Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Indianapolis Friday Media Visit

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed the prestige of racing at Indy, his thoughts on moving the Nationwide Series race to the big track, the status of Danica Patrick at JR Motorsports and much more.

YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEK’S RACE AND THE START OF THE SPRINT SUMMER SHOWDOWN. “Just look forward to getting in the car and get practice started and seeing what kind of race car we’ve got off the trailer. I think we are going to unload and qualify and so we’re going to try to figure out what kind of qualifying stuff we can put together tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon and work on our race stuff later in the afternoon. Just hopefully we’ll get the car dialed in and hopefully we’ll get it running fast. Hopefully at the end of the day we’re pretty happy with how we are doing.”

WERE YOU HERE IN ’95 WHEN YOUR DAD WON HERE? “No.”

WERE YOU RACING LATE-MODEL STOCKS THEN? “Probably”

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

AFTER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, HAVE YOU GUYS HAD ANY EXTRA TEAM MEETINGS? “No, we have a lot of them already. I mean we do, we have a lot of team meetings already so no need to add any more to it I guess.”

DO THEY HAVE THE SAME TONE AS THEY HAD FIVE WEEKS AGO? “Yeah. You’re just doing what you can do. I don’t really get urgent. When things aren’t going good and time is running out, time is running out. I’m a realist about it and I know we’ve got seven races to try to make something happen and we’re going to try to do that. That’s what we’re going to try to do. If you get urgent and you get panicky then you make mistakes.”

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON WITH WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THIS RACE AND DO YOU THINK IT CAN EVER GET BACK TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE? “The place has got so much history that it should be able to be a good ticket and the track is really big and grand in size and the facilities around the track are really nice. They are some of the better ones in the series. Hospitality room and the opportunities for the fans to enjoy themselves is really good. So yeah, they should have no problem selling this race. I don’t know, it’s a double-edged sword. You have to kind of ask yourself and a good example would be Indy and ORP (Lucas Oil Raceway), which ticket if you were going to watch the Indy race, Cup race here or the Nationwide race here, which race would you probably rather watch. It’s interesting to me as an owner because this is the first time I’ve really encountered this, because next year we’re going to move the Nationwide race to the big track and I’m excited because I can probably sell that race. I can’t sell the ORP race to a sponsor but if I do several different sponsors throughout the year I can’t sell ORP or those kind of races, I can only sell races that are easier to sell with the Cup guys in conjunction. I’m excited about that, I’ll be able to come here and probably get a good deal for this race and that will help me financially for the team, but I’m not sure whether taking away another short track is the way to go because I think short-track racing is some of the more exciting racing that we have in any series really.”

TALK ABOUT THE PRESTIGE OF THIS RACE. “Yeah, everyone wants to win this race. Everyone wants to go through the process they have at post race, the celebration and the unique thing that they do here. For me I’ve read about the history and read about how this place has survived two world wars and how it was basically the proven grounds for the automobile back in the turn of the century. I would love to be able to say I’ve won a race here. It’s at the top of the list. It battles with tracks like Daytona and other places, Daytona being considered the birthplace of NASCAR in some people’s minds.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT NOT BEING TOO URGENT AND PANICKING, HOW DID YOU LEARN THAT LESSON? “We came here in 2006 and we were 11th in points. We were struggling and we finished sixth in this race and it kind of turned us back in the right the direction to get into the Chase that year. I know we’re a good team and I know we were doing pretty well earlier in the season and even then we wanted to do better. We definitely haven’t performed well in the last several weeks. There has been several circumstances – we just weren’t good at Kentucky. Those are the ones that worry you, when you’re just not good. You worry about that. Up until that race we had a top-10 car pretty much every week. I can go to Sonoma and screw up because I know I’m gonna screw up there but when you go somewhere and you just can’t do it, you’re just slow it bothers you. When you wreck a fast car at least you were fast and you can go back and learn from that and try to be more patient as a driver, do whatever you do to minimize your mistakes but when you’re just not fast it worries the hell out of you. So I’m a little bit worried about that and why that happened that weekend but you know we were fast, we unloaded off this trailer and we were the fastest car, me and Kyle were the quickest cars and then we gave everybody eight hours of practice to catch up with us and that was the deal.”

THESE NEXT FEW RACES, HERE, POCONO AND WATKINS GLEN TYPICALLY HAVE NOT ALWAYS BEEN THE BEST, HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THESE? “I’ve come into Indy with the mindset that I can run good here and I have run good here. I look back on the races that I recall and I’ve had some good cars and been able to advance through the field. We were running pretty good last year and we got wrecked. We had a pretty good car. Track position is really important. You can’t be in 15th place and expect to get a top-five on that last restart; you’re just not going to pass that many cars here which is frustrating as a driver. You have to be up front and you have to find your way up front in the race early and at least at the half way point you want that track position.”

AND TO FINISH SIXTH AT POCONO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN BUT ITS WHERE YOU HAD STRUGGLES AND WATKINS GLEN? “Yeah, I think I can do better at the Glen because it’s got some straightaways on it. It’s a little easier; it’s not quite as technical of a road course. I’ve got more confidence going in there and I’ll try to put up a better result. Pocono, I had some good runs early and then we struggled for a long time and then we had a decent finish this year and I thought on that last run at Pocono we passed a bunch of cars and we were really competitive all the way to the end of the race. I feel like we can go in there and try to improve. We know a few things we can do a little bit differently. You can work a lot with the new shifting rules and everybody figured out in the race you shift everywhere not just in turn one and now that really helps you all day long. I thought you could get away with just shifting in turn one for half the day and then kind of take it easy on yourself and take it easy on the car. To be competitive all day you have to shift all day.”

WHERE DO THINGS STAND WITH JR MOTORSPORTS AND DANICA (PATRICK)? “I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything. I feel confident that she’s content where she is and happy with what we’re doing and I think things are looking positive for us to put something together. I would like for her to run full time and I’m sure she is considering that and I think she would enjoy it. She seems to really enjoy driving stock cars and racing in the Nationwide Series. We just have to see but I haven’t heard anything about it.”

HOW WOULD YOU RATE HER PROGESS AS FAR AS TRANSFERRING OVER? “I think she’s doing great. She’s way ahead of the curve. We’ve had the opportunity to put several drivers in that car and her performance is right on par with all those drivers. We started out struggling and she had a steep, steep climb to go and she’s really come a long, long way. I’m excited about what the potential is with her going forward. I’m really excited about that.”

YOU’VE GOT JIMMIE IN THAT CAR AT THE GLEN? “Yeah Jimmie is going to drive it. We didn’t have anything in place; we like to work with (Ron) Fellows. Ron has done a great job for us but we didn’t have anything in place sponsor wise. It’s a difficult race to sell. Tony Jr. had texted me that he heard Jimmie and Chad might want to run that race and we could probably have an opportunity to sell the car with Jimmie in it or if anything just have some fun, have some fun with Jimmie driving my car. I asked him and Chad and they thought about it and said alright sure, no problem we would like to do it. That will give some of our guys the opportunity to pit the car in reverse like they do there and it will get us through the weekend as a company.”

WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY YOUR DAD WON HERE? “I have no idea.”

BUT DO YOU REMEMBER THAT VICTORY AS SOMETHING THAT WAS MIGHTY IN HIS CAREER? “I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was. I knew it was a big deal.”

WOULD YOU SAY YOU’RE STILL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE? “Yeah, I’m in position to make it right now. Sure. That’s a question you might ask somebody if they were 18th.”

THERE’S TALK ABOUT PERHAPS PUTTING LIGHTS HERE AND HAVING A NIGHT RACE TO HELP BOOST ATTENDANCE, DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD HELP AT ALL? “Yeah, I think night races are really unique and you might sell tickets pretty good for a couple of years.”

JUST A COUPLE OF YEARS? “I’m not predicting anything; don’t put words in my mouth. I’m just saying it would probably sell more tickets being at night.”

YOU’RE STILL IN THE CHASE BUT TO FALL FROM THIRD 10TH, ARE YOU MAD WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE POINTS AND YOU’RE LIKE I WAS JUST THIRD? “I knew the point system was going to be kind of weird this year. When you don’t finish good it’s big with this new system. I knew that by looking at how the system has worked in other series. Look at the Nationwide Series and the spread. It’s just crazy how this new system can make gaps in just a week or two between people where the old system the pace between the guys coming and going in the points system was a lot slower. Now its chunks of points and you can be out one week and then you can be way up in there two weeks later. What are you going to do? I’m not going to make myself miserable worrying about it. I’m just going to try to put the hammer down when I get to that part of the day and see what happens.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF GETTING A WIN IN THE NEXT FIVE RACES AND BEING A PART OF THE SPRINT SUMMER SHOWDOWN? “That deal was pretty cool back when it was the Winston Million, it was very exciting and I was fortunate enough to win that. It’s a big deal you know. It’s a big deal to whoever has the opportunity to win that and whoever does win that it will be a really, really, really big deal. I’m excited that they brought it back. I think it’s something we had fun with in the past and it adds to the sport. But I’d like to win this weekend. This is a big deal; this is a big race track. I would love to have a trophy from here and so we’re going to work hard to try to be able to do that.”

By: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags brickyard 400, chevrolet, earnhardt, hendrick, indianapolis, nascar, nscs, sprint cup