DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO.88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed Mark Martin becoming his teammate, the importance of qualifying at Indy, his past success at...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO.88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed Mark Martin becoming his teammate, the importance of qualifying at Indy, his past success at Indy and much more.
ON WHAT MARK MARTIN BRINGS TO MOTORSPORTS. "Yeah, Mark's been around a long time and seen a lot of different things, has a lot of good knowledge. Personally as a teammate I'm trying to tap into that as much as I can. I've leaned on him a little bit at times but he's taught a lot to me on the race track just by being on the race track with him. Now I'll have a better opportunity to get with him in conversation for 15, 20 minutes at a time. It will be good to look at his set-ups; what he likes and see a trend and what works for him because every driver kind of brings something new to the table, so it's always good to have that variety."
WHAT CAN HE DO SPECIFICALLY TO PUT THE FIVE CAR BACK IN VICTORY LANE? "He's just a great race car driver. I think Alan (Gustafson) is really excited so they'll work great together. He always seems to be able to get a little extra out of the equipment and if you can get a little bit extra out of a Hendrick car you should be in great shape."
ON HIS FANS MAKING THE SWITCH WITH HIM THIS YEAR: "Yeah, they've been real supportive all year long. They're very loyal in this sport and they always have been in this sport. I was glad to see that."
DAYTONA HAS ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THE EARNHARDT FAMILY TRACK. WHEN YOUR FATHER FIRST CAME HERE THERE'S A STORY ABOUT HIM FIGHTING RUSTY (WALLACE) TO GET ON THE TRACK FIRST, DID YOU FEEL THE SENSE OF THE GREATNESS OF THIS PLACE AND WHAT IT MEANT TO YOUR FATHER? "Well this place survived two world wars and it's been around for a long time and the history goes far beyond the sport itself and any single driver, personality. It was really clever for NASCAR to come here in the first place. It was a great addition to the series. When you look at the Daytona 500 for being the biggest race of the season, talking about what follows that and what really is the next act, there's a lot of different opinions. Indy certainly can be put in that argument now that it's part of the circuit but I think that the history that the track has and what has happened here propels it into that position as being the following act for the Daytona 500, the biggest race of the season."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING: "Qualifying is pretty important and if you got a good pit crew and a clever crew chief you can have strategy that gets you up toward the front. Passing is difficult. It's not a multi-groove race track in the corners so passing is really difficult. I don't know how the COT will react. If you can get four tires and be in the top three after the last stop you should be in good shape."
WITH JEFF'S (GORDON) SUCCESS HERE AT INDY, HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM OR GOTTEN ANY ADVICE FROM HIM ABOUT RUNNING HERE? "No, I've never really asked Jeff about the place. We've run pretty good here the last couple of years. Had some pretty good cars here and led some laps. I'm hoping after that tire test that we learned a lot to take back to our teammates. If we stumble this weekend we can lean on Jeff or anyone of our teammates whoever seems to be making something work."
ON THE TIRE TEST AND HOW HE FEELS HIS CAR WILL BE THIS WEEKEND. "It's good. It is good. I was real surprised when we showed up for the tire test how close the car was when we rolled off the trailer and how fast it was compared to the other people here testing tires. I was real happy with my laps and how the car responded and how it did over the long run. We seemed to wear the right rear tire out really, really bad. It will tighten up quite a bit this weekend. We'll bobble and probably be working to get the car to turn more. After being loose the entire tire test it will be tight this weekend. I was glad."
ON IF TONY STEWART HAS AN ADVANTAGE HERE WITH THIS BEING HIS HOME TRACK. "Home field advantage and being from here and carrying that confidence in on the weekend can help you. Ever driver has a track that they really enjoy and look forward to going to. Definitely having that attitude going into the weekend is a big, big plus so its helps Tony here. I think it benefits him quite a bit. He does have that edge and having the pride of Indiana on his side and his past history here."
THEY TALK ABOUT JEFF GORDON AND THEY TALK ABOUT TONY STEWART BUT THEY KIND OF FORGET TO MENTION THAT YOU'VE DONE VERY WELL AT THIS TRACK: "Sure. We've run good here and led laps and had great cars. I'm really excited to get on the track today and see how good our power plant is down the straightaway, seeing what difference that makes verses the competition. Seeing how good we can get our car to turn later on tomorrow before we have to get ready for the race."
ON THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE ON HIS NATIONWIDE SERIES TEAM. "Chad (Walter) resigned to handle some personal issues and we had to move forward to get ready and prepare for this weekend. Cam Strader coming out of his car chief position is going to be an interim crew chief for sort of a limited trial and hopefully he makes the best of it. I'm really looking forward to seeing what that team's capable of doing under the circumstances and adversity that their facing right now. They're a tough little group and been together for a while. Cam's a great guy and everybody's going to rally around him being in the situation and give him a lot of good resources. Tony (Eury) Sr. and all those guys are there for him to lean on. It was an abrupt situation this week and we feel like we were able to make the change and feel confident in the change to be able to get ready for this weekend. I feel pretty confident in how we sent the team down the road this weekend and I wish the best for Chad. I hope Chad gets his personal matters taken care of and can find himself a position in this sport and have a successful career."
-credit: gm racing