Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Kentucky 400 Friday Media Visit

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Kentucky Speedway

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Kentucky, his season to-date, re-paving Kansas, Nationwide Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other topics. Full transcript:

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

HOW DID TESTING GO YESTERDAY? “It went pretty good I thought. It was real hot, but we got a lot of laps in, tried a lot of things and between the four teams, I think we all sort of covered all the bases. Pretty productive.”

WHAT WERE YOU LOOKING TO FIND? “Just trying to figure out what the track likes as far the setup and how the front end wants to work and what is best to get the front end really positive on the race track.”

ALTHOUGH MOST OF YOU GUYS HAVE TESTED HERE A BUNCH, HOW MUCH IS IT STILL A MYSTERY FOR THIS RACE? “Well, the last time I tested here, the track was in a whole lot better shape. It’s kind of deteriorated a ton since we tested here last time. I think it was a couple years ago.”

DO YOU LIKE THE BUMPS? “I don’t mind the bumps that bad. They are kind of pointless on the straightaways, but, in the corners they definitely add a new dimension.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAM IS DOING RIGHT NOW? “Good. Hanging in there. We started the season really good. We’ve struggled the last couple of weeks, but, those two tracks, I had them kind of circled on my radar as weekends that might be hit of miss for us. So, hopefully we can get back on track this weekend and start putting together a couple of more good weeks and try our best to lock ourselves into the Chase.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS NO DOMINANT DRIVER SO FAR THIS SEASON? “I think because the COT is such a game-changer, man. It has really leveled the playing field. Everybody kind of has the same thing. It is really difficult with the limitations on how we can hang the bodies on the car and all the kinds of things we used to be able to do with the old car that would set teams apart from each other.”

DOES A TRACK LIKE THIS SUIT YOUR STYLE? “I guess, I mean I don’t know really what my style is. So, I just get out there and try to get around there the best I can. We are working on some things. We had some pretty decent speed yesterday; we just would like to find a little bit more.”

HOW SPECIAL IS IT TO WIN AN INAUGURAL RACE AT A TRACK? “I think it is important to some people I suppose to be the first guy to win. But, we are just thinking about trying to find out what our team needs to do to win championships. We just want to win a race anywhere really, it don’t really matter where it is. It would be nice to win one here in front of the fans the first time. Sure.”

DOES A NEW TRACK WIDEN THE PLAYING FIELD OF GUYS THAT HAVE ANY SHOT TO WIN? “No it doesn’t. We all tested for eight hours or something yesterday. And everybody’s…. the cream rises to the top, man.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE KANSAS RE-PAVE? DOES IT REALLY NEED TO BE RE-PAVED? “Yes, it does. I don’t know what an alternative solutions would be, but every time these tracks develop any kind of cracks in them and they put tar or strips on them, and that’s terrible, that is the worst thing you can do to a race track, that track’s got it all over the place and you can’t…the tires that they got don’t like them strips. People, think ‘ah, it’s cool go across the strip and it messes you up’. That adds to the action but it’s not good. It takes away from the racing. Something they did running across them strips at Kansas this past trip there, so maybe it is a lesson learned to those other tracks. Man, they need to start finding new alternatives to adhesion those cracks and whatever they are trying to do when a crack develops in a race track. How they treat them is really, really important. You just can’t go over there and throw a bunch of goop on it and just think that is great because it is difficult to race on.”

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE? “Just rolling through the center. It sounds kind of simple and we talk about it all the time. But, just getting fast there is about getting through the middle of the corner and getting the car to rotate, turn and go the other direction. Basically just like Martinsville, kind of in a way, where you have to roll the center really fast. Try to get your car to turn to go the other direction.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NATIONWIDE SERIES LEAVING ORP FOR THE BRICKYARD? “My initial reaction I was upset because I like short track racing and I think that is a good race. But, as I got to thinking about it, I was realizing that it is a great opportunity for the teams, the sport and the Nationwide teams to be on that playing field and to have the opportunity that might bring everyone financial help on the sponsorship side. Part of me thinks that the ORP race is a great race and will probably be a better event. But then, I know as an owner going to Indy with my team may bring me opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise financially to cover that event. It is difficult to sign a sponsor for ORP. Normally we have to take less than minimal dollars to even cover the event for us. So that will maybe give us the opportunity to maybe do that at least that weekend.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT SO MANY SHORT TRACKS HAVE GONE AWAY. “Well, I do think that short track racing is a lot of fun and I do think we should be doing more of it. But, the facility of itself needs to be more along the lines of Bristol as far as seat capacity and things like that. Not exactly the exact makeup of the race track, but the seating capacity of Bristol and Richmond and places like that certainly to me are different than the Mansfields (Ohio) and ORPs and place like that. It is easier to go to a place that can fit more people in there and it makes more sense to do it. Some of these tracks, in this economy especially don’t have the opportunity to upgrade their race tracks and upgrade the seating capacities and stuff like that. I don’t really know otherwise. I just think that if we are going to go Cup racing at a short track, there needs to be a lot of seats there. But, I do think we should run more short tracks because they are great racing and we’ve got good televisions audiences for those races and people like to come see them.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR POPULARITY IN THIS SPORT, YOU CONTINUE TO DRAW FANS WHO ARE JUST CRAZY ABOUT YOU, IS THAT HARD TO TAKE? “It is a good thing. It’s helped me on a lot of levels. The fans have carried me through a lot of bad times and they’ve helped me maintain myself and my position in the sport through some tough times. We try to go out on the race track and give them a good reason to cheer and good reason to buy the tickets so they buy and come out and watch the races. I enjoy the position that I have and where I am in the sport and feel comfortable with I am in the sport.

PEOPLE LIGHT UP WHEN THEY SEE YOU, SEEING THEIR FACES IT’S LIKE THEY’RE SEEING SOMEONE AWFUL SPECIAL, IT’S GOT TO BE JUST A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE. “I don’t really look at it too much. I don’t really dwell on it too much. I just kind of go through my life day-by-day and do what the hell I want to do and hope I enjoy it.”

AS FAR AS ROAD COURSES, WOULD YOULIKE TO SEE LESS, THE SAME OR MORE? “I hate road courses. I wish we never ran on them at all to be honest with you. I mean, I’ll be honest they’re fun as hell to watch and they are kind of fun to race in, especially Sonoma because it’s getting more crazy and we’re all kind of just crashing and running over each other and that’s kind of fun to do. When you’re a little kid running your yard cart around the yard that’s what you did. When you get done with the race and you look at the points and you look at how it shook everything up and all the hard work you put into nothing. I’m never inspired to drive road courses, I don’t enjoy racing on road courses, and that isn’t what I wanted to be when I was a kid. It’s part of the sport so I’ll go out there and I’ll do it the best I can. I try to do it as best as I can. I try to be better. My personal opinion, everybody’s got one, is these cars weren’t built for road racing and I never ever once when I was a kid thought I can’t wait to run them road courses. Never, never thought about that.”

IS IT A BIG DEAL THAT YOU’RE SEVENTH IN POINTS? “I rather be third. I hate what happened over the last couple of weeks and I look back with some regrets on how we finished our day in Sonoma and what we could have achieved if we had been more patient or tried to take better care of the car. You could have done a million different things at Daytona and I try not to dwell on that but it’s hard. You know you think about it but what’s done is done you’ve just kind of got to try to move forward and not let it really bother you too much and try to put together a good weekend. Maybe two or three or four good weekends in a row and try to change the picture of the points system for yourself five weeks from now and hopefully a better spot.”

IS THIS THAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN MOVE FORWARD? “I think we can go everywhere and move forward. I feel real good about how we ran this year and I think we’ve got opportunities any time we show up to put together a good weekend. So I don’t have that kind of worry that I used to have in the past where I was very inconsistent. We run good and we’re fast so I feel like any weekend could be an opportunity for us to put some points together. The other side of that too is I could as easily be looking at sitting 13th, 14th, 17th, 20th in points with a much tougher hill to climb. I feel fortunate to still be where I am in the points and still have opportunity to be in the Chase this year and want to try to put together the best several weeks, the next eight or nine weeks I can to make sure that happens. I think we can do that. I think we are a good enough team to do that.”

CAN YOU COMPARE THIS TO SOME OF THE OTHER SO CALLED COOKIE CUTTER 1.5-MILE TRACK HERE? “Yeah, it’s just like them. It’s got a lot of bumps though. It’s kind of weird in NASCAR when you go to a new track and it’s an old track. Normally we are going to new tracks and they’re new but this place has got a lot of races on it and the surface is used up pretty good, banged up and got jumps and stuff all around it and it’s been a real challenge trying to get the car close to the ground, get the aero balance good without getting the car on the race track. It seems kind of wide, it’s difficult to pass because the second groove has got some good grip and that’s kind of where everybody was actually testing anyways, so it will be real hard to get underneath guys, get around them. Maybe there will be opportunities to get on the outside. They ground up the race track pretty good and what happens when they come down here and tested they knocked all that grounding dust and laid down into the race track, up into the third groove so when you try to actually move the groove up past the second groove you just run through a bunch of dust and spin out. It will be kind of tough for us to widen the track much more but it’s got a couple of grooves there that are pretty racey.”

DID YOU GET IRONED OUT WHAT HAPPENED AT DAYTONA, DID YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT THAT AT ALL? “No, they made the decision to do one thing and we did another. There really wasn’t much else to it. It’s pretty cut and dry. It didn’t really bother me at all. I figured that Jimmie would still have a good opportunity to get up to me and help us and we pretty much were in fine shape until people forgot how to drive or people thought they could disobey the laws of physics or whatever they were trying to do. I don’t know they were just trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It was frustrating and it still is because you run all night long to get to the end of that race and you can see the finish line and you just saw a crash for some reason. It’s pretty stupid.”

JIMMIE JUST SAID IT WAS SORT OF LIKE EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF IN THERE, IS THERE A POINT IN THE RACE WHERE IT’S SORT OF OKAY TO WHERE YOU’VE GOT TO KIND OF SAY YOU JUST HAVE TO DO YOUR OWN THING? “No. If you watched that race and you watched the guys that crossed the finish line first, you would know the answer to that question. Anybody who was going out for themselves on that last lap was not going to win.”

I THINK JIMMIE MEANT IN TERMS OF DECIDING TO PIT AND THAT KIND OF STUFF. “Well they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do on pit road. I mean if they want to come pit they’ve got to come pit. I can’t argue with that and I think I’m fine with that. I don’t have a problem with what he did. It seemed just like a normal damn race to me. Man wanted to go down pit road. No big deal. The caution was out. Good time to go down pit road.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE FAN RESPONSE THOUGH? “I was, but these people are passionate. I don’t know if I should be that surprised by anything, the fans because they’re passionate. They get it in their minds what they think is right and what they think happened and they run with it. People have strong opinions. I heard about how they beat on Jimmie a little bit on his Twitter page and I called him up and said now you know why I don’t have Twitter. I’d be getting it every week.”

By: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt jr., kentucky, nascar, nscs, sprint cup