Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NO. 88 AMP Energy/7-Eleven/National Guard CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed the possibility of winning a championship in 2012, his CBS “Note to Self” feature and other topics.
Talk about your thoughts as you enter the Chase: “You know looking forward to getting in the car today and seeing how the car responds out of the gate. Just kind of focus on the weekend and what we need to do here in Chicago and this particular track. It all starts today, just getting in the car and going to work.”
How do you feel heading into this Chase? “I feel pretty good. I’m just ready to work on the car and do what we do. I try not to look at the Chase as one entity. I’m just kind of looking at each race and each track as a step-by-step process. You can only really focus on this next practice and what we need to do in that practice.
Then, in between practices we’ll try to talk about improving the car and go to the next and final practice today. Trying to make that as productive as possible, that’s what I’m going to think about today, and that’s what I woke up thinking about.”
How do you feel heading into this Chase? “I would describe it as just kind of fascinating. He was kind of just like everybody else there throughout the regular season and then when the Chase started they just had speed and competitiveness that they hadn’t had all year. So, it was really fascinating to watch.
He carried it all the way through the Chase. All the way to the last race. I think it was attributed to Tony being a hell of a race car driver and Darian (Grubb) was doing a hell of a job putting everything he needed underneath the car. So, it was a great package.”
Looking at your team internally, why do you think you guys have that can win this championship?“We’ve been real consistent, more consistent than any other team. We put together points week in and week out that kept us in the top three, top two throughout the season.
Aside from (Greg) Biffle, Matt (Kenseth) and Jimmie (Johnson), I think all four of us are really putting together the best weeks when you look at them in lumps. We just kind of are more consistent. I know winning races is what won the championship last year and I think that’s definitely going to set some guys apart, but you’ve got to pair it with consistency.
You can’t win five races and run in the back five races and win the championship. You’ve got to pair it with consistency. We’ve got that part down I think. It’s a real competitive group of guys. There’s really nobody that stands out and that’s also an advantage too. So, it’s there for the taking.”
I know you said you weren’t getting married, but do you feel like having a stable personal life can be attributed to any improved performance? “I don’t know for sure. I ran pretty good in 2004 and I was anything but stable off the race track (laughs). So, I don’t really know.”
The CBS thing you did the other day seemed to draw a lot of positive feedback, what made you decide to be so confessional? How do you feel like it turned out? “I got a lot of positive reaction. I’m glad I did it, but I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own. I got a lot of influence and help to make the decision from Laura (Scott) and the PR team that I’ve got.
It’s probably nothing I would have volunteered to do. I thought it was a good challenge and a little bit outside the typical things we do.
It was just outside the norm. I kind of like to try to do those things. When we had the opportunity to do the Rolling Stone magazine years ago, even though I knew it was going to be in front of a lot of people who didn’t know who I was and that’s very uncomfortable for me because I don’t really venture into those kind of areas, I just knew it was something that I need to challenge myself to do.
I thought this was the same kind of thing. It was not easy to do and I really don’t like talking about myself, but I felt like if anything I could make my mother happy. I thought she really enjoyed it. I got a lot of good feedback on it. I’m glad that I did it. When you write something like that and say the things that you say, you don’t know how they are going to get received.
I looked at some of the other ones that they did, and they are incredible. Some of them were inspiring as hell. I guess too, I hoped to be able to accomplish that. If I did it or not, I don’t know, but I was hoping to put myself in the category with the people who had done it before me.”
Did you surprise your mom or your sister at all? “I don’t think I surprised… I don’t really know I think they just liked it. I think my mom appreciated it, the honesty.”
How important is it for you to get a top-five this week? I know a lot of guys have started the chase off badly and still won it, is it real important for a good start this week for you personally? “Yeah, I think to help our confidence, to help my confidence, for us to feel like we can do this. We can win this championship; yeah coming out of here on a solid note would do wonders for us.”
Can you talk a little bit about your sponsorship for 2013 where it all stands? “I don’t think that I would say we are having difficulty. We have more demand than we have supply pretty much.
We’ve got a good chunk of our races, we have got the majority of the season with the (National) Guard and then Diet Mountain Dew is going to back off a little bit and that makes it a bit of a challenge to fill that small of a gap.
If it were a bit larger gap it would be easier to fill. Every sponsor on the car wants to be the top guy. It’s a bit hard to have a top guy when you are trying to work with multiple sponsors. It’s just a little bit of a balancing act. I think that Hendrick and all their people there are just taking their time sort of sorting out.
We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and some real good potential stuff going we just got to kind of decide which one is going to work out, which one we want to work with.”
As you enter this championship chase do you spend any time thinking about your dad’s championships and does he speak to you at all at any point? “No, I mean those are so many years ago. I really bank on my own experience and what I did and the mistakes I made and opportunities that I have had. That is really all I have been focusing on.”
Do you feel like this is your time to win the championship? Is this the best chance you have had since 2004? “Yeah, I think this is the best chance I have ever had. I think even more than 2004. Looking back on that year I didn’t realize how close we could have come or how good that chance was.
We really were a strong team maybe weren’t the strongest team, one of the two strongest teams for sure in the series that year. I think we are a more complete team now where we run good at all the race tracks, the majority of the race tracks with this group we’ve got today.
I feel like this is again there is no dominant figure in the group that stands out. That really builds our confidence that it’s there for the taking if we can put it together consistent weeks, week in and week out, win a couple of races that we could be the champion no question about it.”
Source: Team Chevy Racing