DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed how he is feeling going into this weekend’s race at Texas, his frustrations with the ending of last weekend’s race in Martinsville and other topics.
STILL FEELING GOOD ABOUT GETTING BACK IN YOUR ROUTINE AND GETTING BACK TO NORMAL? “Yeah especially after last week not getting the finish we wanted to get.
You hate to have to sit around for a couple of days waiting on the next opportunity to do it the right way. That is what we have been thinking about all week.
Just been kind of preparing going over last week and writing down all the comments about the race and then looking over the last race here at Texas all the notes of that just trying to get ready.”
HOW DID YOU FEEL SUNDAY NIGHT, MONDAY? DID YOU FEEL NORMAL? THAT WASN’T A HARD HIT BUT YOU STILL KIND OF TAPPED THE WALL: “Yeah, it wasn’t that bad. I felt pretty good.
I’ve been in contact with the doctor’s everyday throughout the whole process just keeping them aware of how things have been going. I thought the weekend really went well in terms of how I felt especially Saturday and Sunday.
I was really nervous I think Friday, just anxious and real nervous. Obviously, talking to you guys in the media center I was really nervous. Saturday and Sunday really felt great.
That was kind of a little breakthrough for me. To get back to the track and see things work like I wanted them to work, really kind of connect to the race car like I wanted to felt really good.”
WHAT WAS THE MOST FRUSTRATING THING ABOUT LAST WEEK? WAS IT PURELY THE RESULT THAT UPSET YOU OR WAS IT THAT PEOPLE WERE BEING STUPID THERE AT THE END? “No, I wasn’t really worried about how people were at the end.
We were coming back from missing a few weeks and just trying to really get in a solid week of work. Obviously, even finishing seventh or whatever wasn’t exactly where we wanted to finish, but I needed a little closure on the whole process. I really didn’t get it last weekend.”
“We talked about it just a little bit. When we made the decision to stay out I was positive coming to that restart I was positive about what we were doing.
When he made the decision for us to not pit I didn’t immediately throw my hands up in the air at that moment. I was still like ‘alright you know I’m going to go as hard as I can go here.’
I was starting up front and I really didn’t think we were going to be as bad as we were on that little run after that restart. So I really wasn’t that upset about it at all.
Then we had the restart and the car was real tight, real slow and just in the way. People were all over me trying to get by me. I know I was a pain in the ass and I was just getting more and more frustrated.
I think I lost control of my emotions a little bit in how I expressed my opinion after the race to him, to you, to everybody. Because looking back now I really wasn’t that mad about it.
I didn’t even think it was a bad call when we made it. I was being a bit of a back seat driver or arm chair quarterback after the fact.
He had done a great job been real supportive of me and I need to realize he is trying to help me. He’s not trying to throw me to the wolves. He is trying to help me win races.”
IT WASN’T THE FINISH YOU WANTED, BUT HOW ENCOURAGING WAS IT BEING OUT OF THE CAR FOR TWO WEEKS COMING BACK AND RUNNING AS GOOD AS YOU GUYS DID? “Yeah that was real good.
Real encouraging the laps in practice, how we were working on the car, all the communication was good.
Had a lot of good energy, felt good, the race went pretty well throughout the whole race, felt good. I felt like we were running a smart race. Really didn’t have the car like we wanted, we were trying a little bit different stuff with the track bar in the back.
I think we were a little bit better there in the spring, so we will just have to go back. It’s a good track for me and I’ve run pretty well there every time we go there and I would just really like to win there. Just have to go back and try again.”
HOW DO YOU HANDICAP THE CHAMPIONSHIP? OBVIOUSLY, IT’S YOUR CLOSEST TEAMMATE ON ONE SITE AND IT’S ONE OF YOUR REALLY CLOSE FRIENDS ON THE OTHER SIDE. DO YOU HAVE TO GO WITH YOUR TEAMMATE IN THAT SITUATION? “Yeah I’m a company man first I think.
I want what’s good for the guys. Inevitably, indirectly no matter what driver it is when there is success at Hendrick (Motorsports) it affects all of us in a good positive way.
Obviously, I want to see Jimmie (Johnson) win the championship between the two. But, I’m real happy for Brad (Keselowski) to be experiencing the season he has had.
He has earned it. He’s a really good competitor and he is a great asset to the sport for years to come. He’s going to have a lot more opportunities aside from this one; he is going to have a lot of opportunities to win championships. He’s got to be excited about that.”
GIVEN THAT SITUATION WOULD YOU RATHER BE THE POINTS LEADER OR THE ONE CHASING? “I would rather be the leader. You want to be out front and put the pressure on the guy behind you.”
IS IT KIND OF WEIRD THAT YOU SAW BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WHEN HE WAS A TOTAL NOBODY AND NOW HE COULD POSSIBLY WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? IS THAT KIND OF WEIRD TO YOU? “Well yeah, I mean it’s pretty impressive.
I knew he was a pretty raw talent and had a lot of good qualities. He definitely made all of our stuff at JR Motorsports look really good there for a couple of years. When he got in the Penske stuff he has not done anything but move forward.
I think we kind of forget just how far along that program has come. To be competitive in a Dodge no less; in a manufacturer that has signed its papers leaving the sport.
It’s impressive and I think like I said he is going to be able to race for a very long time and for all intents and purposes he should be able to compete like this for years and really enjoy a great career.”
REGARDING PHOENIX WHAT KIND OF RACE ARE YOU EXPECTING? “I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot. I don’t know these repaves have been pretty indestructible.
They are not aging quite as fast as the drivers would hope. They did a good job on that track and I haven’t run good there since they repaved it.
Just kind of anxious to go back and hoping we can find some speed and be competitive because I do like the race track. I’ve ran well on all the repaves this year so maybe we’ve got something for them going back.”
THAT CORNER TWO (AT PHOENIX) WAS KIND OF WHERE BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WAS GOING DOWN ON THE APRON THERE WHY DOES THAT WORK? “It’s shorter. It’s a shorter distance.”
IS JIMMIE (JOHNSON) PERHAPS A BIGGER FAVORITE THAN TWO POINTS MIGHT SUGGEST JUST BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE? “Yeah, I think he has definitely got to have the odds in his favor winning five championships in a row isn’t done by accident or by luck.
I think he has got the entire package as far as not only is he one of the best drivers in the series, but he has got possibly one of the smartest minds on his pit box in Chad (Knaus) controlling the entire team.
Everybody around that team, all the road guys all the pit crew everybody is just really maxed out in talent and ability. They are a tough opponent.
They are a real tough opponent especially when they’ve got some confidence and it’s late in the Chase and they are leading like this. You are really going to have to work hard and do some miraculous stuff to be able to beat them.”
THIS YEAR THERE HAS BEEN A LITTLE BIT OF THE MIND GAMES GOING ON. HOW MUCH DOES YOUR HEAD PLAY INTO RUNNING FOR THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? “I don’t know. I think it just depends on the person.
Some people aren’t affected by that stuff and some people might be affected by that. I think it just depends on how insecure you are and how much you respect the guy you are racing.
It comes down to different individuals and different people react different ways to it.”
IS IT A USEFUL TOOL? “Yeah sure.”
Source: Team Chevrolet Racing