DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, improvements in his team, JUNIOR, YOU FINISHED 8TH LAST WEEK AND NOW YOU ARE AT TALLADEGA...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, improvements in his team,
JUNIOR, YOU FINISHED 8TH LAST WEEK AND NOW YOU ARE AT TALLADEGA WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN REALLY, REALLY GOOD. IS NOW THE TIME TO GET SOME MOMENTUM BUILT UP? "We can try to add to our points total and just have been trying to race every lap and every track with the mindset of trying to gain as many points each week to add to the total as we can to give ourselves the chance to finish in the Chase. The race itself is going to be a hard one to win and if we can be up there in the mix I hope we can get a good finish to help us in the points as much as we can get."
HOW DOES THE TRACK SEEM OUT THERE? "The track is in good shape. Plenty wide and plenty of grip."
YOU GUYS STILL LEARNING MORE ABOUT THESE CARS DURING PRACTICE OR DO YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW? "I think the race is long enough for you to learn what you need to learn. The draft is a little bit different with the spoiler and the plate they chose. The cars do a little bit different things and some things work better or a little worse and it's a little different. You don't want to run too much. You just want to get your car running as good as you can. There's not a lot that we can do to the cars to make them any faster with the rules the way they are you can't adjust on the car that much so it is what it is when you unload it and you just try to go out there in the race and learn what is working and who is good to work with and try to make it happen."
ARE YOU HAPPY WEHRE THE SPEEDS ARE RIGHT NOW? "Yeah, it feels really, really slow to me and it just feels real draggy and slow to me."
MORE TIME TO THINK THEN, RIGHT? "Yes, I reckon. More time to think. There's a lot of funny stuff going on out there and it's wild. Its fun drafting but every other lap there someone else gets a run and shakes things up."
HOW DO YOU THINK ARPIN IS DOING? "I just got here this morning and drove into the track and saw him at the top of the board before Harvick got up there. You know Tony Jr. and those guys will work with him and he seems to have a great attitude and personality and seems to be a real good guy to be around and he seems to be deserving of an opportunity and I hope we can give him the one that he was hoping to get. We can give him good cars and cars that he will be proud to drive and happy to drive."
ANY MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS AROUND HIM? "No, but we got a couple coming up."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DRIVING THAT #3 WRANGLER CAR IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? "Well we really ain't got anything confirmed. DW sort of blew the lid off of it on Twitter nonetheless but..........so that kind of ruined our announcement but we will put together and we will have an announcement real soon and explain what that whole program is all about and how it came about and what is going down with it. And it's unfortunate that DW uncovered that and the way it went down because we didn't want to have to announce it like this so we will do it when we had it originally planned and that is all I can tell you about it."
ABOUT HAVING MORE CONFIDENCE ABOUT WINNING HERE THAN ANYWHERE ELSE: "No, I don't feel like I have more confidence that I could win here because when you are out there drafting it's like anybody can lead, anybody can get a run here and pass you at any moment and you are just vulnerable all the time. So you are playing just as much defense as you are playing offense and I probably feel like I had a better chance to win last week than I do here. When you drive the car into the lead and you are sitting there in the top three and you are thinking man if things go the right way here for us we have a shot. But it's really a lottery all the way down here to the last lap."
YOU WERE REALLY GOOD THE WAY IT USED TO DRAFT IS IT DIFFERENT NOW? "Not really. It's much more of a level playing field. Every car in the field can take the lead and drive to the front and draft to the front. There is not a whole lot different on any of the cars than any of the other cars in the garage. The rules are the rule and all the packages are the same and everybody has got the same stuff so the cars all drive the same. You really have got to have a little bit of luck but you also have to know what you are doing. It who makes the move at the right time. Not too late, not too early and who gets the draft off the right car and gets pushed by the right guy. It's just such a lottery really and maybe one day we will get back to driving around here and adjusting on the handle -- but probably not for a while."
IS IT AS FUN AS IT USED TO BE COMING HERE WHERE YOU CAN DRIVE WITHOUT ABANDON OR DO YOU HAVE TO THINK MORE "Running out here in the draft today is just as fun. It's like I said you play defense for a little while until your car comes to life and you get a push or run from somebody and you play offense for a while and then have a little fun and do what you can with it till it's gone and then you get back on the defense for a few laps. It's a lot of fun and I enjoy it and I hope to just make the right moves. You can make the right moves or you can make a lot of mistakes."
HOW ANXIOUS ARE YOU TO GET BACK INTO VICTORY LANE HERE? SEEMS LIKE ITS BEEN FOREVER. "It was 2004 or 2005 so it's only been a couple years ago. I'm anxious to win, wherever we can win. I really don't put more emphasis on Talladega or Daytona over any other track. Anywhere we can pick up a win it will be just as celebrated or appreciated than it is than any other race."
YOU HAVE THAT 200TH MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION THING COMIGN UP HERE IN A COUPLE WEEKS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PART OF THAT? "Well I have enjoyed working with that charity. When I was young and we had just kind of come into the sport we had people coming up that were interested in our involvement from all different areas and I just kind of stuck with Make-A-Wish because I enjoyed that experience every weekend with meeting the kids and enjoyed the process that it made and learning about those kids and their stories so I just kind of stuck with it. You know, I hope we can do 200 more. I hope we can do as many as we can do. So it's a lot of fun and it sort of is consistent with the mission at our foundation and working with Victory Junction and it is a lot of fun and I have really enjoyed it and it's a great, great charity and the kids get a great experience and all kinds of experiences and vacations and stuff."
ABOUT WATCHING THE LAST FEW LAPS AT THE DAYTONA 500 AND IF IT SEEMED AS REMARKABLE IN WATCHING IT TO YOU AS IT WAS TO EVERYONE ELSE? "I have watched it and to me it wasn't really out of the norm and to me I was surprised to run second in that race with how we had run all day. The way the draft works all those things just sort of.........there are opportunities and they are always there for you and like I said you can make mistakes........not really causing crashes but just choosing the wrong line or choosing to do the wrong thing at the wrong time and your offense is over with and you go on the defense. Your car.........you get these runs from these people and you get in attack mode and you try to start making the most out of it and pass as many cars as you can while this run is happening and then the run fades and you are sort of back on the defense trying to stop the bleeding and keep the guys from.........keep from losing those spots to guys making runs behind you. You have to let some of them go because they are ten miles an hour faster and you can't jump in front of them but you try to do what you can and you try to maintain what you got on that last run. And you just keep getting that same cycle that keeps happening all day long and during that particular one in that race I just made enough of the right decisions and hell if I had made a couple more.........maybe I made a couple wrong decisions that cost me the race and if we had done something differently maybe we would have been holding the trophy at the end of that race but we did enough right decisions to get to where we were. That opportunity is there for everybody at the end of these things."
ARE WE SEEING THE DALE JR. OF OLD IN BEING AGGRESSIVE ON THE TRACK? "It's no disrespect to the cars that I have drove in the past, but people, even people close to me have said, that I need to be more aggressive. You can't be aggressive when you are going backwards. Hell, you are just going to piss everybody off. You can't be aggressive when you are sitting there trying to hang on to you're a** all day long running 25th. When the car is good, I can do that and I will. I am willing to do that. I get fired up and opportunities. See the win standing there in front of me and I can get aggressive. Every driver is that way when they smell it. When you smell it that opportunity. But when you car's not running good and you are going backwards, beating on everybody ain't going to nothing but make you a bunch of enemies so you sort of got to ride it out until your shit turns around and you get going. When you are playing offense all day long, it is easy to look cool and drive on the edge and get everybody up on their feet. But when you are just hanging on, trying not to wreck, trying to stay the hell out of everybody's way, it is difficult to be aggressive and wild and flashy or whatever."
SO HOW ARE YOU NOW? "Depends on how the car is like every day, you know what I mean? It's like that every week, you hope it is good and when it is good, you can drive with a lot of exhuberence and excitement in your step. When you are struggling a little bit, you just sort of kind of maintain until you have an opportunity to fix it on the next stop or the next stop, or next stop. When we are not running that great and the car is not that great, we just try to maintain until we have the opportunity to try to fix it in the race. We've been getting better. Last week was a great opportunity for us to see that is how we need to be running. We haven't really ran like that at Atlanta, Vegas and all those places. We can see that we can get there. I think that isn't everything, but them guys to see that happen helps them a lot."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE BEING SEVENTH IN POINTS, YOU ARE FLYING UNDER THE RADAR? "I don't know. I don't feel a lot of pressure from the public and the media that much right now. I don't know that we are under the radar but we are definitely not in the center of it. It is nice to be able to not have that kind of pressure on you because people tend to make more mistakes when they feel like they are being watched all the time. That is the same for the whole team. When we get to feeling like we are being studied and looked at very hard, it is easy to make mistakes under that kind of pressure. It is nice right now, it has really been pretty good."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT GOING AIRBORNE HERE? "I don't really ever worry about going airborne. Hell, it happens so fast, you don't know, you are completely upside down before you realize you have come off the ground. I remember at Daytona in the Nationwide car, hell, I just landed when I understood that I'd just went upside down. Just happened so fast and is over with. I used to tell people that going upside down and getting airborne in a car like that going that fast is an experience that you really can't go buy a ticket for. I don't cherish or enjoy-that isn't the right word, that experience is uncommon and not many people get the opportunity to be involved in something like that. It is wild and it is something that you never forget. I've been upside down and it doesn't scare you, it doesn't scare me, it hasn't yet. I imagine some things happen that could scare you, but they haven't scared me yet.
DW FORGOT TO TELL US (ON TWITTER) THAT YOU SHAVED. "I had an AMP production this week and a Wrangler one next one. I had to get back in to shape. It was getting warm too. It was getting a little bit warm."
DID YOU CUT YOURSELF? "I have an electric razor."
HOW HOT DID IT THE MOTOR GET DURING PRACTICE? "240 during a particular run with Jimmie (Johnson). And 220 in a couple of other runs tight on people. 240 is pretty good. I don't really like doing that during practice. From what I was thinking, if you get in four to go, you can count on being able to pushing someone for them four laps without any problems. 220-240 for me."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN RACING YOU WOULDN'T HAVE LEARNED ANY OTHER WAY IN LIFE? "I think that what I have learned in racing. I would have learned in any other direction in life but just on a different scale. Maybe some parts of being in this business pronounce some experiences more than say if you were a plumber or whatever. I think the one thing that you can never be good enough at is just being a people person. Working with your team and the camaraderie aspect of the group that we have. Trying to get people to rally behind you. Tony, Sr. gets that Nationwide team to work through anything with him. They believe in him and want to go to battle with him every day. Being that kind of guy. Getting to that level to where people are willing to go wherever you say go and they believe what you are telling him. I think that is something that I enjoy learning and getting better at."
IT SEEMS IN ALABAMA, YOU GET IDOLIZED AS MUCH AS BEAR BRYANT, HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? "I don't think that is even close to a good comparison. Maybe to the race fans, but Bear Bryant is a pretty big deal around here. When I come down here, I feel at home and I feel comfortable. I've always enjoyed coming here when I was a little kid. This was such a great place to be when you are 13 years old running around in the garage when they used to have the open garage. It was just so different. The racing was a lot of fun to watch back then."
DO YOU FEEL A CONNECTION TO ALABAMA, LIKE AN ADOPTED SON? "Yes, absolutely."
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING THAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU COME IN TO THIS TRACK? "That it is a real easy weekend. We run a little bit of laps today, we are going to try something here in second practice. It is really laid back Friday. Saturday is even more laid back, you get in the car, run two laps of qualifying. The race is really where the work begins. But it is not a very difficult race physically. Mentally it is kind of touch because of the decisions you are making all the time, it is really almost as close to having a weekend off as you can get."
ARE THE OFF SEASON CHANGES ON THE TEAM THE REASON YOU ARE RUNNING SO CONSISTENTLY NOW? "I feel like they are. We added an engineer and a couple of other people were moved around. The group, I feel like, erased their memory of last year and started with a fresh start this year and a better attitude. We all sort of, I am not taking any credit for it, I think we all feed off of it. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) has been a great general for our program and he is doing a good job running the show. We all kind of feed off of that authority and that conviction and the organization that we have now, where we were a little bit distraught and unorganized last year in our brains. Now we are all feeling pretty put together and we're going to the track to accomplish things."
YOU ARE A HISTORIAN OF SORTS ABOUT THE SPORT, DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT HOW THE DRIVER COMPENSATION HAS CHANGE? "Yes, it surprised the hell out of me. In just the last six, eight years, it has changed incredibly. But, I think we are all in for a good reset as a lot of these contracts run out the new ones won't be quite as big. But still bigger than we had seen five years ago. I don't know how that happened because it escalated more than other things in the sport as far pay raises go. It is quite incredible what you hear, you don't know for sure, what drivers were making in '98 and '99 compared to now."
-source: gm racing