DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS -- Qualified 2nd: ON HIS LAP: "Yeah, this is a good run for us. This is the car we run at Indianapolis, which was a pretty good car and it was new then. We worked real hard ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS -- Qualified 2nd:
ON HIS LAP:
"Yeah, this is a good run for us. This is the car we run at Indianapolis, which was a pretty good car and it was new then. We worked real hard in practice. We didn't show as much speed as we had in the car in practice, but we just were a couple adjustments short and got those in right before qualifying and we had a pretty good draw going out 25th. But the track was about the same for everybody, I felt. The wind was pretty good all day long, I mean it was pretty rough and pretty windy, but I think I might have caught a window during my lap because I didn't have any gusts or anything that bothered my car. It's a good front row starting spot for us and we need that type of performance and have needed it for some time. It's got all the guys on the team excited and we'll see how that rolls over in tomorrow's practice and see if we can carry some momentum throughout the day and try to turn out a pretty good race car for Sunday."
WITH THE HUBBUB SURROUNDING JIMMIE JOHNSON, MARK MARTIN, AND JEFF GORDON, HAVE YOU FELT LEFT OUT? IS THIS GOOD TO GET BACK ON STAGE?
"Well, it's good to burn good. I've always felt like I belong in the upper percentage of our sport and when you don't perform that way, it's definitely tough on you. But I've maintained my confidence and I'm maintained good confidence in my team and in (crew chief) Lance (McGrew) and I just feel like the more we work together the better we understand each other and the better our opportunity is to do something like we did today. But we looked at the rest of the season as any time we can get on the race track to try to prove ourselves and prove our worth to the rest of the sport, that's what we'll do for the rest of the year."
ON WORKING WITH LANCE MCGREW, HAVE ANY DECISION BEEN MADE ABOUT HIS COMING BACK NEXT YEAR AS CREW CHIEF?
"Well, I just want to make it clear, I guess, that the decision is Rick's (Hendrick) and his management team. I like working with Lance. I get along great with Lance. We have had some great runs and I feel like I can build on that type of success and it happened more often, more consistently with Lance. And I hope that we're successful the rest of the year and that we go into next season with the same group of guys. But the decision isn't mine, and never will be mine. So, I hope that we'll have more success and continue to give Rick and the people that do make those types of decisions good reason to keep us as a team and keep us working together because I really do enjoy working with him. I feel like I'm a different race car driver than I've been over the last several years; just my temperament and my disposition throughout the races and the weekend. I still have to check myself every once in a while; I get a little angry, but just during practice and stuff when something you do to these cars can frustrate you. But for the most part, Lance is really great at controlling the situation and controlling our team and directing our team throughout the weekend and the races themselves. I've enjoyed the experience working with him."
CAN YOU GAUGE HOW GOOD IS YOUR CAR FOR SUNDAY?
"Well, not really. We didn't get any race runs in today. We just did all qualifying runs. I really like this track and I've qualified good here before and I've had some pretty good runs. So if we do what we need to do tomorrow we should be able to put out a good race car for Sunday."
HAVE YOU PRACTICED UP CLOSE TO THE WALL, AND WHEN YOU'RE RUNNING THAT CLOSE TO IT, DOES THE WIND AFFECT YOU?
"I haven't run in race trim this weekend. This track does have a couple of different grooves and a couple ways you can go around the corner. The CoT doesn't like the top of the race track as much, at least over the last year or two that we've been working with the car, I haven't been able to get the top to be as successful as I had years ago. But you run wherever you can make time. So my intentions are, and have been for the last several months, to work the bottom of the race track in practice all day Saturday to try to make my car work down there because I feel like that's where the races are won. When you run up top, I really don't know what the wind does to the car or how that affects it. I've always felt like we move up there to get on some asphalt that's not had a lot of wear and use on it that has a little bit more grip and has a little bit more tars and other particles on it that the bottom groove has been worn away and we just use that top groove a little bit. But sometimes, there's a good chance that there could be something to what happens to the wind when it goes between the car and the wall itself, it may become denser and create some sort of a cushion, but that's debatable."
THEY ARE GOING TO DO A TEST AT RICHMOND NEXT WEEK WITH A LARGER TIRE. WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT A LARGER TIRE WOULD DO?
"I really don't know. I'm excited that Goodyear is trying to look for new opportunities for the teams and the drivers. Hopefully they'll have success in developing the new tire. A taller, wider tire could do a significant amount of things to the handling and the characteristics as to how the car feels and drives. But obviously if the tire is wider, we'll have a much more larger contact patch and probably pick up quite a bit of corner speed. The wheel itself I think is what's becoming bigger and the tire, I'm not sure about how big a difference that will be in the size of the tire versus what we have now. But if the sidewall gets smaller, there's a chance that it'll become harder. And I've always liked a stiffer sidewall because I have a more direct feeling of what the right rear or the right front of the car is doing than with a softer sidewall. A softer sidewall sort of dilutes the feeling of how much grip the actual tire has.
"So I've always had more success when the sidewalls are stiffer, especially on the left side of the car. So, if they make the wheel bigger, which is in all the press releases they're talking about the size, they're speaking more about the wheel. I'm not sure how much that changes the actual overall size of the tire, but hopefully if the sidewall gets a little smaller, and in turn, would have to be a little harder, I think it would produce a pretty good little tire if developed properly."
WITH EIGHT RACES TO GO, HOW DO YOU MAKE THE MOST OF THOSE RACES GOING INTO 2010?
"Well, basically what we've been doing is looking at Jimmie's been really fast and Mark's been really fast and Jeff's been running great too, just looking at the characteristics and how their using their race cars and trying to put that into my car and trying to understand how it feels and why it feels this way and what their searching for in the set-up and what's working and what the driver's looking for in feel. You'd love to be able to go out on the race track and be quick and provide them with ideas because they're trying to win a championship; and if I could help them on any given weekend that would be one of the better accomplishments to these last 10 races for our team, aside from winning. But we're still sort of trying to find speed so we're still leaning on them quite a bit as we have been over the last several months trying to get our program to where it's more consistent. And we have yet to really improve on anything they've been doing, we've just been trying to get that in itself to provide us with some more consistency and better performance."
LIKE FINE WINE, MARK MARTIN JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER. DOES HE AMAZE YOU AS MUCH AS HE DOES THE FANS?
"Well, I've always thought that Mark was a great race car driver. Him coming back and running as good as he does doesn't amaze me. I always felt like he was capable of doing the type of things that he does. Him and my dad had some very, very tough battles week after week and they in turn, became championship battles. So I watched Mark a lot because he was one of the guys that either Dad had to outrun or had to run with. And then I got to watch him out of the windshield a lot in '98 and maybe out the back mirror a little bit in '99 as we raced in the Busch Series. He has amazing car control. He has the ability to really hang a car out that a lot of guys don't possess. There is something unique in his personality that has maintained his youthfulness as far as his exuberance for competing; just overall competition and just going out and hot-lapping or going out and winning a race, he still has the urge and the yearning to do it as if you were in your first season or as a rookie. So, you see a lot of guys, their temperament sort of softens a little bit over time and he seems just as excited about going around the race track as he was when he first strapped in a car. But he's a very talented guy. And I'm real happy for him. He was a bridesmaid for so many years and so here's one guy that's pulling for him to win a championship this year because he's deserved it."
-credit: gm racing