DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD SERVING AMERICA/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the National Guard and the July 4th holiday, improvements in the team, the Nationwide Series, and more. ON THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME "We...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD SERVING AMERICA/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the National Guard and the July 4th holiday, improvements in the team, the Nationwide Series, and more.
ON THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME "We have the National Guard Serving America paint scheme this weekend. We always get to do a couple unique paint schemes throughout the season. This July 4th weekend at Daytona we're honoring all the men and women serving in the National Guard with this paint scheme. It's a unique opportunity for us to call a little attention to that. And obviously it's great for the Guard. They're very excited about it. We have a lot of support and a lot of guardsmen and guardswomen out here to support us during the race tomorrow. I'm excited about it. I think it's a good looking car and it seems to be driving pretty good."
WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? IS IT STILL ENTICING FOR CUP DRIVERS TO STAY IN IT AND AS AN OWNER, IS IT STILL ENTICING FOR YOU TO BE IN IT, OR MORE ENTICING TO MOVE IT UP TO CUP? "Going into the Cup Series is going to be quite a challenge for anybody to find the kind of financial support that you need. The Nationwide Series is still as exciting to me as it was when we first got into it. Although the parity and the makeup of the series changes it seems, year to year. It's still an interesting series with a lot of great personalities and it's still fun for me. We've been able to bring Brad (Keselowski) in and progress him through the series and he's got a great opportunity to move on and he'll hopefully be a fixture in this sport as a whole over the next several years. And that's really what we wanted to achieve. Hopefully we'll have that opportunity again with someone else once Brad has completed his cycle, if you will. I enjoy that. I enjoy kind of bringing people in and having a part in getting them there. So that's what's exiting about the series for me as an owner. It's easier to secure financial support for that series when you're talking about the entire sum of money that it takes to compete. It's a little bit of a challenge to convince corporate America why that series versus any other series. But, nothing comes easy.
"We've got some great partners that have helped us continue to run in that series over the last several years and hopefully we will continue to build on those relationships and be able to keep competing with all the pieces of the puzzle that we have. We've been pretty fortunate this year to have been able to put the No. 5 car on the race track for more races than we initially thought we would. At Daytona, we were sitting there looking at about a five to seven race schedule for that car and we've had some partners come in and give us the opportunity to race that car more. And the thing with Ryan Newman came together in the middle of the season, which was exciting for me. I always like to work with my peers in the Cup series, whether it be Ryan or Tony Stewart or (Martin) Truex Jr. or anybody and that's really funs. It's a great series. I really enjoy it. As a driver, I run a few races a year to make the potential partners that we have a little more excited about the program. It's fun for me to run.
"I don't particularly want to be involved in the series as much as Carl (Edwards) or some of the other guys. They obviously have different motives and reasons for running in the series, being that they're going for the championship and all those things. So it's different for everyone. But it's still fun to step in and run a little while because you can get a gauge of some of the new talent coming up and some of the guys that you might be racing against in the next four to five years in the Cup Series."
HAVE YOU RESIGNED YOURSELF TO THE IDEA THAT BRAD KESELOWSKI'S RIDE WON'T BE A CUP RIDE AT JRM BUT THAT IT WILL BE WITH ANOTHER ORGANIZATION? "No, unless you know something I don't. For right now, the way I see it is that Brad has a ton of opportunities and doors are all wide open for him. We have to look at what our chances are and secure the funding to move to the CoT series before we can actually put that in front of Brad. We have to do that as a company first, regardless of who is driving it. We've got to know whether we've got that kind of money to run it. Brad is going to have plenty of opportunities and he's going to make the right decision. He had a story in Sports Illustrated and the last part was that his mother said that she doesn't really worry about her son because he always makes the right decisions, and for the most part Brad does do a good job of putting himself in the right positions to be successful. So I'm sure whatever decision he'll make will be a good one."
ON THE FOUR MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS "Well we meet troops every week through our relationship with the National Guard. They have a pretty nice hospitality that brings out several members of the Guard from whichever area we are racing at. And those people are very matter-of-fact and they're there to do a job regardless of whether they've won or been given an award or have earned an award. They're very humble and that's been common for years and years that there are there to do a job and they didn't do anything different than the guy standing next to him did at the time. They are very reassuring as a citizen of this country to have people like that serving for us not only aboard, but here at home, handling things going on within the country. And it's a huge responsibility as a driver to work with the military as a sponsorship because it's a different type of deal you're trying to sell and promote and entice people to go down to their recruiting station and sign up to a commitment like that and a lifestyle, is different than asking someone to go to a grocery store and buy something off the shelf. So I take a lot of pride and responsibility with the relationship and I feel like it's a good fit for me and I enjoy the opportunities that I have to meet men and women that are serving. And you certainly learn a lot from those encounters and hearing some of the stories and things that they do makes us back here and what we do and all our problems seem rather petty at times."
YOU WERE QUOTED THAT YOU WOULD BE HAPPY IF YOU WON A RACE SOMETIME WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR. WAS THAT AN ACCURATE QUOTE? WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN SOONER THAN THAT? "Yeah, that wasn't the quote. The quote was that she asked me what I wanted out of the rest of the season, and I said I think we'd like to win a race or two before the end of the year. We have quite a ways to go to be able to make the Chase. It's going to be a real challenge for us to make the Chase. We're still mathematically in it but we're not trying to catch just one guy that we're 200 and some points behind, we're trying to catch four or five guys. And it's unrealistic to expect all them guys to have enough trouble. And for us to top-ten 'em to death ain't gonna get it done. So we've got to run better and even though we have improved it seems, we still need to get better and be able to compete. To be able to drive up into the top three last week was a lot of fun. But we need to be able to stay there once we get there. Making the Chase is the goal, but at the end of the year when you're done racing at Homestead and you've run the last lap and you get out of the car, what kind of feeling do you want to have? The one I want to have is that we've fixed it. We've got something that we can feel good about and work on and get all our stuff ready for next year and feel like we can go in and get the job done. Right now, that's not how we feel as a team. We've got a little bit more to go. We've got to get a little bit better so at the end of the year we want to feel like we are. We want to have some wins and some consistency and end the year going, all right, can't wait 'til next year. This is going to be a good deal. So we're working really hard."
HOW DO YOU JUDGE HOW YOU'RE DOING AND MAKING THE RIGHT KIND OF PROGRESS? "Me, personally? I can judge it pretty good. I know what's going on. I know everything going on behind the scenes and everything that's not readily available to everyone. But I see that I've been more comfortable in the car. I've liked what I've felt from the race cars over the last couple of weeks. Lance (McGrew) and I seem to communicate well. He's very excited and we are able to kind of root each other on throughout the race, it seems. And the team has a great attitude and it seems to get better with each run. We seem to show a little more promise. Everybody is really working so hard. I remember in 2004 and even as recent as last year, I don't remember working this hard to run better than we're running now. Obviously once we get back to where we want to be, we'll appreciate that much more than we probably did in the past because with how competitive the CoT has made this sport, if you fall behind a little bit, it takes more to get back than it used to. You used to be able to rebound in a week or two. But if you get behind in this sport now, there is a chance you may not recover for some time. So it has definitely been a trying time and it was really hard and our team was really, really low. But just knowing where we were and how I felt two months ago to now, I can definitely say it's a big difference for us. And there's no one person or one thing that really deserves credit. We just made a couple of changes and everything seems to be moving in the right direction. So we'll just try to keep it up. It's going to be a good weekend hopefully. This is a good track for me. Chicago is good. I like Chicago. We went and tested there for Goodyear. I really enjoyed that tire test. And then we've got a week off to work some more (laughs)."
TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE WHAT WILL THE NATIONWIDE CARS LOOK LIKE NEXT YEAR? "I don't know. You all probably have a better idea than I do. With the time you guys spend on the internet I'm sure that ya'll have seen more than I have seen and have probably found or heard more than I have heard. I haven't had any conversations with anyone in the sport about the car. I haven't had any diagrams or ideas or drafts in front of me to look at. So I am just waiting in the wings like everybody else, I assume.
I'm sure that we as a company sort of didn't turn our nose up at it but we really didn't involve ourselves any in the equation of developing the car. We have our budget worked out to where we can run this year with what we have but we don't have the money to develop this car. You'd be lucky to be able to do it just under a hundred and fifty-thousand dollars in just an early or pre-season development. So before you even run a race, you have spent a couple hundred thousand dollars and we do not have that as a company. So we can't involve ourselves in the development of it so we are sort of like everyone else waiting on whoever that team is whether it will be RCR or Roush or whoever that is that will be a part of developing that car with NASCAR and building this car and seeing what kind of car they produce. Without a doubt I am sure it will be a safer race car. Hopefully we have learned a lot from what we have done the last three years from the Cup level to make a better race car than we have now in the Nationwide Series.
The car we have now in the Nationwide Series in my opinion is the ultimate race car.
Brad Keselowski had a good analogy the other day. He said if I look at the Nationwide Series car I would brag to my friends and show it off to them. And he said he wants to be able to do that with the new car as well and he wants to be excited about the way it looks and how it drives and so I feel like hopefully they will develop a new car that will be exciting and fun to watch.
I don't know much about it. I wish I could tell you more but that is the truth."
I WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR DAD AND RICHARD CHILDRESS GETTING NOMINATED FOR THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME AND MAYBE SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS. ALSO WHEN YOU ARE IN THE COCKPIT WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JULY AND FEBRUARY RACES? "Well not much now because the Daytona 500 ends at night too. There used to be a bit of a difference between the two where the Daytona 500 was more of a handling race and the night race in July was just about gobs of grip and running around the bottom and being the fastest car and making the right moves at the end are still playing out for both events but they are relatively the same now that they are both ending around the same time. Obviously the Daytona 500 is the marquee event of the two, but to me the four-hundred is the more enjoyable week and race due to its timing being in the summer.
"It's a great opportunity because when I was young I was on a break from school and a lot of the family would come down for this race and you had the beach and everything and I don't know, it's just so much. All the way up until the moment you get in the car the hype and the phenomenon is so bearing and overwhelming on everyone inside the race track, everyone who has been here all week including you guys and everyone in the garage who has been here and you are just ready to get it done and get it over with. Where the four-hundred is a little more of an enjoyable and relaxing experience and not that the Daytona 500 is not exciting. I love the Daytona 500 for what it is and I wouldn't change either one but this race here is a lot more. I don't know I just enjoy it.
"I remember coming down here as a kid and I love coming down here.
"The first Daytona 500 I saw was the first one that I raced in, so I never saw a Daytona 500 until I raced in one in 2000 and so I don't really have much experience in that race as a fan or for coming here for that many years in February. I remember July was always a race you looked forward to like these Lowe's races and all these other events that we went to and got to go to. And Bristol was fun but that weekend in July was the one you marked on your calendar every year and you looked forward to coming down here always because I guess you missed out on the Daytona 500 as a kid going to school so you couldn't wait to get there in July.
"I'm excited about the Hall of Fame. I don't really know much about the voting and all, but I caught a little bit of what Richard was talking about and I think he had good points.
"I'm excited about the opportunity for this sport to be able to have that stage and to be able to some of the history and history is very important to me and I hope they do a good job of painting a picture of what this sport was like and how its progressed and what it was about. And I am sure they will do a great job because they've got Winston Kelly and everybody involved and they couldn't have picked a better guy than Winston to tell everybody about what our sport was about. So I'm excited about it and I know eventually if that at some time my father will be a part of that. So that is exciting for our family and obviously it is going to honor his brothers and sisters and mother. So it's great for the Earnhardt's and obviously everyone else.
"I'm glad that its happening and I want to congratulate everyone who is nominated."
-credit: gm racing