DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed being in the Chase, pressure, the drug policy and much more. WHERE WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed being in the Chase, pressure, the drug policy and much more.
WHERE WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF ON THE METER AS TO HOW YOU ARE LIVING UP TO FAN EXPECTATIONS? "You can never live up to those. I wouldn't expect to. I would hope their expectations are super high. Anything short of a championship is not reaching their expectations I'm sure."
DO YOU LET YOURSELF THINK ABOUT WHAT A RELIEF AND WHAT A GREAT FEELING IT WOULD BE TO FINALLY GET THAT CHAMPIONSHIP? "No, I try not to get to far off what's happening today and what I need to think about today and now. I mean everybody day dreams a little bit, but it doesn't accomplish anything."
THE NO. 48 SEEMS TO HAVE FOUND A FEW THINGS THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES, HOW MUCH OF WHAT THEY FIND ARE YOU GUYS ABLE TO TRANSLATE? "Absolutely, it's so open. Everything they do. Chad (Knaus) is super honest, all the crew chiefs are like that."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FOUND THAT YOU LIKE? "Well we hadn't been back to California or a track like California. I still felt real good with my set up in Richmond. Our set ups are a little different. I looked at Chad's (Knaus) set up in California and see exactly where we were about a tenth-place car and he was so strong. But I look at the Richmond set ups and it's not just one little thing that they're doing differently than us and we had to really go 100% in a totally other direction to work with his set up and so I kind of liked mine, I've always run good there."
SO YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE GOING THE WHOLE . . . "Well at certain tracks sure. The 1.5-mile tracks you've got to be 100% one way or the other. And that goes the same for the short tracks too. Set ups are so diverse sometimes between the teams. There's a lot of times, I mean 60% of the year we are at the race track and all four cars are different. But everybody has good knowledge of what the other guy is doing and that's what's really good about it."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE JUST ONE SET OF NOTES OR A COMBINATION AWAY FROM BEING JUST AS STRONG AS THEY'VE BEEN AT ANY GIVEN PLACE? "It's hard to say. I know what his set up was for California but if I put it in my car am I going to drive it just as fast as he drove his? Am I going to like everything its doing? The attitude of the car down in the corner, is that going to fit my style and what I look for in a car? If it ain't then I need to change something to get there and get happy with it and make it work.
"I feel very comfortable with how honest everybody is. Everybody at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) appreciates it the rest of the group and they dig deep enough and that's good enough for me."
IS THERE A SENSE OF RELIEF BEING BACK IN THE CHASE? "Yeah. It is not good to be sitting. We felt good after Richmond to get out and be part of the group."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE ACCOMPLISHED MISSION ONE BY GETTING IN THE CHASE AND KIND OF PIN BACK YOUR EARS AND GO FOR IT NOW? "We've been going for it. No doubt about it. We ain't been holding anything back all year."
IS SITTING RIGHT BEHIND THE TOP THREE THAT EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT, IS THAT KIND OF A GOOD POSITION TO BE IN GOING INTO THE CHASE? "Yeah, I guess you can say that. It's kind of cool to be under the radar a little bit. We've had so much pressure this year. At the start of the season it was really hard to concentrate and it was good to get a little bit of a break in the summer. Things kind of cooled off and everything mellowed a little bit. It feels good. I really like my position. I don't feel like we're underestimated. We know we got a little work to do. We definitely don't have an argument that we're as strong as the top three guys but we got the tools, we've got the ability to be there."
JEFF GORDON WAS ASKED TODAY IF JUNIOR WAS UNDER PRESSURE AND HE SAID JUNIOR IS ALWAYS UNDER A LOT OF PRESSURE, WHY IS ONE DAY DIFFERENT FROM ANOTHER FOR YOU? DO YOU FEEL ANY DIFFERENCE FROM RIGHT NOW COMPARED TO ANY OTHER DAY IN THE YEAR? "Yeah, the only thing that you feel different is where the pressure is coming from and what it's about and what the particulars of the situation are. He's right man, there's a lot of pressure on all of us and I don't think it's probably any different for anybody else and it's just how good you handle it. If you allow it to become a bigger problem than it truly is in reality, then that's not going to help you any. I wouldn't change it, I love it. I love the pressure. That means I'm in the middle of it."
HE SAID YOU ARE ALWAYS REAL GOOD AT HANDLING IT, ARE YOU REALLY? "I don't know. Pressure is hard to handle, it's not easy I don't think. I don't particularly enjoy the pressure but I wouldn't change anything about my world as far as in this garage and how I'm treated by my friends and drivers and really what my position is in this sport. I wouldn't give it up for nothing."
YOU SAID THERE WAS A COMFORT LEVEL THAT YOU HAD FOUND GOING TO HENDRICK, HAS THAT MADE THE TRANSITION EASIER? IS IT EASIER NOT HAVING TO DEAL WITH THE FAMILY DRAMA? "I don't really want to talk about the family drama this late in the game. We're much past all that. It's a distant memory."
WITH ALL OF THAT ASIDE, HAS IT JUST BEEN EASIER JUST TO CONCENTRATE ON THE RACE? "It's real easy to work for Rick (Hendrick). Everybody that works there knows that and everybody that works there loves it. When you go to work for Rick you walk in the door looking out for number one but before the end of the day you're looking out for Rick. Everybody he knows is like that."
TALKING TO (JEFF) BURTON HE WAS SAYING IN '06 OR '05 HE DIDN'T MAKE THE SHOW, AND HE WAS TALKING ABOUT SITTING ON THE POLE FOR A WHILE AT SOME TRACK AND NOBODY WAS THERE, NOBODY CARED THAT HE WAS ON THE POLE. YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE CHASE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, OBVIOUSLY IT'S BIG FOR YOUR SPONSORS, BUT WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE PART OF THE FRATERNITY OF TWELVE? "It's a good feeling. When you're not part of that group you feel like a second-tier driver and you never want to feel like that. Without that happening hanging over your head you can make an argument any day that you're the best out here. When you're not in that top twelve you can't make that argument."
HOW WOULD YOUR DAD HAVE HANDLED KYLE BUSCH? "Kyle would be afraid of him like everybody else was. Not many people messed with him and got the good end of the stick. I don't know. I'm not as aggressive as my dad and he would have handled it probably a lot differently."
STEVE LETARTE WAS SAYING A WHILE AGO HE IS TELLING HIS GUYS NO MATTER HOW FAR DOWN IN THE ORDER THEY ARE, HE SAID THERE'S NO JUDGES IN THIS PLAYOFF, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW YOU PICK UP POINTS. WINS LIKE THE MICHIGAN DEAL, WOULD IT BE FINE TO GO AHEAD AND WIN SOME FUEL MILEAGE RACES, ETC.? "If I can get a championship I don't care how I win it. That doesn't matter. There's ways you want to win it but I'll take it however I can get it at this point."
HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR YOU TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP "It ain't even worth trying to answer that question. I don't have the vocabulary for it. It'd be huge."
WOULD YOU BE PRONE TO JUST SIT DOWN AND CRY FOR AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT TIME? "No man. You got to be happier than hell. I tell you one thing, wouldn't nobody be telling me what to do in that Victory Lane celebration. I'd be running it. We'd be doing what I want to do."
AND SAYING WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY. "Well, maybe not. I wouldn't do that hat dance until I was damn well ready to do it."
WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RON HORNADAY THING WITH THE STERIODS? "Did they go to his house and bang on his door and say answer this? Answer to this piece of paper?"
I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY, THEY DID INTERVIEW HIM AT HIS HOUSE. "He didn't call them and say hey, come on over here and ask me about HGH? They just came at him? I feel bad for Ron. He's a good guy and if his doctor told him that's what he needed to do to help the problem he had, I think that's way more important. Your health is number one and if he's being honest which I believe him then he don't got no reason, hell have you seen that man's gut? (laughter).
"I mean really. He's about in the top 10% as far as human specimen's go and he would admit it. He probably don't even work out. I bet he hasn't lifted a weight in ten years. It would be worthless for him to take it if he ain't going to make it work for him. I'm glad that he was honest and I think he handled it perfectly. I don't know, I don't even think anything of it knowing Ron like I do. It doesn't bother me. But, on the other hand for everyone else's sake I hope we get a strict consistent policy. I would like to have drug testing every two weeks or something like that. That would be awesome."
RANDOM? "No, every two weeks."
YOU WOULD KNOW IT'S COMING EVERY TWO WEEKS? "I mean, whatever is the best. I want to test the dudes just like everybody else around here."
IF YOU COULD MAKE THAT POLICY, WHAT WOULD THE POLICY BE? "I want to catch somebody who is fooling around. I don't want to be a jerk about it but I don't want it anywhere around me. I don't want to be involved in a race with anyone that's not playing by the rules and not making good judgment decisions. I don't really see anything right now that gives me reasonable suspicion and I didn't before and then Ron comes out with his deal so maybe we need more than reasonable suspicion."
WHO DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE A CALL FOR CHANGE? "We've had plenty of calls for change on a lot of things. That don't necessarily mean it happens."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES HERE THIS WEEKEND? "I feel really good. I'm sitting in my car during practice and what an awesome race car and what a good shot I've got. I'm pumped up."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE HOT IN THE CHASE? "Yeah, but the Chase hadn't started yet. Richmond was fun but we were still in the middle of the season, the grind you know what I mean? Now it's ten to go, my cars are great. We've got a good supporting cast. We've got so many people devoted, behind us, helping us and you get in the car and it fires you up."
-credit: gm racing