super-duper grip machine. It's going to be fun when we're out there trying to win that race sliding around on that hot, slick asphalt. Hopefully we made the right calls during the race to put ourselves in position. If it's slick and hot like that, it's gonna be important to be up front in clean air 'cause after about 10 or 15 laps, it becomes more and more challenging to pass the leader as you get further into the tire run. So you're gonna see guys - I think it's going to be important to put yourself in that position all day, not just at the end.
The guy that can put his-self in the top three and maintain his-self there throughout the entire event is going to have the best opportunity at winning the race. I don't think you're going to have guys kind of really sneaking up from the back just because of how hot and slick the track is going to be. If they get a short 10-lap run at the end, you might see some guy make something out of nothing, but for the most part the race is going to come down to the top three guys, top five guys just due to the clean air and trying to get the car around in traffic at that time of day, a challenge.
Q. Are you putting yourself under pressure about winning sooner than later?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel about the same as I felt all last year I've. about got used to it .
Q. What do you mean by that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know. I don't feel more than a month ago or six months ago.
Q. Still a lot of pressure?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm used to it. There's days and moments where you feel a lot of pressure. For the most part, I get through the day without a lot of problems.
Q. Can you describe what it was like of having an insider's look at not just yourself but Jeff and Mark, as well, Jimmie winning four in a row? How do you draw upon what they did and apply it to your program going forward?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we know everything they had, what they were using, the ideas and setups and stuff. We just tried to look at that, see how they were making it work, why they were doing the things that they were. You talked to them individually about these things, Chad's series, the purpose for what he's doing on his cars, what Jimmie feels and likes and dislikes about certain things.
It's really simple to go get that information and try to use that to your advantage. It's just however much input you get. It just comes down to making a little bit of effort to get this information 'cause it's sitting right there.
Q. In terms of what he's managed to accomplish, I guess everyone has to be a little bit awestruck by four in a row. Is it possible he could go for five?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Shoot, yeah. I mean, he's got four. As long as he doesn't have to start over, he should be in pretty good shape. But I think that it is - I think his accomplishments are underappreciated, and I feel like his impact on the sport either just hasn't yet been realized.
But hopefully down the road, people understand what his accomplishment means to the sport and how big a deal four in a row was, 'cause we've never seen it before. It would be a very difficult thing to do, to repeat.
Q. Do you think the guy who is in front will come out of the Hendrick stable?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. Got a good shot, I guess. I don't know. It's a helluva guess right there.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: If I don't win? Well, I think in some way. I don't know exactly what you mean. But I think about like, you know, what do I want to do when I'm done driving. Do I want to take on some sort of a role inside of NASCAR? I would really enjoy maybe being in the camp where Pemberton is, Helton is. Would I be a central figure then if I was there? I don't know. Is that what you mean?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Apparently not (laughter). I mean, you know, somebody asked me how you get respect. Somebody asked me how you get respect. You get respect because of the way you act. They asked me whether if that was in or outside the car. I said it's all the time, no matter where you're at. You don't get Mulligans for being an asshole.
You know, I feel like what I do, how I carry myself, you know, I try to earn respect when I go and do stuff, whether that's inside the car or not.
So I think there's a little credibility toward - I think that I am intelligent and I have a good point of view about the sport. I think I've got a pretty good perspective from where I stand of what's happening. So I enjoy being in that position.
And obviously my heritage, my father, all those things, play a big role in who wants to listen. So, you know, I've had a pretty good rough patch. Haven't won hardly any races in the last two to three years. But, you know, I'm 35 years old. If I wanted to, I could probably race another 15 years. I've probably got a pretty good chance of putting together another season like I had in 2004 sometime in that 15-year span.
So, you know, I think once my career's finished and once it's over with, there will be enough statistics on paper for people to be pleased or satisfied. But I hope that, you know, maybe - I hope that my impact fell far more in other areas, you know. When people tell me or used to say, back when we used to do the Rolling Stone stuff, MTV Cribs, people were saying I was one of the people that was taking the sport into the mainstream. I really took that as a compliment. Being one of the few drivers that could do that at that time, I was really proud of that fact.
And, you know, I would like to think that I put the sport in front of a lot of people that never would have seen it before. So maybe, you know, like I said, I'm in it to win races and I want - when I'm done, you know, I want everybody to appreciate what I did on the racetrack. But hopefully I can do even bigger things aside from that.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I definitely could. I don't see why not. There's nothing else I really want to do. There's no other place that I want to be. I mean, I really enjoy - I already done got to know everybody. I'm already pretty much comfortable in the environment. So, you know, everything is frustrating. Every job gets frustrating at times. But I would be a complete fool not to want to come back every year and keep trying at least to turn around last year or the year before, out-do the past season, no matter how good or bad it was.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I think that you might see some more aggressive driving on some of the short tracks. You know, I think whoever's leading is the target, whoever that might be, so... It will be interesting really to see exactly what gets penalized and what doesn't.
Q. How important are the female fans to you in NASCAR?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think they make up the majority of our fan base. I think it's like 60/40. Am I wrong?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, they make up a large part. And it's a lot of fun trying to get them tuned in, kind of plugged into what's happening. Of course, they like the personalities. You know, they're sort of drawn to the sport for different reasons.
But it's a lot of fun. I mean, you know.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, they get kind of carried away sometimes. But for the most part everybody's been pretty good.
-source: gm racing