"Thank you all for coming. My name is David Hart. I'm the Director of Communications for Richard Childress Racing. I'd like to introduce Richard Childress, President and CEO of Richard Childress Racing." Richard Childress: "First off, I'd...
"Thank you all for coming. My name is David Hart. I'm the Director of Communications for Richard Childress Racing. I'd like to introduce Richard Childress, President and CEO of Richard Childress Racing."
Richard Childress: "First off, I'd like to thank all the press for giving us our space during this time. It hasn't been easy for any of us and it hasn't been easy for a lot of the press because I know how a lot of you all felt about Dale as well.
"Dale Earnhardt and I talked about what would happen if I was in Africa and got run over by an elephant, or fell off of a mountain, or if something happened to him in whatever manner,what we would want and what we would want to do. And it is to go on. Both of us are racers, and Dale Earnhardt was a racer. And we made a pledge to each other that we would go on. We renewed it again after New Hampshire. That's what we're going to do, and we're going to do what Dale would want us to do and that's race this week. I mean it's tough. The toughest thing we'll do when that green flag falls is to start that race without Dale Earnhardt.
"We've had a lot of people support us. GM Goodwrench, a lot of our sponsors that was on the No. 3 black car, and we're going to run Kevin Harvick in a Goodwrench No. 29 white car. Kevin's a strong individual. He's a very talented race driver and that's the reason we brought him on two or three years ago to be an addition to RCR.This happened a lot sooner than any of us ever expected, and it isn't the way Kevin wanted to get into a Winston Cup car.
"We had made an announcement in Daytona to run an American Online car No. 30 with Kevin next year, seven races this year and a full season next year. So what we're going to do it that he is going to start driving the GM Goodwrench car. We will be looking for a driver for seven races this year and possibly the full race schedule for the No. 30 team next year.
"Mike Skinner has been a champion at heart with Dale Earnhardt and we brought him up to answer any questions, and Kevin Hamlin is the crew chief, and we've got him up here too. This isn't easy for any of us and we're just going to try to go this week, do our best, and I've got all the confidence in the world, and Dale had a lot of confidence in Kevin Harvick's driving ability."
Question to Kevin Harvick: Last week at Daytona, you talked about how important it was to draw off the experience and valuable resources of Mike(Skinner) and Dale (Earnhardt) this year before running a full season. Now, you don't have that -- you can draw off Mike -- but how will that affect your development in Winston Cup?
Kevin Harvick: "Well,obviously it's not going to help it any. It's going to affect it in a big way. But this is a strong organization. There are a whole bunch of race cars involved in this organization. Obviously,this is going to draw us a whole lot closer together than we were. Kevin (Hamlin) and I and Mike Skinner and Richard (Childress) -- we're just going to do our best. And I'd like to say one thing. Dale Earnhardt was probably the best racecar driver there ever is going to be in NASCAR and nobody will ever replace him. I think we all know that.I would hope that you guys (the media) don't expect me to replace him, because nobody ever will.
Question to Mike Skinner: What is it like for you personally and to your career to lose Dale Earnhardt?
Mike Skinner: "Like Richard (Childress) said, it's devastating. Dale and I had a very,very mutual respect for one another. We weren't best friends; we didn't go fishing together every weekend. But I always thought, and still do, that he was the very best to date, the year 2001, that ever sat behind the wheel of aracecar. Whether you're a fan or not, I don't think you can deny that. He was the kind of guy that would come up to you one day and not talk to you. The next day's he's your best friend. Matter of fact, he come and found me at Daytona and said, 'Boy, you've got a good racecar today. Keep your head on. If you do a good job, you can with this race.' You've all heard him talk before you can go word-for-word and be pretty close. We've got some other things going that we've got to put on the back burner. I found out this week that Dale was real strong behind me. Dale was the kind of guy that would never tell me that he thought I was a great racecar driver, but he told everybody else. He told Richard alot. And I've got a hell of a respect for him.
"But we've got to go on. I've also got a lot of respect for Kevin Harvick. I've raced against him in the (NASCAR Craftsman) Truck Series; I've raced against him in the Busch Series. I've had a hard time out-running him when he had half the vehicle I did. Like Kevin said, no one will ever attempt to fill the shoes of Dale Earnhardt. But we've got to go on. The quicker we can go on, the quicker we can put all this to bed. Our car owner can start focusing on winning races again and doing well in this sport. I think Kevin Harvick's going to do a heck of a job. I worked with Kevin Hamlin my rookie year and we get along great. We're still good friends. I think we can draw off each other, and go on, and do real well. It's going to take this team a couple weeks to get back up on its feet. Don't be surprised if you see the No. 29 can and the No. 31 car do real well this week."
Question to Richard Childress: "What are your plans for the No. 2 ACDelco car that Kevin Harvick is now running in the Busch Series?
Richard Childress: "I know Kevin is a tough guy. He's been working out all winter. and mentally, he's strong. We're going to try to run him every race with the No. 2 ACDelco and the No. 29 GM Goodwrench cars. It's going to be tough. We're going to be doing a lot of flying across the country. But we owe it to the guys who worked on the car this winter and we owe it to ACDelco and Goodwrench to try to give them the best."
Question to Richard Childress: Do you have any thoughts about whether or not you're going to retire the No. 3?
Richard Childress: "That was a question that came up a whole lot. And I understand there are petitions out there to retire it. Talking with NASCAR, all I can do is tell you about my conversations with them. We're going to put the No. 3in a moratorium for one year and not run the No. 3 on anything. We will never run a No. 3, black, Goodwrench car again. We may run a No. 3 car again some day. We've got 28 years that RCR has vested in it. Junior Johnson made the No. 3 famous back in his era. This is a totally different situation. Right now, all I can say about the No. 3 is that NASCAR says that they do not retire numbers, and that they would like to see us keep the number. We plan on keeping the No. 3. They're going to work with us to put it in a moratorium. You're supposed to run it five times, but they're going to waive that. We'll go forward and see how this feels and see what happens from this point."
Question to Kevin Harvick: What kind of pressure are you feeling now?
Kevin Harvick: "Richard asked me to do this on Monday. He's done a lot for me; he's done a lot for Kevin Hamlin and Mike Skinner. And I think anybody in the business will tell you he is the best car owner you can have in this business. There's 190people at RCR behind me. And that was what I wanted. Nobody said life was easy. But when he asked me to do it, Dale joked about buying me out of my contract to run a Winston Cup car, and he put the pressure on us in Phoenix. And I think that this is what Dale Earnhardt would want to happen, and I could tell you about the conversations the three of us have had. It'll be tough, but we're a pretty tough team. We're going to do the best we can. Hopefully there'll b a time when we can get out of the car and say that one was for Dale when we win our first race."
Question to Richard Childress: What is the significance of the No. 29? Would you consider maybe the No. 37 -- a three and seven championships?
Richard Childress: "None of us were thinking clear, and none of us gave that a thought. That would have been a wonderful idea. I wish you would have came to me and we would have made it. We just picked the very first number that NASCAR said was out there. There's no significant number. That would have been a great idea if we would have been thinking. But it's times like this I've leaned on some friends to try to help us in these situations and they say be careful -- especially of business decisions you make at this point. We just weren't thinking clear. We wanted to get a racecar and get out there like Dale Earnhardt wanted us to do and race. If I had it to do over, I may have used 37."
Question to Kevin Harvick: How are you doing now emotionally, and what is it like to be back at the track this weekend?
Kevin Harvick: "Well, obviously I didn't know Dale as long as Richard did. It's a devastating blow to all of us. I had just gotten to know Dale and have conversations with him. I grew up watching him. He was a hero to me. And a friend. He'd want me to drive the hell out of his racecar if he was here this weekend and had broken his leg or something, so that's what we're going to do."
Question to Kevin Harvick: What are your thoughts about the amount of seat time you've had in a Winston Cup car and also about this tough track at Rockingham?
Kevin Harvick: "Rockingham's a tough track. I missed the race here in the Busch car here last spring and then wound up running good at the end of the year (Fall). I'll rely on this guy right here (Mike Skinner) and that guy (Kevin Hamlin) and Richard to help me as much as they can. We're just going to take it one step at a time, and do all we can do. I drove a Winston West car for two years and they're the same racecar. I've driven trucks and they've got a lot of horsepower too. We were in Atlanta Tuesday and Wednesday testing the No. 30 car.And we tested Earnhardt's car last year at Homestead and Kentucky four or five times."
Question for Kevin Hamlin: As crew chief, do you feel responsibility to offer some sort of stewardship to the team?
Kevin Hamlin: "It kind of is my job to keep the team pulled together and keep everyone's heads on straight, emotionally. The good thing about that is there's a whole bunch of people at RCR that are helping me do that. We're all helping one another through this situation. I think everybody out there has seen that through the outpouring (of feelings)throughout the country, the world. And there's a lot of people that have called, sent flowers, sent letters. We're racing with one thing in mind."
Question for Richard Childress: If it was up to you, and NASCAR had nothing to say about it, what would you really like to do with the No. 3 number?
Richard Childress: "That's a tough one. Again, Dale and I knew what we were going to do if we retired. Neither one of us ever knew anything like this would ever happen. We were going to carry on with the No. 3 car. And he was going to help me pick who we wanted to put in that car. He didn't want to put just anybody in that car. This is a different situation. I really don't know what I would do."
Question for Richard Childress: Dale was so much of what NASCAR is to so many people, where does NASCAR go without him?
Richard Childress: "You know, I've asked where Richard Childress goes without him. I don't know."
Question for Kevin Harvick: Are you going to wear the HANS device this weekend?
Kevin Harvick: "I'm not going to wear the HANS device. I have a device that we've made in the seat belt, strapped around your chest, into your crotch belt, and hooked up in the same spot at the HANS device. I could not make the HANS device work with movement in the car; it shoved me down into the seat. And we believe we have a device that's almost as effective as the HANS device, and I will wear that this weekend."