Dale Earnhardt Jr. Charlotte 500 Thursday media visit

Team Chevy press release

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD/CHEVY 100TH ANNIVERSARY met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed Talladega rule changes, the Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, night racing at Charlotte, Martinsville and other topics.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

NEXT THING WE DO IS TRAVEL TO TALLADEGA, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH THE RULE CHANGES THERE? “I don’t have any expectations, I think any number of things can change and be different. We will just have to see when we get there.”

ANY ANTICIPATION ON THE FUEL INJECTION TEST? “Drove one of those cars in Phoenix and I was really happy with how it ran. It felt exactly like the carburetor car so I was real pleased with what we had been able to do. I know the guys at HMS ( Hendrick Motor Sports) have worked really, really hard on it. It has been quite a bit of a challenge but, they have come a long way and Aric Almirola has done a lot of the testing for us and those guys have came along way since they first started with it. I am looking forward to it.”

ANYTHING DIFFERENT EXPECTED ON A PLATE TRACK? “I wouldn’t even know yet, until they test there and see what’s going on. The plate tracks whenever you go run there, anytime they change the package, you just have to go run and see.”

WILL THE EXTRA LAPS THURSDAY, HELP ANYONE AT ALL ON SUNDAY? “I don’t know if I am going to be involved in that test, I don’t know who is going. I am not sure if I will be there or not. I am not sure who is testing. It probably won’t help, you really won’t change the set-up at Talladega much unless we go twenty-five miles an hour faster or slower than you might change the front end a little bit, get the car down, or raise it up some.”

DO YOU CONSIDER THE TWO CAR DRAFTING REAL RACING? WHY OR WHY NOT? “Yea, I mean its real racing. A lot of money on the line and a bunch of guys trying to win, it is a different style. Some people prefer it, some people might not. Racing at the plate tracks has changed a lot, ever since a plate was brought in, and it will continue to change a lot throughout the next several years.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS IF NASCAR DECIDES TO MAKE THE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE THE FINAL RACE IN THE CHASE? “You know it is up to them, whatever they want to do. I think you will have a lot of guys that will probably not like that idea. I don’t think you will ever see that happen.”

IS IT TOUGH COMING HERE AFTER THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE COCA-COLA 600? “Naw, it doesn’t upset me I just hope that we will have a competitive car to try to get the win. We ran pretty good in that race, we could have been better, you know we will just have to see how the practice goes, but it makes you want to come back and try again.”

AFTER LAST WEEK, IS A WIN THE MAIN GOAL NOW, IN THE CHASE? “We are quite a ways behind, and you sort of got to adjust your goals and when we got as far behind as we are, I think winning a race becomes a top priority. If you win races, the points take care of themselves.”

HOW IS YOUR CAR THIS WEEKEND? “I think we will be better this time around, versus the last time we raced here.”

TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES IN RACING HERE AT NIGHT: “This track has a lot of speed, a lot of grip, and you encounter different handling characteristics than you do at a track you are racing at during the day, when it is hot and sunny and slick. The track keeps heating up and getting faster and faster and different things start happening to the car as far as the handling goes that you have to adjust for.”

HOW BIG OF A FAN ARE YOU OF NIGHT RACING? “I like it, I think it is good, I like being able to have it both ways. There are things I like about a slick hot track, on a mid-Sunday afternoon, and then there are certain tracks that are really good for night racing and there is the history part of it. You have been doing something for a long time; you don’t really want to change it.”

WOULD THIS SEASON BE A SUCCESS WITHOUT A WIN? “Well it’s an improvement, we want to win races, and it is going to be a disappointment if we do not win a race. We are happy with the gains that we have made, and I think that the team and Steve (Letarte, Crew Chief) expect more and I do too. We are happy that we gained but we are not winning enough races and running as well as we would like to. That is what we will work on.

I AM GOING WITH MIKE DAVIS TO TUSCALOOSA, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES I AM GOING TO COME BACK ALIVE? “Well, if Bama wins you have a good chance.”

JOE GIBBS RACING SIGNED DOLLAR GENERAL TODAY, IS THAT A CASE OF THE RICH GETTING RICHER, IS THE CURRENT SPONSORSHIP CLIMATE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR GUYS LIKE YOU IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? “Well, we have a pretty good package where we are and we are really happy with the partners that we have. We are really fortunate to have good partners that are loyal and have been to work with us. We have a really good track record with our relationships with our sponsors and the production that we get out of our office and managing the relationship. We have a really good track record and everybody has always seemed to be real pleased with that. I was happy to see Joe (Gibbs) find a package that helps his program because they were having to make a few changes because of their financial situation on the nationwide side, so I think it is good for the sport overall that those cars will be out there funded and racing as opposed to them struggling to find the money and struggling to show up and build cars next year. In the long run I think it is a positive thing.”

FLIP SIDE, TURNER MOTORSPORTS NOW IS IN THE WHOLE AND LIKE YOU THEY ARE A STAND ALONE NATIONWIDE TEAM, DO YOU THINK THAT THE SERIES IS HEALTHY ENOUGH TO CONTINUING WEATHERING THESE UP’S AND DOWN’S? “Yes I do, I think it is. As long as they are holding races and holding events and paying money for every position, people are going to show up and race regardless of how expensive it is and they will work within their means. You see that throughout the entire garage. It could be a lot more fortunate for everyone in the current climate it is not, and everybody has to adjust to what they are able to do. There are only so many sponsors to go around, and people have to get creative to make things work.”

WHEN JR MOTORSPORTS GOES AND TALKS TO POTENTIAL CLIENTS ARE YOU STILL FINDING THAT THEY WANT TO DO A DEAL AND THEY WANT YOU IN SOME RACES? “It always helps when I am able compete and able to run a race or two to put the package together and I am willing to do that and I think we will probably run one or two more races than we did this past year, next year, just to put a few more packages together for us. I am always willing to do that, but I don’t want to get in the habit of it, I want the emphasis to be on the drivers that are full time, I want the emphasis to be on Aric ( Almirola) and Danica ( Patrick) and showcasing their talents and their personalities and try to find a way for the sponsor to connect with them and them to connect with their sponsors demographic.”

AT WHAT POINT IN THIS CHASE, IF YOU ARE RACING JIMMIE, IF IT IS FOR FIRST, FIFTH OR 21ST, DO YOU CONSIDER GIVING UP YOUR POSITION TO HELP HIM IN POINTS? “If I am racing for the win, he is going to have to race me pretty hard. We are pretty thirsty right now for a win. You just handle it when the situation comes up and I feel like I am a pretty smart driver and I know what is on the line for some of these guys and I just think I’m a smart guy and I can make a smart decision and make the right decision when the time comes and I won’t need any help from Steve or anyone else to know when the time is right, I like to race, I like to race from every position, but at the same time, you do what you think is right and what you think is the right decision at the time. It is just a case by case scenario. If you are running in the back, and he needs a point, that might be reasonable to give him 24th, when it is all said and done. We race out of the same shop and I got the same guys as he does putting my cars together so we work as a group and as a team in several aspects of the sport, but when it comes to racing in the top ten and top five I think you have to race hard and for those positions.”

LAST WEEK YOU SAID YOU COULD HAVE DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY AT MARTINSVILLE, WHAT COULD YOU HAVE DONE? “Every time you lose a race, especially losing one that close, you run it through your mind for months and month’s maybe, about what you could have done differently. Anytime you recall an event like that where you came close to winning it, you think about what you could have done differently. You never know what might have been the outcome, had I done something different. I would not have raced anybody dirty but, maybe I could have done better job putting laps together while I was out there in front. Done a better job or not slipping up into one and doing things to give me an opportunity to get under me and things like that.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM THAT? ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING TO MARTINSVILLE? “I definitely look forward to going to Martinsville because I love short track racing and I like Martinsville and the challenges it has. It has such different challenges than most race tracks, it is fun for me. I think it is a great race to watch too.”

YOU TALK ABOUT WANTING A WIN, ARE YOU DOING CRAZY STUFF TO WIN, DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU FINISH IN POINTS OR DO YOU JUST GO FOR THE WIN? “Well, I think it does, you still want to put forth the best account you can for yourself in the points. You do not want to finish outside the top ten, over some silly gamble. You make reasonable choices just like when we were here in Charlotte last time, we made a choice to stretch the fuel and we felt like that was a reasonable opportunity for us and the repercussions we not that severe. You just have to see what happens, what the situation is. I think that clean air is real important, if you can do something at the end, such as two tires or no tires, take that gamble, it is worth taking. Especially this late in the race, a win is still a win, whatever you need to do to win a race. You are going to take more sever gambles than you normally would, but nothing stupid, you don’t want to make such a ridiculous call that you look foolish.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, hendrick