Earnhardt Jr - NNCS teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: There used to be a time when the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., cars were a given to not only do well in this race at Talladega but win it. You've had a couple bad finishes these last couple ones. How important is it to get...

Continued from part 1

Q: There used to be a time when the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., cars were a given to not only do well in this race at Talladega but win it. You've had a couple bad finishes these last couple ones. How important is it to get another good result out of this race? Do you think you're maybe too far behind to have it make a difference? Burton has a pretty good lead on the guys who are in the bottom 10. How important is this race for you to get back on track?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, Jeff Burton's no Super Hero. He's not invincible. He can have bad luck just like anybody else. Within one race, six or seven of us can be right back in it.

I mean, there's a lot of racing left. You know, if there's two races to go now, I'd sort of have the same feeling. But we got a lot of racing left and anything can happen to Jeff Burton or anybody else for that matter.

I mean, with that said, we got to feel like we got a great chance. I do. I still feel like we got an awesome chance. We gained a lot of points on everybody but Jeff. I'm basically back in it if you don't count Jeff. He could have a bad run any one of these races and then we reeled him back in.

You know, just got to do what you can do. We worked really, really hard this weekend to get 10th place. That sort of sucks because we should have finished in the top five. But we worked really hard. That's just what we got to be satisfied with.

Going into Talladega, I mean, it's important that we run good because it's in the Chase. It's a part of the championship. It doesn't really matter that it's a restrictor plate track to me. I don't really care to be the most dominant restrictor plate team out there. I want to run good everywhere.

There's only four plate races on the circuit. When we were dominant there, we got crap for not being good anywhere else. So I'd give it up to be running good at all these two-mile tracks like we have this year.

Q: You've talked in the past about your faith, that you're confident you'll win a championship at some point. Are you surprised that it hasn't come already, as you're in your seventh full season? Did you think it would happen sooner, especially with all the momentum you built coming in from the Busch Series?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, not really. You know, pretty much wherever I finished every year is really what I kind of expected.

I did feel like '04 was a good little chance we let kind of get us. You know, for the most part we were doing better than I anticipated all year long in 2004. We won six races. I never even thought about that happening ever.

You know, I didn't think I'd ever win six races in a season. You know, you dream about doing that kind of stuff. Winning is the fun part. I mean, the championship, the banquet is a lot of fun. But it's so late in the season, I think the thrill of winning that actual championship has subsided a small percentage by the time the banquet rolls around.

I don't know. I'd trade winning the championship for winning 10 races in a year if that makes any sense. I'm not that surprised. I mean, I didn't think we were going to come in here and burn the rest of the competition down. We won some races in my rookie year, but then from there on out that season it was terrible.

We were mediocre the next couple years, and then '04 was a great season for us. Then we had last year. Everybody knows all about that. Now we're trying to get back to where we were in '04.

I think physically, component-wise, cars, people, all the little things that come together to make the team, I think in that aspect we are better. The technology changes every year. It sort of sets a new standard every year. That's where you win championships, if you can keep up with that.

Q: How do you prevent it from being a burden?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not winning a championship?

Q: Yes.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. I ain't -- I don't think it will be a burden. I got a lot to be proud of. I've had a hell of a life up to this point so far.

Q: Do you believe NASCAR champions have common traits and abilities? If so, could you identify a few?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I can't understand your question, ma'am.

Q: Do you believe NASCAR champions have common traits and abilities? If they do, can you identify a few of them?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel like I'm in science class (laughter).

Q: Your ability to drive would be a trait that is common to all of you.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah.

Q: Maybe your reflexes.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think some people have better peripheral vision than others. I think maybe all of us have the same peripheral vision, but others are more acute or aware to it. My father could look straight ahead but concentrate on something on the very edge of his vision, almost nearly behind him.

I think a lot of drivers can, not only do that, but can actually concentrate on two things that they're watching. Reflexes, maybe, I don't know.

One thing is -- one thing that makes a champion, I don't know if this is necessarily a trait, but it's sort -- there's a raw determination that you are instilled with as a child that nothing can really -- like fame and fortune and money can sort of take that away from someone and take away the drive, you know. You sort of lose the drive once you've acquired an enormous wealth or whatever. Some people do.

The champions may acquire wealth. They can maintain that determination. I think that says a lot about their character. I mean, more tangible kind of traits, I don't know. The peripheral vision thing was something I was always amazed by my dad, because he could see a lot of things happening behind him. If you'd be standing out in the field, he was always that way.

Q: I bet you got his eyes.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I hope I do.

Q: Can you give me your high and your low of this season to date.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, my low, I don't know. Obviously the win was good as far as a high. Every week, you know -- I mean, this past weekend was a pretty good high. I ain't never had restarts like that. I've never really been much on taking advantage of guys on restarts. I said, what the heck with it Sunday, and just started jumping the heck out of them. Whenever I saw the leader or the lap car on the inside go, I just took off. I didn't care who I passed.

This weekend I was really proud of myself and my team's pit stops.  I was
proud of Tony, Jr.'s changes that he was making.  His car was reacting
really well to all the changes.  A lot of times you'll run races where
you can work and work and the car just basically drives the same.  He was
really making that thing do a lot of different things.  That was great.

I mean, years ago when I was a rookie, a win would be the high point. But now that I'm a little bit older, I see a little bit more, understand the sport a little bit more, I think that this weekend was as big -- was as good of a job as that win in Richmond as far as my team and myself as a whole. We did as good of a job.

There's a couple high spots there throughout the season.

The low spot was probably -- I think, blowing the motor at Talladega was pretty bad. I was disappointed how we ran overall with that paint scheme. I really wanted to try hard for my fans and for my dad's fans. Everybody was obviously focusing in on that paint job we had, so I wanted to do well.

I don't know.  We blew motors three times this year.  I mean, Pocono was
a bad downer.  The motor we blew at New Hampshire wasn't too bad because
we was actually running okay.  But Pocono was pretty bad.

Q: Are you glad to see Martin is moving up and running with the lead pack now, especially going into Talladega?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. Martin, I think I'm -- I'm not quite as happy as Martin is about it. You know, he's actually thrilled. He's such a competitor. He's a born racer. All he asks for is just equal equipment and equal opportunity as the next guy, and he thinks he can take that and outrun 'em.

You know, Bono and the guys are trying really hard. They are all doing really well. I thought that they obviously would have had some more success. I'm sure they did, too. They anticipated running probably better than they have. But it's really good to see them being as effective as they were there this past weekend. I think that they know they're even better than that. They have a great future in front of them. They're a great group of guys. It's great to have 'em in our shop, in our organization.

Q: What did Martin relay to you about what to expect from the track this weekend with the new surface? How are you and Tony looking at strategizing to figure out what your setups are going to be for the weekend since you have no idea what to expect from the racetrack?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, well, I wouldn't be any good to Tony, Jr. as far as what kind of setup we need for this weekend. Hopefully he's got a little bit of an idea as far as the test. I think Martin went to the test so he can get a little bit of an idea what they might have learned. Tony, Jr. is pretty smart and talented. He can make that car work. I'm looking forward to getting in there and driving it, seeing how the draft is with this new asphalt.

Martin said it was very smooth, that they actually did a little progressive banking work in the tri-oval, I think unintentionally. That might be a little tricky as we go through there side by side, moving around, pulling the air off each other's cars and stuff. Hopefully nobody has any issues and gets loose there.

I went there the other day and drove a Monte-Carlo SS street car around the course for several laps. I'm very proud of the job they did. They did an awesome job. It's one of the more awesomest facilities when you walk into it as far as on our circuit, it's just got so much history obviously. Obviously that little tale about its origination, the little eerie things that have happened there. And also the size of the track itself. I mean, it's just monumental. So it's one of the more important tracks on our circuit. I'm glad to see it get a facelift up to standards.

I was a little bit critical of the soft wall. It isn't perfectly symmetrical with the corner. It isn't straight. It sort of waves and changes lanes on you, if you will. I drove that SS Monte-Carlo around there, held it in a perfectly straight line around the corner. I think the right rear quarter panel hit the wall two or three times. The wall moves back and forth. Sort of reminds me of the old guardrail they had in Atlanta in the '70s.

Q: Do you think there's going to be more grip? Do you think the DEI engine program has caught up with Gibbs and Hendrick?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I hope so. There will be tons of grip. I don't know what that means for the middle or the top groove. Obviously typically that don't mean good things for it. Hopefully at Talladega it won't have a big factor on where you run as far as the grip. You'll be able to pass on the outside, inside, whatnot.

MODERATOR: Thanks to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. We appreciate you taking the time out going into Talladega. Best of luck to you this weekend.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate everybody who called in.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton