DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway discussed heading into the Chase, short time span between Atlanta and Richmond, team ownership, his team and other topics.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK HEADING INTO THE CHASE? “Try to work really hard today and make sure that we have a better racecar than we had here last time. We had an o.k. car but the 24 was better. We have looked at some of the things they were doing Steve (Letarte, Crew Chief) said we are going to lean that direction. Outlook is see how the day goes and hopefully we feel good about our car, we need to know we can have us a good race.”
IN YOUR MIND WHAT IS AT STAKE SATURDAY NIGHT? “Making the chase, not making the chase. I don’t even know what kind of question that is.
WHATS IT LIKE BEING IN THIS SITUATION, YOU HAVE BEEN OUT OF THE CHASE THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, BEING IN THE SITUATION, WHERE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DO BUT AT THE SAME TIME NOTHING IS LOCKED UP YET. “It is just the way it is. You go into the race and you know what you have to do and you try to do it. Whatever happens is going to happen. That is just what you are going to have to live with at the end of the night. We work really hard all year long and I feel good about our program but it will be disappointing to miss an opportunity to race for the championship if we don’t get in tomorrow night. I still like our opportunities going forward, as a group, we will just work hard. I feel like we are a good enough team to get it done tomorrow. “
WILL YOU ASK STEVE LIKE WHERE BRAD IS, AND WILL YOU WANT TO BE KEPT ABREAST OF WHAT IS GOING ON, AS TO WEATHER YOU ARE IN POSITION TO MAKE IT AT THIS POINT OR THAT POINT? “No, it only matters when the race is over, where everybody’s at. We need to work on our car and think about our car. Concentrate on what our racecar is doing; try to make our racecar better and we will be pretty occupied with how the car drives and how the car feels, and whether it is good or bad. I will be paying attention to that stuff and that is about all you’ll do.”
HAS THIS BEEN EASIER WITH THE SHORT WEEK BETWEEN RACES TO NOT FOCUS ABOUT IT, OR HAS IT MADE IT TOUGH BECAUSE IT HAS NOT GIVEN YOU AS MUCH TIME TO THINK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? “It is pretty tough actually, to race a couple of days ago and turn around and try to do it again. I think it is tough on the teams and mentally on me, it was not that big of a deal but, the situation last week was just unfortunate for everybody. They (NASCAR) did the right thing and we got the race in and hopefully this weekend we are going to be more fortunate weather wise. I mean I’m not really that worried about it really to be honest with ya’ll. I feel like we are a good enough team to get in there. I have felt like that all year long. I feel like we will get the job done, I felt like that all year that we would. If we, for any reason don’t get the job done, that is something you have to deal with. You have to deal with it one way or another.”
YOU HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE DID YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY IN THE PAST OR YOU FEEL DIFFERENT NOW? “I put more pressure on myself the other times trying to make the chase. Making the chase is important, but I have made the chase before I know what that feels like. It is great to make the chase, it is good being in that group of guys but my main concern is for us to be more competitive as a team. It is really frustrating to make the chase and then not be as competitive as you want to be during those races. That is really all I am thinking about. We have a good opportunity to make the chase and I think as a group we could have performed better in the last several weeks and what do we need to do to do that. That is really where my concern lies, where my worry is and what my mind is on. Trying to be a better race team man, because if we are going to be in the chase you want to put up a good account for yourself. You don’t want to be a guy just taking up a spot in there.”
IN THE PAST YOU WERE MORE FOCUSED ON GETTING INTO THE CHASE AS OPPOSED TO THINKING ABOUT YOUR TEAM AND THAT HAS CHANGED YOUR MINDSET. “Yea, I mean I have made the chase a few times, and I realize now what is really important and that is the performance factor. Being up front and being able to account for yourself in the chase. It is not fun to be in the chase if you cannot do that. “
LAST WEEK, YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE SITUATION BEING LIKE WRITER’S BLOCK, HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THAT? “I don’t know it’s just something you have to be open minded about what you are seeing in front of you between the other three teams. What you think might be working that you are not trying. I am just guessing, I hate to do that, but I just think we might have gotten real conservative due to how close it was and how difficult a situation we were in trying to make the chase and we sort of went box stock on some of the things we were trying instead of really pushing the new ideas that we have and the new technologies we are feeling pretty good about and confident about at Hendrick Motor Sports. We went back to a little more conservative role and it cost us a little bit on the performance side I guess. We will see, I am not sure that is really the truth or not but that is what I am getting from Steve ( Letarte, Crew Chief) on some feedback, but we will just see how it goes. He just feels like we do not have all our bullets in the gun, and we should be able to perform better once we get into the chase.”
WOULD THEY FEEL BETTER IF YOU GAVE IT ALL YOU GOT AND CAME UP WAY SHORT, OR IF YOU STAYED MORE CONSERVATIVE AND WERE A CONTENDER BUT NEVER FOR THE TITLE. “I think that I would like to let it all hang out but I trust what Steve is doing, I trust what the guys are doing in the engine shop, the guys in the body shop, I don’t build the cars , I am not the best at building the cars, those guys are doing it for a reason. Steve’s a crew chief and I’m not for a reason. I believe in what they do and I believe in what they think and what they put together, how they approach the weekend and I don’t second guess anything they do. I try to be smart and not make any mistakes and not ruin our effort on my end and let them carry their load. I believe they will do what they are supposed to do.”
KEVIN HARVICK ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK THAT HE IS ROLLING HIS NATIONWIDE PROGRAM INTO RCR ( RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING) HE IS GETTING RID OF HIS TRUCKS, HE IS NOT GOING TO ANYTHING OUT OF THAT SHOP IN KERNERSVILLE, HE SAID HE WAS OK FINANCIALLY BUT THE EFFORT AND THE STRESS WAS NOT WORTH IT TO HIM ANYMORE. HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN TO THAT POINT WITH JR MOTOR SPORTS, AND CAN YOU RELATE AT ALL WITH THE DECISION HE HAD TO MAKE? “I definitely can understand where Kevin’s heads at and having sort of parallel with them a little bit on the Nationwide side, a lot of the things that he has done and always made sense to me. He has been a really, really smart owner in that series, done a lot of great things for that series. I think that being an owner is a whole lot harder than being a driver in the series and I tip my hat to anyone who tries to build a car in that series or any series for that matter. I have never gotten to that situation with JR Motor Sports, I have never really gotten to that point but I can defiantly relate to the decisions he is making as a whole. It is kind of stressful and maybe he got in there and enjoyed it and had some great success but as he gets older it is not something he sees himself doing down the road. I can definitely understand that and that is why you don’t really make plans to far out in advance when it comes to that due to the securing sponsorships is a challenge and all kinds of other reasons, but he did a great service to the series and to the sport as an owner. It is a lot more difficult job than being a driver and he was a big asset to the Nationwide series as an owner and I know they are going to continue to compete in that series but, I don’t think that you are seeing the last of him as an owner in the NASCAR series.”
WILL YOU BE MORE CONCIOUS OF WHO YOU ARE RACING AROUND ON SATURDAY NIGHT BECAUSE IN SOME WAYS YOU MIGHT MISS THE CHASE IF YOU GOT CAUGHT UP IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S MESS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPEN. ARE YOU GOING TO PULL YOURSELF OUT OF A SITUATION IF TJ’S TELLING YOU ONE BAR OR SOEMTHING LIKE THAT? “(LAUGHS) Naw, not really we will just race it, just like we have raced them all. I think if you get to cautious you can put yourself in a lot of situations that aren’t good. I think you just have to do naturally, race naturally. I feel like I do a good job, not getting into a lot of trouble, get myself in situations that get me in the fence, get me spun out or racing around people that at certain times I should take more care of. I think I do a good job of that. I will just race naturally, like I always done and hope that we are smart. I don’t really think I want to put a lot of thought into the whole process. Just kind of go in there and let it flow.”
WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ON JEFF GETTING HIS 85TH WIN? “I really thought that was great. He is one of the best drivers that has come into the series and he is a great driver. I think it was cool and was real happy for him to reach that milestone.”