Earnhardt Jr. - Michigan Friday Media Visit

Earnhardt Jr. - Michigan Friday Media Visit

Michigan International Speedway

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet

met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed the Camaro he is raffling for his foundation, his season to date, Michigan Int’l Speedway and other topics.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHEVY CAMARO YOU ARE RAFFLING OFF THROUGH THE DALE JR. FOUNDATION? “Yes, I can! Every year my foundation does an event. Our event this year is called Dale Jr. Driven to Give. Jeff Foxworthy is going to be the host. Our grand prize this year is the 2011 Chevy Camaro that I drove off the line at the GM Plant (Assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada) this year. It is the No. 3 car. That car can be won through a raffle. The tickets are $25 apiece and it runs through September 1, 2011. You can go to www.WinDaleJrsRide.com to buy tickets for the raffle. There is a second prize which is airfare and tickets to the event and then the third prize is a weekend package to the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

IS THAT FUN FOR YOU TO DO THINGS LIKE THAT? “We just want to raise a lot of money.”

DOES IT SEEM TO YOU LIKE IT HAS BEEN THREE YEARS SINCE YOUR LAST WIN? “I guess. It’s been awhile.”

GOING INTO THAT RACE YOU WON HERE AT MICHIGAN, PRIOR TO THAT RACE, YOU SAID IT WAS PUT UP OR SHUT UP TIME THEN, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT NOW? “I think we are puttin’ up. I think we are doing some pretty good work here lately. Would like to win a race and we’re trying to, but we don’t want to get so careless…we don’t want to get too careless about it and start taking too many chances that are just foolish. We want to take the right chances in a smart way. So we’ll keep working hard like we’re doing.”

WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO YOU WHEN THAT WIN COMES? WILL IT BY LIKE ANOTHER STEP IN THE ROAD COMING BACK? “We need to win several races I think to be legitimate and it’s not easy. One race doesn’t make a season. One win really doesn’t make a season, we would definitely like to win several races and I would feel like we are where we need to be potential wise. We’re not now. We’re getting there, we’re doing good but we still know we can do better. We still know we had races where we let things get away from us. We’ve been very, very lucky this year that when we’ve slipped up, we’ve had fortune and luck to pick us up everyone and awhile and get us a good finish.”

WHEN YOU DO WIN, WILL THE FANS AND THE MEDIA BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT IT THAN YOU WILL BE? “I’ll get excited. I’ll be pretty excited. I remember. I have always felt like you celebrate every win like it could be your last. You never know what happens or what could happen in this sport so I always have torn down Victory Lane every time we’ve been there. I’m proud to have that kind of accomplishment when we win a race in this sport. We definitely have enjoyed it every time. If we get the opportunity again this year, we’ll do it.”

YOUR WIN HERE WAS A FUEL MILEAGE RACE, AND IT IS A WIN, BUT NOT THE SAME AS IF YOU GO OUT THERE DOMINATE, HOW BAD DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT THERE AND GET A WIN LIKE THAT? “I don’t really want that badly. I mean it is nicer when you do go out there and dominate and clearly are the better car and the faster driver all day long, but you take them however you can get them. You really do. When you get home, they are all sweet and nothing really tarnishes it in your mind because you are the guy that won the race. You feel just fine about it (SMILES) It is nice when you can just go out there and be dominant all day and be strong all day and competitive and come away with a win.”

ARE YOU IN A BETTER SPOT NOW THAN YOU WERE THAT YEAR? “I think I’m having one of the best years I have ever had. I don’t remember in my career as a driver showing up to the race track and feeling like I was top-10 every single weekend, which, we have done that every weekend this year, except for maybe Phoenix. But, we’ve been top-10 every week and I was never able to do that before for whatever reason. I know when I had some really, really good cars back in the first half of this decade, or the previous decade, I was really young and made a lot of mistakes. Now that I feel like I am a smarter driver, this is a great opportunity because the cars have been there every weekend.”

SOMETIMES WHEN AN ATHLETE GAINS CONFIDENCE, THINGS SLOW DOWN A LITTLE IN THE GAME FOR THEM, IS THAT HAPPENING TO YOU IN THE COCKPIT? “Not really. I know what you mean but I don’t know if it really…it’s not really happening, but hopefully it will. I remember when it was a piece of cake to do a lot of things in the car and you didn’t think twice about certain situations you were in and you took a lot of things for granted. It would just happen as you went through the process. But, now, everything that you face in the car and even just typical things like pitting and getting down pit road or trying to make your qualifying lap or whatever, you really try to make sure that once you get ready to do this, you have all your marbles together and everything is right. Where before, I remember when I was younger, I just took it for granted and just went and did and didn’t really know any better. I don’t know. I need about a year or two more of this, of what we are doing right now, and I think I will be 100% as far as my confidence. It is up there right now, but, it would be nice to win a couple of races and do a couple of other things a little bit better than we are going and we will be 100%.”

I just know that you don’t get a lot of second chances ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

DOES IT BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE WHEN YOUR CREW CHIEF SAYS TO YOU DURING A RACE AND SAYS TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET, THE GUYS AROUND YOU AREN’T DOING ANY BETTER? “Yes. He (Steve Letarte, crew chief) does a great job of telling me, he just says, I don’t know how he knows, but he makes me feel comfortable when I’m getting uptight or nervous in the car about what’s going on or my car is doing things that I don’t like. He makes me feel, he calms me down and makes me feel like we’ll get it sorted and just maintain what you can, do the best you can and that makes you feel good. It’s what you try to do anyways and he’s on top of the box watching you. He knows what you’re trying to accomplish and we just have a good thing going. Just getting along real good. The communication between me and him is really, really good. We just speak the same language and we’re just real fortunate in that we do that. We definitely know how to approach each other and know how to talk to each other. Know how to deliver conversations to each other and get our point across without striking a nerve or anything.”

HOW HAVE YOU AVOIDED THINKING ABOUT IT BEING THREE YEARS SINCE YOU WON A RACE?: “I don’t dwell on it at all really. I can’t do nothing about not winning races other than just going out every week and trying to run hard and trying to do the best you can and I was a long ways – I felt like that I wasn’t – I felt like that last year and the year before that, I wasn’t competitive enough to even worry about it. I was more concerned about trying to get right and trying to get better and trying to be more competitive even. Wasn’t even thinking about winning races. We were struggling so bad that we had so much other things to worry about. Now this year we’re running good and I can think about wins, I can think about opportunities and missed opportunities that we’ve had a little bit more. They don’t bother me and it doesn’t upset me. I’m excited that somebody was asking me if I was upset that I hadn’t won, but I’m thrilled to be having such a good year that it’s hard to be upset. It would be nice to win a race, but I don’t know who to thank or tell me who to thank for what’s happening to me this year because I’m appreciative as hell to have this opportunity and to be running as well as I am.”

ARE YOU GETTING OLDER AND WISER IN PERSPECTIVE?: “I don’t know – I always thought I was pretty smart even though I probably wasn’t at times. I just know that you don’t get a lot of second chances in this sport and I could have easily been written off over the last couple years and thankful that I have been able to turn it around and still show that I have good reason to be in this sport and good reason to be driving race cars – good, quality team with good, quality cars and I’m glad to have people that believe in me and stuck with me. Hopefully, we can continue to make it pay off. We just barely started to turn the corner I feel like. I want to be around for a long time and this is a small piece of the season and we’re doing okay. Hopefully we can keep it up.”

DO YOU HAVE TO RELEARN HOW TO RACE UP FRONT?: “I don’t really have to relearn how to run up there or anything, but I do think guys – I remember when I was running up front all the time or more consistently than I have been in the past, when you see somebody who was having a good day that usually wasn’t very strong, you run them pretty hard. I was expecting that if we did have good runs this year and did do a good job of being fast every week that it would take a while for the guys that have been up there for the past several years to get used to seeing me around up there. It seems to be working out fine. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been able to do this year and enjoyed having the races I’ve been having with the drivers that are up there that I have been racing every weekend. I guess the one thing that you have to be careful of is not to get too excited and screw up.”

WHY DID YOU RUN OTHER GUYS HARDER UP FRONT?: “You were like, man I don’t want to get beat by you – you don’t typically out run me so I don’t want to get beat by you today.”

ARE PEOPLE NOT DOING THAT TO YOU?: “Not so much I guess. I don’t really know. I know that is what I thought as a driver. You just have guys that you look at and you’re out there racing and you think that I should be out running you. Even today, even last year – there’s teams that I knew should kick my ass and there’s teams that I knew I should be out running and you’re upset when you don’t out run those guys. It’s different when you move closer to the front.”

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

HOW MANY GUYS SHOULD YOU OUT RUN TODAY VERSUS ONE YEAR AGO?: “I don’t know. More than last year, which we’re doing. We’re doing what I want to be doing. It’s still tough. Carl’s (Edwards) really fast and there are guys that are fast consistently and that’s the level that you’re trying to obtain and we’re not quite there yet. We’re just searching for that speed and whatever the package is that we need in the cars and some things that we’re trying and trying to find speed in the car. We’re going through several things over the last several weeks that are some ideas to find that extra level of speed – that next notch to put us over the top.”

ARE YOU GETTING A LOT OF SUPPORT FROM OTHER DRIVERS TO WIN A RACE?: “I wouldn’t call it cheering, but there’s a ton of support and I’ve always had a lot of support in this garage. I think all the drivers have a lot of respect for each other and we all – there are guys that I would like to see do well, there’s guys that I’m happy to see do well that are friends of mine and I get along with well and I respect and I’ve tried to treat well in my career. I think that’s what it is. Me and Kevin (Harvick) – we’ve had a really good relationship and we have a lot of respect for each other and I like to see him and Richard (Childress) and them have success and that whole company have success through Kevin and through Clint (Bowyer). And all those guys over there. He feels the same way I guess about me. When we get close and we almost win races, even if he’s the guy that ends up taking the win, I can definitely understand that. There’s a lot of good friendships out here. We all want to beat each other every Sunday when we all want to out run each other, but we definitely have a lot of good respect in this garage.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGED AT MICHIGAN WHEN THEY REPAVE THE TRACK?: “I thought it was cool that they took some of the grandstands down so it kind of looks like it’s 1985 all over again. They sent them to Watkins Glen. The track’s awesome. I don’t know why it needs new asphalt. They ought to send that asphalt over to Pocono.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN ON FATHER’S DAY?: “Any win, any time I win is going to be pretty cool. I didn’t even think about it being Father’s Day. I have a terrible memory for things like that. Whatever the circumstances are, we’ll enjoy it.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE IN THE HUNT TO WIN EACH WEEK?: “We feel like we’re in the hunt each week and we just want to keep it up. We just don’t want to be a non-factor. We just want to be competitive and keep trying to improve. You keep running up front, opportunities to win will be there and you just try not to let them get away from you when you get that opportunity.”

-source: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, sprint cup