Phoenix: Dale Earnhardt Jr wake-up call

Phoenix International Raceway Nextel Wake-Up Call with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS TODAY'S NEXTEL WAKE-UP CALL FEATURED DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS: WITH ALL YOUR SUCCESS...

Phoenix International Raceway
Nextel Wake-Up Call with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

TODAY'S NEXTEL WAKE-UP CALL FEATURED DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS:

WITH ALL YOUR SUCCESS HERE, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK AT PIR? "We run pretty good at Phoenix. Last year, I thought we had a car that could run in the top three at the second race here (but) we blew a tire. We had a camber issue or setting or something that was bad for that tire. But we like this race track and we've won a couple of races here and we still seem to have a good handle on the set-up when race time comes. Even when Tony (Eury) Jr. wasn't crew-chiefing the car in the first race, we still had a top five finish. So I'm really getting to where I like the track and I get a lot of confidence when I come here."

WHAT DO YOU LIKE OR WHAT DO YOU NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS TRACK? "When I first started running here, I didn't get around the place very good. I raced in the mid-pack or toward the back of the field most of the time. It was just a real hot, slick race track for me. I don't know what happened, but we showed up one week and this thing was just really, really fast and we've been fast ever since. So it's something in the car or in the set-up of the car that Tony Jr. found -- maybe at a test at Richmond or somewhere -- that has helped us here. That's really how we won those races and turned it around from the first races we had here. So that has a lot to do with it."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RADIO AND TV SHOW AND HOW MUCH TIME THEY TAKE TO DO THEM? "We've got an XM Radio show on Thursdays -- around 8:30 or 9 o'clock. Jimmie Johnson has a show and I have a 30-minute show and they're back to back. It takes me maybe an hour and a half out of my week to do it. It's real easy. A guy comes from XM to the shop and I get my buddies together and we try to find a guest we're interested in talking to. And we spend an hour and a half and it's over. It's a lot of fun. I tell my PR guys it's probably the funnest (most fun) thing I do all week. It's just something about it. It's a lot of fun talking about things like that. It seems to be doing well. I just hoped that it would be a C or C+ show and we could keep doing it over the next couple of years because I enjoy it. If it does better than that, that's a bonus.

The TV show is Back In The Day and that comes on Speed channel on Mondays. That doesn't take a lot of time at all, really. We take a day and shoot maybe three or four episodes at a time. And then maybe four or five weeks later, we shoot another three or four episodes in one day. It's not a lot of time at all. I have a pretty good group of people that are working on it and editing all the things together as far as writing all the scripts and stuff like that. We sort of ad-lib a little bit here and there. But it's pretty easy. "It's a great way of my fans to see -- maybe not a different side of me -- but a little bit more of things that interest me and know a little bit more about what interests me. I don't think I appear to be any different on those shows than I do walking up and down pit road here. But it's harder now to get hands-on with the fans with the time that we have being more limited throughout the week, we don't do a lot of hands-on autograph sessions like we used to. That used to be the big deal 10 years ago. The drivers, all they did, was hands-on autograph sessions and travel week after week. And now you don't do that stuff that much anymore. It's another outlet, another opportunity for the fans to have that chance to at least get a little insight about what's going on that week or what we did on the off-week or to get a little more information than what they're currently used to."

YOU INTERVIEWED MIKE HELTON. HOW WILD WAS IT TO INTERVIEW HELTON AS A JOURNALIST/DRIVER? "It was a lot of fun. We actually tape the shows on Tuesdays. But I was really nervous. I went up to the trailer at Texas, I think it was, and asked him if he'd mind doing it sometime. And he said to sit down and we picked out a date. That's going to be tough to top, if it can be topped. When it comes to a NASCAR-related show, that's a real good guest to have. I tried to ask some questions that I felt were respectful to him. I didn't want to feel like I was there to corner him at all. But we asked some questions I felt like were interesting and some answers that I wanted to know and some things that I think people find interesting about his career prior to his involvement in race tracks and Motorsports. He did a little driving himself and he had a little radio show himself and a couple other things like that. It was a good interview. It was so long, I think we're going to cut in half and maybe do Part 1 this week and Part 2 maybe next week."

HOW IS THIS YEAR DIFFERENT FROM LAST NOW THAT YOU'RE BACK WITH TONY EURY JR? "I like working with him. We have a really good working relationship. It's even better now than it was. We always had a great relationship growing up and all that -- racing together and all that. But this racing gets to you sometimes and we got to beating on each other a little bit. So it probably was a good thing. Obviously we didn't win as many races as we would have like to last year. We didn't have that success. But as far as our relationship, it's probably a good thing that we took that year apart and sort of saw the other side of the fence together. It's really a great relationship now. We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of goals to meet and a lot of confidence in each other. I'm trying to prove to him that he's got a dedicated driver. And he's doing everything he can for me. Hopefully we can get back to where we were in '04 and improve on that."

ON FORD AND DODGE CLOSING THE GAP ON CHEVY WINNING LAST 18 OF 21 RACES AT TALLADEGA: "It is pretty much anybodies race everywhere we go. When you have common templates on the bodies are the same except for a few character lines here and there, you can't really say anybody has a huge advantage there. I don't think anyone has a massive advantage on engines, I think the advantage on building engines is who is building them, and not necessarily what type of engine it is. You don't really look at the manufacturers any more as one having an advantage over the other like you used to in years past. You have to look at how many quality teams are with that manufacturer that has a lot to do with who is going to get the manufacturers points. "

ON SOFT BUMPERS CHANGING THE TALLADEGA RACE NEXT WEEK: "Probably not. A lot of guys are going to go out there in practice and see how soft they really are, what they can take and what they can't take. We will figure that out hopefully, have an opportunity to find that out and know exactly what we got for the race. When the race comes, we will know exactly how hard we can use them, what we can use them for, stuff like that. I hate that it had to come to that, but it definitely probably better than the situation we had.

WHAT IS THE PRODOMINANT LINE YOU USE AT PIR? "You mean the groove? You never know until you get out there. Sometimes you start the race and you think you are going to be running on the bottom, then either the car gets tight or you over guesstimated on how the track was going to be when the race starts and you are either too loose or too tight. This place has a couple different grooves, which is really good; those are the race tracks you like to run on. I like running around the bottom myself; right around the bottom if I can, but if that isn't working for me, we just move around a lot to find something that just maintains until we get a pit stop or find something that is a little faster. "

ON IMPORTANCE OF THE TIRE TESTS: "It is more popular than it has ever been. The phone is probably ringing a little more often at Goodyear from guys seeing if they can put their name in the hat. I had hoped it would have been more of an advantage for us at Texas, but we a couple of things on the car we would have rather changed or rather done differently. We sort of got cold feet there at the end and changed a little bit of the front spring package and stuff like that. We were kinda running more of what Martin (Truex, Jr.) was running but we saw at the end that didn't end up working out and wish we would have stuck with what we had. It is a great opportunity to test the tires because the tire changes a lot. They keep changing little things here and there so it is a good opportunity to get on them and have that heads up before the rest of the guys do, if you can. When I tested for Goodyear at Texas, it was me and Bobby Labonte and they are obviously going to listen to Bobby a lot. It was hard for me to feel like I was really making a dent or being heard very often because Bobby is the veteran and he is the one they are really used to testing with. But it fun, I got to test a little bit, we really didn't get to work on the setup that much, but it was all right."

ON TRACK OWNERSHIP: "I own a race track with Ken Schrader in Paducah, Kentucky. It is a lot of fun that is probably the sole reason I did it is because I knew it would be enjoyable. I went with Kenny a couple times when I was 16, to a lot of dirt races and sprint car races and stuff like that and we bonded a friendship there. It has grown over the years as we got to racing with each other and hanging out with each other. He went to Peavly (MO) several times for him to help him and Kyle (Petty) signing autographs there. We had so much fun and it is so interesting to me, I told him if he had an opportunity come up to let me know, that I would like to maybe be a part of it. So one came up, it was a great deal financially and also a good opportunity to try that side of the fence. There are race tracks all over this country for sale; I am not out there cobbling them up. This was a chance for me to get involved with someone who has a lot of experience in it, so I knew it wasn't going to be a bad deal or a nasty deal in case it doesn't work out.

"I feel real confident in Kenny and the guys he has in the positions to run the track, I am just sort of the odd man in, just checking in out and being a part of it. I would like to get out there and run a little bit but Kenny says I need to go with him during the week one time, and drive a little bit and see if I can't get used to it. I haven't run any dirt."

ON ADVICE HE GAVE TO MARK MCFARLAND THIS WEEKEND: "I talked to Mark on the way over here, we went to San Diego for a Navy appearance - had a lot of fun riding around in the bay in boats-I just told him that you use the apron here a lot more than you think you can and a lot more than you think you care is capable of doing. So if you are tight, try to use the apron if you can, to slow the car down, use the apron. Told him a little bit about the setups I have run here in the past. A little bit about how a lot of guys use up a lot of the race track in three and four, that it is probably because they are a little loose in, but to try and keep it on the bottom down is pretty good. If you can beat guys through the middle, that is where you make up your time at this race track, in the middle of both corners. I just gave him a couple tips here and there."

ON BEING A CELEBRITY: "I don't really look at myself as a celebrity. When we get asked to do Leno or something like that, my PR guy is sort of like parent pushing the kid into the kindergarten class the first day of school. I don't like doing that type of thing because I just don't feel on that level yet. I don't really feel like a celebrity, there have only been a couple times when I sort of felt that way, but for the most part, I just feel pretty normal."

ON BRINGING HIS DOG (A BOXER NAMED KILLER) TO THE TRACK EVERY RACE: "He comes with me if he can. He has a pretty busy schedule between my house and my sister's (Kelley Elledge) house. Karsyn (Kelley's daughter) likes to keep him a lot and every week she wants to know if he is going with me or going with her. We had to go to San Diego for the Navy appearance so he couldn't come here with me. Normally if we go straight to the track and straight home, he comes with me."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Ken Schrader , Jimmie Johnson