Earnhardt Jr. discusses progressive banking and other topics with Kansas media

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Team Chevy Racing

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed progressive banking, researching his family tree and other topics.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

HOW HAS YOUR SEASON BEEN THUS FAR? “The season has been going pretty good. We’ve been real consistent and running well each week. Just haven’t really had that breakout race yet. We feel pretty good about what’s been happening and how things have been going for us.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PROGRESSIVE BANKING AT RACE TRACKS? “I agree with that. I think that unfortunately progressive banking is a great idea when you’re using asphalt. When you’re using concrete, concrete has a lot of limitations for our cars. We only have a few tracks that are concrete or have been concrete in the series or the sport. None of them truly became multi-groove race tracks. Dover is the closest thing that we have to a multi-groove track, but to be honest with you, the majority of the racing is done on the bottom of that race track as well. In a perfect world, in my opinion, if I owned the race track and had all the money that Bruton (Smith) has or the technology that we have today, I would pave the track with the configuration that they currently have with the progressive banking with asphalt. But it’s not my decision and I think what they’re doing is going to be fun and I like that they’re making a change. Even though when you pave a race track, it typically doesn’t put on the best races after a few years of weather and wear on the surface, it tends to work out okay and the track really comes into its own again. As much as we’d like to have a lot of the tracks stay with the older asphalt, it’s just some of them are deteriorating so bad that it’s just not an option. I think progressive banking has done wonders at a lot of race tracks and been a real plus at a lot of places. It’s just the combination of progressive banking and the limitations of that concrete is what’s challenging to Bristol.”

HOW WOULD YOU RANK BEING ABLE TO WIN 200 RACES AS A TEAM OWNER AND WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET THAT TYPE OF LONGEVITY? “You have to be around a long time I guess. I think it means that number one, you can be in the sport a long time and win a good handful of races, but if you can win such a majority, I think it says a lot about your ability to put people in the right place, how you can manage people, your ability to hand pick people and seek qualities in people and where they need to be to help the company. I would contribute, I’m sure there’s other things that play a big role in that over the years, but I guess it comes down to Rick’s (Hendrick, team owner) eye for talent, his ability to see quality and strengths in people and putting them in the places where they can succeed and help his company succeed. That’s how you win large, large chunks of races like that.”

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT VISITING THE WHITE HOUSE AND WERE THERE THINGS YOU GOT TO SEE OR WANTED TO SEE? “I’d been there before and it was pretty much the same tour, but every time you go through it I think you find something interesting that you missed the time before. I didn’t really appreciate how old some of the artwork and stuff is in that house until I did some work on my family tree this last six months and I’ve started to understand what 200 years really means or what 150 years truly means in the grand scope of things. There’s a picture in there of George Washington that they had carried out of the place when they set it on fire back in the Revolution and I had known that and they told us about that before, but I didn’t really grasp what that meant and how old that truly is. To be standing there in front of it and literally be able to reach out and touch it is a pretty amazing thing.”

DID YOU FIND OUT ANYTHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR FAMILY TREE? DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A PATIENT MAN? “I didn’t hear the last part of your question because I was thinking about your first one, but we don’t have time today to talk about how much fun I’ve had with working on my family tree. I was fortunate enough to find someone in the field of genealogy that helped me out and I’m trying to put together some kind of a well-organized document to sort of be able to show to family members and what have you and just keep so Kelley’s (Earnhardt, sister) kids and if I have any one day, they won’t have to do the work. I had one interesting experience. Ralph’s (Earnhardt) father, I didn’t know who he was and never really cared who he was, never thought about who he was or what his family would be like. Never thought past Ralph all these years and I started getting into his father and Ralph’s grandfather and I found their burial plots and so me and my grandmother Martha and my sister and my mom Brenda and my girlfriend rode up there one day, just in Kannapolis or Concord and visited their burial plots and a lot of relatives that were born in like 1809 and 1822 and stuff like that. It’s really cool to stand there over somebody that is responsible for you being there and that was pretty neat. I had done that before and I had people tell me to work on my family tree before, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Once I got into it and started realizing the importance of it so it’s been a lot of fun.”

IS THERE A PECKING ORDER IN THE ORGANIZATIONS? “I think you do have a feel for, there is a bit of a pecking order and it really comes down to what you’ve done lately. I think that Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) will always carry a certain role in that company that I will probably never achieve just due to them being there that long and having that trust built up with Rick and all the employees there and their accomplishments obviously. I’ve never felt that was a disadvantage to me. I felt like I have everything they have and I have the same resources and the same ability to make everything I can out of the team that they have. I’ve had the same opportunity and I’ve never really felt like Jimmie’s car was better than mine or his team was better than mine or somebody was getting something I wasn’t getting. I’ve never really had that feeling because everything there is just so good. Look at the connection that we have with Haas. They have a lot of the same information and a lot of the same pieces and parts and they tend to outrun us from time to time. I could never complain being under the same roof. There is definitely a pecking order when it comes down to just what you’ve done and what you’ve done for the company. I think there’s a little just a respect or chain or command in respect or whatever you want to call it, I don’t really know. Everybody appreciates Jimmie for what he’s done and Jeff’s been there a long time and helped really build that place into what it is today and you can’t, you have to give those guys credit.”

DO YOU THINK JIMMIE JOHNSON IS BETTER THAN YOU? “No, he’s a hell of a race car driver, but I feel like I’m the best. I think that’s the way you have to feel. I feel that I’m smarter than everybody and I can drive better than everybody and I know a lot of people ain’t going to agree with that, but I feel pretty strong about it.”

WHAT CAN YOU BRING BACK IN THE FALL REGARDING EXPERIENCE TO KANSAS FOLLOWING THE REPAVE? “I don’t know. I have heard that they are reconfiguring the race track, is that true? Or are they just paving it? Variable banking. I think you can come back with something really close because the setups that we run at Vegas and California, here, Texas, they are all kind of, they’re not exactly the same, but they are all going by the same ideas and theories and they are in the ballpark with each other. You don’t really go from one end of the spectrum to the other when you go to all these tracks that are similar like this. We’ll come here with something that will be close and I don’t have any worried about really being able to dial that in.”

DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE CHASE? “Yeah, I think that one of my weaknesses in the past has been to not realize what I need to do that exact day. I would be in races and something would happen or I would be faced with some adversity and instead of staying calm and trying to maximize what I can do that very day and get every point I can get that very day, there were times when I would make mistakes and cost myself even more trouble and lose even more points. What I did last year and what I’m trying to do this year is when we have a run where the car is just really not working or if we have a mistake on pit road or anything for that matter, anything that sets us back is to try to remain calm and think about what I can do to get the most points that day instead of thinking too far out or thinking too near sighted about the situation and ruining the day and making things even worse for ourselves. I started thinking that way when they changed the points system because I thought this new points system was really going to reward consistency more and really punish poor finishes more so than the old system. I’m not sure whether that’s true or not, but I still feel like it does. If you have a bad race, you really lose so many points and those are really hard to get back. We are just trying not to have bad races. Last week wasn’t the greatest week and I think five years ago or four years ago I would have taken that car and probably gotten mad and made a mistake or done something wrong and finished 20th or worse. We ended up staying calm and maximizing the night and finishing 10th. I got a great group of guys around me and that really helps my confidence, but I think just minimizing your mistakes and things like speeding on pit road or getting mad and making mistakes like that and then taking that out on the race track and doing further damage to the day I think is something I’ve been working on.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, hendricks