Martinsville II: Earnhardt Jr - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS: ON ANY ONE OF CHASE DRIVERS DOING BETTER AT ONE TRACK MORE THAN ANOTHER: "Everyone of us can run good. I don't think you are looking at being able to say one guy is...

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS:

ON ANY ONE OF CHASE DRIVERS DOING BETTER AT ONE TRACK MORE THAN ANOTHER: "Everyone of us can run good. I don't think you are looking at being able to say one guy is going to run like crap there. Everybody is going to run good pretty much everywhere. You are going to beat those guys everywhere. I think it is going to have to come from a mental breakdown of some sort, a lapse of some kind with a lapped car, a mistake or something like that."

JEFF BURTON SAID HE WASN'T SURE HE WANTED TO GIVE YOU ANY SHARE OF SALES OF ANYTHING THAT SAY "ICEMAN" ON IT: (LAUGHS-SAID IN JEST) "Well we are still in negotiations. I was a little surprised how strong the stance he brought to the table when we started the negotiations. I due to my past experience with these things, I should be able to whittle him down pretty good."

ON SOME DRIVERS LUCK BETTER THAN OTHERS IN CHASE: "Luck is a big part of everything you do. Just like driving to the track today, on what light was going to catch you and which one doesn't. Like I said, the rest of the deal is going to come down to who has less mental failures or a lapse in a pressure situation on the race track. Or if someone gets to lax or too comfortable and makes a mistake or lets something happen. Obviously, some unlucky things can certainly happen to you and maybe will. Hopefully we are dodging that and keep coming out with good finishes. Best thing we can do is stay out of stay out of trouble and get what we can get in this final five."

ON BEING RELAXED AND COMFORTABLE AT THIS POINT: "I feel like we have a team that can win and that makes me feel very comfortable. I feel very confident in myself, I feel confident in my guys and in Tony, Jr. I feel good in my cars, feel great about my motors. In years past I had question marks about certain things, there really aren't any this trip. That makes me feel good and makes me feel like a contender and like we are very capable of making it happen.

"We have traditionally struggled at some tracks like the Poconos and Sonomas. That little span has always been rough for us. We were able rekindle some success at Michigan, California and other tracks that we needed to. We were able to make something happen at certain places that got us in to the Chase. It was important for us to peak at this point of the season. We have run great at pretty much all the tracks in the Chase. The one that does bother me is Homestead. No. 1 because we haven't run good there. No. 2 because it is the last race and if we are in any sort of position to win going in to the track we have run the worst at in the series of Chase tracks, sort of has me worried. It is real important the next four races that we do really really well and instead of going in behind going to Homestead, we go in ahead. "

ON RACING HERE AT MARTINSVILLE: "It is a lot of fun to race here. I mean before they redid the corners, man it was perfect because the bottom groove was ground and the top was a great place to pass. Boy it was perfect. Unfortunately, the surface started to give out over the years, just so happened it was right at the time I wish it hadn't the surface was great. I saw that the top groove came in a little bit, last race, we were able to move around a little bit like we used to. I look forward to it hopefully doing that again this trip. It makes it a lot of fun and a lot easier to pass when you can move up the race track and you are not forced to run right on the curb. It is the only track with a curb so that is the tricky part and a lot of fun. Trying to get as close as you can to get that fast lap without actually running over it. If you do run over it, it is pretty radical. It is a fun race track and I hope it sticks around, we don't have many short tracks. I feel like we could use a few more actually. This a great place to come and enjoy some short track racing."

ON IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING: "We spend time in race trim in practice every week except this week. This is the first race I can remember this year aside for plate races-well, maybe not even then because those are impound, so except for the Daytona 500, we were in qualifying trim the entire practice. It was a gamble not to run any race trim and get a little idea what we might need tomorrow, for that track position if we qualify well. We were only 12th in practice and I had anticipated being a little bit better than that in practice but you can never can tell. It was Tony, Jr. idea, we are all 100% behind him decisions."

ON MENTAL GAME BEING HIS STRENGTH: "I don't know if I have ever been backed up in to a corner in this sport. I have asked myself that question a couple of times, would I be able to handle it going in to that last race with a 20 point lead or 20 points behind. What would my gut feel like? How would I handle it, how would I drive, what decisions would I make and what would I think. I have never been in that situation. Hopefully I can handle it and bank on all of my experience."

ON EXPERIENCE BEING IMPORTANT IN THE CHASE: "I think it is, it is a mental deal from here on out. These last five races is going to be a mental test. You are not going to outrun guys, somebody might have some bad luck. But I will be surprised if it won on luck, or somebody outrunning the hell out of everybody else. Somebody will prevail and be more superior. Mentally make less mistakes and make the right decisions, to put themselves in a position to win. I think experience does count. You have had rookies and young guys and sophomore and junior guys win the chase, like Matt (Kenseth) hadn't been in the series that long when he won his championship, Kurt Busch too. The obviously had a lot of great things happen to them and they did a great job. I think experience is a huge factor, an X factor if you will, in the Chase."

ON HIM LEARNING ON FALL ATLANTA, 2004: "I hope to never make those mistakes again. It is so easy to say standing here, but that is the mental lapses I was talking about. You can't have those lapses and you can't have those mental failures where you lose focus. I was focusing more on the win there when I should have been focusing more on the points situation. I had a great opportunity to gain on Kurt (Busch) there in that race, I will never forget that."

ON EXHAUSTION PLAYING INTO ANYTHING THIS TIME OF YEAR: "I don't think exhaustion really comes in to it like it used to. For me, I would get pretty burned down mentally, not so much break down, tired, it was just easier for me to give up in a tough situation. You can kind of see it in somebody's body language, the tone of their voice and what they say. When their rope is a little short, they are kinda stressed out and they are like - oh it is over for us. I think over time and over years when you get more experience and you want it more, it is something that becomes more prestigious to you. You are driven to go further. Every year I have a lot more determination, feel like there is a lot more depth and a lot more drive in my aspirations in this sport and what I want to accomplish and the stamp I want to leave on it. I get more enthralled in making sure that I leave a lasting impression. A couple years ago, I think it was I will make the mistakes like I did in Atlanta and concede the Chase early. Now, I am 100 points out now, I would be running closer than that, but there are five races is a lot of racing left. We are a good team, we don't consider that we need lucky breaks to consider ourselves still in the Chase. I think we can just compete outright and still have a shot at it."

DID YOU LEARN SOMETHING AT THE HOMESTEAD TEST THAT WILL HELP YOU FOR THE RACE? "I feel like we learned a little bit at the test. Martin Truex's car was super fast. It was the best car down there by far without a doubt. Hopefully we can learn a little bit from him. We were pretty good, we were probably about a top-10 car, I was pretty happy. There were a few issues I had with the car we couldn't cure that I want to continue to address over the next few days. We are looking at some of the things that Martin did with his car in the setup to try to figure out what we are missing to have the kind of car he has, he was super fast."

ON TERRY LABONTE: "I have one story I will never forget. He and my Dad had a friendship that was really unique. They hunted and stuff together and anybody that hug with my Dad was cool as hell to me you know what I mean. If they got to go on a hunting trip with my Dad, I never got invited. I am 'Like Wow, he likes Terry, Terry must be really cool.'

"I was St. Louis in 1997 in my second or third Busch race and I pull out on pit road for practice, I don't know where I am at, I don't know this race track, I don't know nothing. I got this crappy old car and out there in the middle of all these guys waiting in line and I am trying to figure out if I am in the way, I don't know what I am doing. Terry pulls up besides me in his car, it was just weird to be setting next on that piece of asphalt, sharing that race track with him. At that point in my career, I don't know how old I was, but I hadn't really done anything significant as far as wins or anything. I didn't consider myself anything but a tryout. There I was sitting to who was the defending Cup champion, he won in l996 I believe, he is a man of few words. I was just very overwhelmed to be sitting next to him to go out to practice. I will never forget it, that was one of the first highlights of my career.

"We were in Watkins Glen, he and Dad went hunting but I don't know how much they talked. I had known him for years and never said one word to him or him one word to me, you know. He never talked to anybody, at least that was the impression he gave. I was sitting in my motorhome and him, Kenny Schrader and Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and I don't know who else, a bunch of guys were hanging out and riding around the infield like they do on Friday nights, goofing off and giving all the guards crap and stuff. They go back to Schrader's bus, which was parked next to mine, Schrader always likes to come talk to me and he comes in and says 'Hey man, we are over at my bus, come on over.' So I go over there, I am standing there, this was three or four years ago, being around guys my Dad raced with kinda of made me feel overwhelmed a little bit. There I am sitting in the bus, they are talking guy stuff, old veteran talk. I am just sitting there and Schrader says come on over here and I said what do you want me to come over there for. Terry was sitting next to me and he nudges me and says 'Hey, I see you are still not wearing the Hans Device, this was before the rule, and he said, 'You ought to wear one, I would like to see you stick around for a while. Those were the first words the man ever said to me in my life. So the next week I immediately starting wearing the Hutchins Device, but he pushed it and if Terry Labonte asks you to do it, you do it."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Martin Truex Jr.