Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet
met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed Danica Patrick, racing at Michigan and other topics.
WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THE NEWS THAT DANICA PATRICK IS COMING TO NASCAR FULL TIME?: “There ain’t been no announcement yet so I don’t know why you would go report that. We’ve enjoyed working with her and would love to keep working with her. When there’s something to announce, they’ll announce it and we’ll just wait until that happens I guess.”
I do look forward to being here and coming here.
HYPOTHETICALLY, LET’S SAY IT WAS GOING TO: “I don’t deal in hypotheticals. I can’t do you no favors today.”
HOW SHOULD A NEW DRIVER DEFINE SUCCESS?: “I think what she’s accomplished already has been success in my opinion. She obviously would want to continue to improve and compete for wins and win races. It’s tough to learn new cars, to learn a new vehicle and be able to drive it well and do well in it and adapt to it. I think she’s done that. She’s awesome about it and she’s really done a great job. She seems like she’s fun to work with and no matter whether you’re a man or woman, people have to be able to get along with you and you have to be able to be a people person and manage people and manage relationships. She seems to do a great job of that and I think that we look forward to the future races the rest of this season to be able to work with her.”
ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE BACK AT MICHIGAN?: “Yeah, I guess so. They don’t really spread these out, but the summer is kind of weird in this sport because we race Pocono in the same month pretty much and then you come to Michigan within a month or two. It seems like we were just here. It’s a fun race track and it’s going to be interesting when they pave it. We have one more race on this surface I guess and I’ve enjoyed racing here ever since I started racing. I do look forward to being here and coming here.”
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO BE SURE YOU ARE IN THE CHASE?: “We’re not in the Chase yet, but we had a good week last week where some other guys had bad weeks. We got some fortune there when it came to the points. Hopefully, that can help us maintain our position if not improve it. I think we can even improve our position if we do well enough.”
HOW WAS THE MARTINSVILLE TIRE TEST?: “I don’t know which tire they chose. I don’t want to speak out of school, but they brought the Watkins Glen tire and I loved it a whole lot and it was by far to me, by far, clearly, without any doubt, without any doubt in my mind the best tire that we had at the test. It doesn’t sound like to me at the end of the test that was the tire that they wanted to use. The tire that we will use is a decent tire, but the Glen tire was far, without a doubt, by far a better product. We tested a left side tire that the other drivers seem to like, but I thought was too soft and wore out and changed the balance of the car too quickly and I think the other drivers possibly just liked it because it had extra grip, it had extra speed. The car goes faster -- anytime the car goes faster you get excited about that. I thought over the long run, it wasn’t as good a tire to be able to race on to be able to pass and drive underneath people because the left rear tire is just going to burn right off of it and you won’t be able to get off the corner. I’m not sure that they’re going to bring the right combination, but I don’t know because I haven’t heard which tire they actually seem to favor. At the end of the test nobody really gave me that information. That Watkins Glen tire might be the best tire that Goodyear ever made, in my opinion.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT THE NIGHT RACE AT BRISTOL?: “Bristol is a real rough and tumble short track and just trying to stay clean and stay out of trouble and stay out of other people’s messes and wrecks and mistakes and have good pit stops and try to have a good pit stall. Need to be able to get in and out of your stall because it’s tight on pit road. There’s a lot of ways to go around the corners so you can kind of find somewhere where your car has speed and speed kind of comes and goes all night long as your car changes with the flow of the race a ton trying to move around and find speed in the corner. The balance of the car is important, but not quite as much as on short tracks.”
WHY DO THE FANS NOT LIKE BRISTOL NOW AS MUCH AS THE DRIVERS?: “I don’t think it has nothing to do with the race track. I think it has more to do with the fact that we went to the COT about the same time. I think the race track is awesome and I think if you put the old car out there, you would see some bad ass races. The first time we went there and raced, it was actually a really, really good race. Me and Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne were running three wide for the lead midway through the race for 50 laps. The track is perfect and fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s as good or better than it ever was. It all comes down to choosing the correct tire that allows us to race around the race track because the tire, as Goodyear will probably tell you is one of the most important components to being able to produce and provide good racing and the cars. The COT -- is it for that race track which car provides the better race -- the COT or the old car. Everybody is going to have their opinion about that. We have the COT now and it’s tough with the splitters to drive these things around the short tracks. Especially a banked place like Bristol. They don’t really want to turn too well when they get on the splitters. The first time we had that configuration, we had an awesome event I thought. I think what they did to the track made it better.”
DID YOU KNOW BRAD KESELOWSKI WAS AS TOUGH TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT HE’S DONE BEING HURT?: “Yeah. I think given the circumstances, a lot of drivers probably would have done the same thing. I thought he was pretty tough. His old man was tough and they come from -- he doesn’t have nothing on a silver spoon when he was young. He made his own way. Obviously he was born into a racing family, but everything that he -- to get to where he got, he had to make it there and he knows how hard it was to get there. He wasn’t going to give that opportunity to anyone else that day by having a relief driver or having someone else even race the car. He loves racing. He’s passionate and a competitor. I was happy for him and thought it was really cool, but I wasn’t surprised that he was doing whatever it took.”
DO YOU THINK BRAD KESELOWSKI HAS CHANGED HIS PERCEPTION WITH VETERANS IN RECENT WEEKS?: “I don’t know any rookie that’s ever come in here and not ruffled some feathers. That’s just part of the process. He earned a lot of respect I’m sure from guys. He didn’t do anything -- we’re all on the other side of the fence and we all know that he didn’t do anything that none of us would have done. Any one of us would have went through that process. He won the race. I don’t know if any one of us could have went out there and won the race. What he did was cool and I think it was good in the eyes of the sport and to the fans and endeared him to a lot of people because of his stamina and his determination, which is good for the sport. The sport needs to see, the fans need to see that we have characters like that in the sport and that there are still guys that race -- I think all the drivers are like this, but it’s not popular opinion that we are all that gritty. You don’t really get the evidence of that too often in this day and age.”
HOW HAVE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF YOUR DRIVERS CHANGED?: “I don’t know. I don’t really put a lot of pressure on them, but I want them to run good and I want to win races, but I also know what kind of competition I’m up against. It’s really hard to out run some of these teams. Gibbs is going to be strong every time they show up. Harvick’s team has come along really well and progressed over the last several years and they’re just tough. Roush shows up every three or four years and seems like they’re hard to beat. It sort of cycles around and you just try to survive until you figure out how to get the car to go fast. We’ve kind of struggled, but we’ve had a good month and had some good finishes over the last couple weeks and hopefully it’s going to boost the morale of the team and the guys. The guys were kind of looking for some inspiration and hopefully these last couple weeks is really going to help them out. It’s tough though. I don’t really put expectations on the guys that drive my car except for when you fall far short of where we feel like our potential is then we’ve got problems.”
DO YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE NEGOTIATONS WITH JR MOTORSPORTS OR DOES KELLEY HANDLE THAT FOR YOU?: “It’s all Kelley. I haven’t talked to Danica (Patrick) at all about it -- I haven’t talked to Danica since the last time she was at the race track. People always used to say that I didn’t have or I wasn’t focused or I had too many things going on, this, that and the other -- you would be surprised the little amount of things that I have to worry about. Basically, this race car right here and not being late to anything. That’s about all I have to worry about.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY VETO POWER?: “I would like to think I have veto power, but I tried to exercise it a few times and it worked and then sometimes it doesn’t. My sister can put up a pretty convincing argument because she’s the one with all the business sense and she went to college to learn about how to be a business woman and I went to college to learn how to build a starter and get my inspection license. I trust her opinion and trust that she would have the better idea on how that stuff goes. I think I got a lot of great common sense to fall back on and can make great judgment calls and character calls, but when it comes down to x’s and o’s and licensing deals and all that kind of stuff I kind of lay that in her lap and let her and Joe and Mike Davis and those guys sort of run that show.”
I feel like we’re pretty conscious of safety in this sport...
HOW IS YOUR BOW HUNTING GOING?: “I’m going to hope to get an opportunity to go hunt this year and I’ve had good luck over the last couple of years. I enjoy sitting in the stand with a bow just about as much as anything else. Looking forward to it.”
DID YOU BRING A NEW CAR THIS WEEKEND?: “We are always trying to find good cars. We got one car that we ran at Vegas at the start of the year that I’ve really liked every time we’ve raced and you try to add -- not every car you have that kind of confidence in so it’s good to build new ones, bring them to the track and try to find that next car that’s a step better. I like driving new cars. New cars are fun, they’re clean, they look good and normally they drive really good. Hopefully, we’ll be fortunate and have a good weekend. We thought our setup was pretty good the last time we raced here. We were really, really, really fast on the first two or three laps of a run and we weren’t that good after 10 laps. We tried to talk ourselves into believing that we were better than we were. I think Steve (Letarte, crew chief) talked about that a little bit throughout the week on some of his media that he’s done. We’re going to pay a little more attention and push ourselves to excel a little bit better on the long runs this weekend.”
DID YOU GET A SATISFACTORY ANSWER WHEN YOU CONTESTED THE FINISH AT THE GLEN?: “I was told what NASCAR’s opinion about it was and I was happy that they gave me the opportunity to discuss that with them. They could have just said, ‘No, we’re going home and we’ll talk about it later or holler at me Monday or whatever.’ They gave me 15 or 20 minutes of their time and we watched videos. I don’t agree with the decision -- the 33 (Clint Bowyer) crashed into the 13 (Casey Mears) and then went to the grass and in my opinion that means you’re involved in the accident and shouldn’t be able to maintain a position. I don’t think you should go to the tail end of the lead lap, but I think he lost a couple spots there and those points are really important, especially right now. I still don’t really agree with it, but I appreciate the opportunity to be able to discuss it with me and we had a good conversation about it and they feel like they made the right call and that’s the call that’s going to stand. We just have to live with that and move forward.”
DO YOU THINK DRIVERS SHOULD BE MORE PROACTIVE IN SAFETY AT RACE TRACKS?: “I think that I personally as a driver leave it up the race track and the sanctioning body itself to provide us with safe facilities to race at and that they would make adjustments to any race track or any area or any questionable area at any race track -- they would make the proper adjustments to make the track as safe as it could be. I got to sleep at night believing that those guys are always looking out for the best interest of our safety and they would make sure that the tracks are good to go. Sometimes some things aren’t very clear until you have accidents that bring certain things to the surface. I’m sure there’s going to be some things done to that area in the race track at the Glen to make it safer. It’s unfortunate that sometimes you have to have an accident to bring it to light. I feel like we’re pretty conscious of safety in this sport and I think that a lot of people do a lot of good and we go in the right direction in terms of safety.”