Phoenix II: Earnhardt Jr - Friday media visit

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed how he feels about his season, the economy, where he would rank Jimmie Johnson in racing history and ...

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed how he feels about his season, the economy, where he would rank Jimmie Johnson in racing history and more.

HOW WAS THE CAR OUT THERE? "The car feels really, really good. I'm real happy with how Tony (Eury) Jr. and the guys come prepared this weekend. I was real happy with the way the car worked in race trim in the first several runs and then we made some qualifying tries out there. We didn't change anything. The car just feels really good."

DOES THE POINT SITUATION MATTER TO YOU, IS THERE SOMETHING THAT SAYS I'D RATHER FINISH SIXTH, SEVENTH OR EIGHTH OR DOES IT MATTER? "No, it doesn't really matter. You just want to win a championship. It's nice to go to New York and it's a little bit of an appreciation to be up on the stage. For the most part of the whole deal you're just celebrating another man's championship so it's a little bit tough at times. Hopefully we can bring the championship home with Hendrick (Motorsports) and Jimmie (Johnson). We'll be very proud of that. Other than that we're really looking forward to the last two races here and just moving on to next year."

LAST YEAR YOU MADE THE BIG NEWS ABOUT SWITCHING TEAMS, NOW THAT YOU'RE AT THE END OF THE YEAR CAN YOU JUST SUM UP YOUR YEAR AND IF YOU'RE PLEASED? "I'm real pleased with where I'm at and who I'm working with and real lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity that I have with Rick (Hendrick) and all the employees there. They're just such a great group of people that work really hard. They have the best attitude and they provide you with the best equipment.

"I feel like I'm real happy with how things have worked out. I would have liked to perform better on the race track the last half of the season. The first half of the season I was really excited. We were running really well every week. We were running better than I thought we would at the first half of the year. The second half of the year we still run up front a lot, we run really well every weekend but I couldn't get the finishes I was wanting to get and it was getting frustrating at times. That's just a performance issue. We need to evaluate how we can do a better job of putting the finishes in the bank for the rest of the year and we'll try to work on that next year."

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU ABOUT NEXT YEAR THAT YOU CAN IMPROVE ON YOUR PERFORMANCE FROM THIS YEAR? "I just hope that we can, I don't know. I don't know what the answer to that is. Make something up. (laughter)."

WERE THERE ANY SURPRISES THIS YEAR? "It was smooth."

IF YOU COULD VOTE FOR DRIVER OF THE YEAR WHO WOULD YOU PICK AND WHY? "Well I think you've got to look at Jimmie (Johnson) but Kyle (Busch) put up a good argument there too the first ¾ of the season winning all the races he won. He definitely won a lot of races if you're looking over all the different series, Kyle would probably get my vote."

ON THE ON-TRACK CONTACT IN LAST WEEK'S RACE. "There's a difference between rubbing fenders and totally wrecking somebody. There's a big difference and that's the line. That's the difference."

IS GETTING IN THE TOP 10 AND GOING TO THE BANQUET IMPORTANT AT ALL TO YOU? "Well I've been down that road so many times and I'm glad to be in the Chase and I feel fortunate and I appreciate the opportunity to be there but I would have liked to finish better this year so a little disappointed. My excitement probably isn't as high as it should be. I'm looking forward to having that opportunity next year to be proud of our performance in the Chase and we're not very proud of it this year. Me personally, I'm just a little disappointed."

THE GUYS IN 11TH AND 12TH DON'T EVEN GO ON STAGE, SO DOES IT MATTER O TYOU? "It doesn't matter to me."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE WEATHER HERE? "It's good."

IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT RACING HERE IN PHOENIX? "It's a long ways from home but it's a fun race track. This place has been around for a long, long time. The fans really adopted the race track a long, long time ago."

WITH THE STRUGGLES IN THE ECONOMY AND THE TEAMS, IS NASCAR LISTENING TO YOU GUYS ENOUGH, DO YOU FEEL LIKE NASCAR CAN DO SOME THINGS FOR YOU? "I think NASCAR is doing a good job of listening to the drivers and giving us an opportunity to voice our opinion. We can go to that truck any time we want when we feel like we have a different opinion from what they have. I feel like that they are technically listening when you really get down to it. They rarely go in the direction that everybody wants but they try to please everybody. They've probably got a better idea of what needs to be done overall with the sport than what I do. There are just some particulars that you really get upset about or really have a strong opinion about and I can go up there and tell them guys at any time I want."

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH BRIAN (FRANCE), IS HE AROUND AS OFTEN? "Well Brian really didn't bother us when big Bill (France) was around but you didn't physically see him a lot. No, it doesn't bother me. I think they've got a great person that's visible for the sport in Mike Helton. I think he does an amazing job and the sport is fortunate and very, very lucky to have him. Because I don't know really know of anyone else in or out of the sport that could do as good of a job as he does with the position he is in and managing. If you really get down to it, Mike really brings a sense of purpose to the whole thing. He brings a sense of responsibility and persistence and it's very difficult to find those type of qualities in somebody especially this day and age. He does it for the right reasons and I think the sport is really lucky to have him."

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE WANTING TO FIGURE OUT WHERE TO PUT JIMMIE JOHNSON IN RACING HISTORY IF HE WINS THE THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS, UP NEAR YOUR FATHER AND SOME OTHER GUYS, DOES THAT SOUND RIGHT? "Yeah I think so. He's just done an amazing job. Three in a row. He came in here, he nearly won the first couple of championships right out of the box. Without having any experience or any idea of how to race for the championship he almost fell into one there right out of the box. I don't know, the guy is the real thing and he's a true talent and a great person. I don't have any problem giving him those compliments because of his personality and the person that he is. I think that speaks even more volumes than how great of a competitor he is. I think if he can maintain this over his entire career, you really have to put him up there in the top-five, top-10 for sure."

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM HIM THIS YEAR? "I don't know. It's hard to answer that question. You ask some vague questions. Get specific for me. It's easier for me."

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT GENERAL MOTORS AND THE SITUATION THEY'RE IN? "No. They're too big and the government won't let them fail. (laughter) That's not a joke. I think I said that in all seriousness. They'll figure out what they need to do. Hopefully it's a big cycle and things will come back around. The government won't let a company like that fall under for sure."

CARL EDWARDS HAS GONE THROUGH A LOT OF HIGHS AND LOWS IN THE CHASE, DOES HE HAVE THE MAKE UP TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think Carl's a talented enough driver to surely battle for the championship. I know Jimmie is not sitting absolutely comfortable at this point and that's because of Carl and his ability to really make anything happen at any time. You probably have to lose one to win one anyways and maybe if Carl doesn't win this championship this year this would be the perfect experience for him to understand how he has to do it next year and he would be probably in my top pick going into Daytona.

"If he does well these next two races and comes real, real close to beating Jimmie having learned from the mistakes that he may have made or thinks he could have done differently and would have done differently in the first 10 races, first nine races. They're fast. Up until the Chase would you have ranked Jimmie ahead of Carl? I doubt it. Carl is really, really good. He's really good. He's got a good team."

WITH THE TALK AT DEI (DALE EARNHARDT, INC.) ABOUT ALL THE MERGERS AND EVERYTHING, HOW CURIOUS ARE YOU TO WHAT HAPPENS THERE? "Well I'm just as curious as everyone else, no more, no less. I'm just really curious about everything, everybody. But DEI is a piece of that puzzle. I'll be watching just like everybody else."

ON THE RECENT LAYOFFS AT TEAMS INCLUDING JR MOTORSPORTS. "At Hendrick (Motorsports) it was more of an evaluation of talent and what not and just what was necessary and what wasn't necessary. At JR Motorsports we literally had to look at how we were spending money. It wasn't necessarily an evaluation of personnel because we let some really good people out the door. There was a lot of teams that made a lot of layoffs earlier in this season, three or four months ago that were really, really substantial. A lot more to come, especially right after Homestead. It's unfortunate for the sport but mainly for the area in Mooresville (North Carolina). You know how Mooresville has been growing and doing well. I'm hoping it doesn't really affect the economy of the city of Mooresville too badly."

THERE WAS ONE INTERNET REPORT THAT STATED THEY WERE GOING LAY 750 PEOPLE OFF IN ALL THREE SERIES, DO YOU THINK THAT IS REALLY COULD HAPPEN? "Yeah, I think everybody gets a sense of that. I think everybody does. I don't think it's entirely restricted to the race teams either. I think it's going to echo in every facet of the race weekend of the series itself over the entire year. It's going to affect how the networks do business, how many people they bring in. It's really going to affect everything."

IS THERE ANYTHING NASCAR CAN DO TO HELP? "They can just do the best they can to try to get through it. You do the best you can. Just try not to make any mistakes really. It's tender times, you just try not to make any mistakes."

IS NASCAR MAYBE GETTING TOO LAYERED, TOO BIG AND HOW MUCH IS IT ECONOMY DRIVEN OR IS IT A COMBINATION OF BOTH OF THOSE? "Well the economy really affects everything. It's only a rare occasion where something isn't affected by the economy and such a huge swing that we've had in the last several weeks. Some of the biggest news that we've had in the stock market and on Wall Street some of the companies that you thought would never fail have fallen so that has to affect us especially when we're so dependent on the corporate world and now they're so reluctant to be involved with the future as unsure as it is. We've have a lot of companies that are very dependable and dedicated and are sticking to their programs which is great to see because everybody knows it's going to run around. I think that NASCAR can never be too big."

"I learned a very valuable lesson, I think that when things are going really, really well, try not to get cognizant of what you are doing and what you're spending. You know you want to hire this guy because he's a buddy of yours and you want to bring this guy in because you're related to him and this guy in because you heard he's great. You've got to be careful.

"You just need to have what you need and nothing more or nothing less. You need to just take what you can afford and when it comes to assets, people, parts, pieces everything. We were all on the upswing for so long I think a lot of people kept it under control and some people got a little ahead of themselves a little bit. It was unfortunate. Nobody saw the economy, the housing deal going like it went, nobody seen any of that coming. At least none of us. We're not financial experts."

WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SEE GM LOSING 2.5 BILLION DOLLARS IN ONE QUARTER? "I hope we get it turned around. Nothing different than what you thought, I don't think. I don't know. I'm no expert at that stuff. I don't want to quote myself in a paper what I think about Chevrolet's troubles. Everybody knows that's not good. I do what I'm supposed to do. I do my job and do the best I can to sell cars for them on Monday's and I hope they've got the right people in the right place to turn it around and stop the bleeding. That's all you can hope for."

IS THE NEW CAMARO GOING TO GO INTO PRODUCTION? "Yeah, I'm excited to get an opportunity to have one and I think it's a good looking car. It was a lot of fun to go over, it was sort of what we did with the truck when we were going to go into production with it so we can actually buy them but they didn't sell the truck which I was disappointed in. I was very happy with the ideas they had. I like the blue Camaro too. I was looking at that. It's rather out of my price range but I'm very happy with how it turned out."

HOW MUCH INFLUENCE DID YOU HAVE? "A lot. I went to the design center and we sat down and went through probably 15 different ideas on just paint schemes, designs and then we went through colors and then we went into the interior and looked at the little ways we could kind of neaten up the interior and make it more unique. We had more limited options in what we could change in the drive train but we changed some stuff and made it pretty interesting."

IF JIMMIE (JOHNSON) WINS THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW, WHERE DOES HE JUMP UP IN THE LIST OF DRIVERS? "Top-10 for sure. I think if he could sustain it over his career and run like he's running over the next five years he will be considered widely as one of the best also. The articles will begin to start surfacing about how would he and Daddy worked against each other and raced against each other and it would have been exactly how Dad and Jeff (Gordon) were I imagine. Jeff and Jimmie are very equal in talent I think, very, very much the same. They drive differently and like different things about their race cars but they get the same results and wherever you rank Jeff you've got to put Jimmie right there."

HAS HE CAUGHT JEFF? "No, you've got to give Jeff some appreciation and you've got to give Jeff some credit in what he's been able to do in his career and what he can still do in his career but I would them very close together."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Helton
Teams JR Motorsports