DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Tony Stewart's contract and possible changes, his experience as both a team owner and driver, Dale Earnhardt Day, what it would mean to win Sunday's...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Tony Stewart's contract and possible changes, his experience as both a team owner and driver, Dale Earnhardt Day, what it would mean to win Sunday's race, and more.
REGARDING THE NAVY PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT OF A CELEBRITY RECRUITING PROGRAM CALLED THE "DALE JR DIVISION" DESIGNED TO BRING 88 YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN INTO THE SERVICE. THE PROGRAM KICKS OFF MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: "You took all the great points (laughs). We'll be driving a car at Charlotte in May all painted up with the Dale Jr. logo to sort of kick this off and we're just trying to hopefully get 88 men and women excited about the opportunity to join the Navy and this special opportunity to be in this division. And hopefully this is just a sign of things to come. This is a unique program that the Navy has never done before on a national scale. I'm very proud of that. Hopefully it gives several guys and gals the opportunity to have a great career, travel the world and see and learn about a lot of new and exciting things; all under our banner. That'll be pretty awesome."
WITH YOUR SPONSORSHIPS WITH THE NAVY AND THE COAST GUARD, CAN YOU ADDRESS YOUR PATRIOTISM AND IS IT THINGS AROUND THE WATER, MILITARILY, THAT INTEREST YOU? "It's the National Guard, actually. I'm definitely in a unique position to have the support in our racing programs by two separate divisions of the military. They are one team when they have a job to do. They all work together in several different ways. They show a lot of appreciation and respect in how they work together and how they try to finish their jobs. Again, it's a unique position for me and for any team really, to have two separate organizations (as sponsors). They are all competing for the same recruits and they all try to do the same job there from the same pool. But I enjoy it; I really do.
"My relationship with the Navy has been very interesting and very eye-opening to be able to go to all the appearances and see the things that I've seen and see the lifestyle that these kids lead and the type of situations that they're placed in and the type of opportunities that they are given through their involvement in the Navy. It's the same way with the Guard. But we've had the relationship with the Navy for a bit longer. My knowledge of that side of the sponsorship goes a little bit further. But they've both been very enjoyable."
TONY STEWART IS GOING THROUGH A SITUATION A LITTLE BIT LIKE YOUR'S LAST YEAR IN THAT HE IS LOOKING AT OPTIONS. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HIM? WOULD YOU LIKE HIM AS A TEAMMATE IF HE DECIDES TO LEAVE GIBBS? "Well, like when Martin's (Truex, Jr.) situation surfaced in the media about his contract, I feel I have the same opinions. I like the teammates I've got now. I've got a good relationship with Tony. I think that Tony is always been really good at making smart business decisions and he's sort of always on the front lines of what's going on and what he needs to do and what's good for him. He's always really pro-active in that sense. A lot of guys sort of just take their position and just sit on it for years. And he's always trying to put himself in a better position constantly, in the business sense of the job and the sport. It's pretty admirable I guess, how involved in it he is and how he's constantly trying to discover a better position for himself and a better way for him to succeed in his future. He's just trying to get to where we're all trying to get as far as once you reach retirement age and whatnot. He wants to put himself in the best position he can possibly be in. He's really proactive more so than a lot of guys about that."
DESCRIBE SOME OF THE CORE VALUES THAT THE NAVY HAS THAT CORRELATE WITH NASCAR DRIVERS? "It's a tough job, either one. You travel a whole lot. You get to see a lot of things. You get to learn and witness a lot of stuff and see different parts of the country. In the Navy you see a lot of different parts of the world. You're challenged all the time and you're constantly improving as a person and as a competitor and I think that there are a lot of similarities between the two."
IF YOU COULD GIVE TONY STEWART A PAGE OR TWO OUT OF THE PLAYBOOK THAT YOU DEVELOPED LAST YEAR GOING THROUGH SOME OF THE SAME THINGS, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM? ARE THERE ANY WARNINGS YOU WOULD GIVE HIM? "Tony is in a different deal to where his contract isn't up. So he's in a different situation entirely than I was. Tony has several different options. Staying where he is is a great one. Joe (Gibbs) is going to be around for a long time. Joe's going to be competitive and have a great program for a long time. Or, he could become his own Joe Gibbs if he wants to. And Tony has networked his entire career. He has a lot of relationships with a lot of people that would suit him well should he ever decide to become an owner in this sport. So really, it's up to Tony and what he wants to do because I think he could accomplish his goals however he wants to stack it up."
TONY HAS EXPRESSED INTEREST IN POSSIBLY BECOMING AN OWNER. YOU ARE AN OWNER. FROM THAT PERSPECTIVE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM BEFORE HE JUMPED INTO THAT? "Well he's wanting to be an owner in the Cup Series, I presume, where your chance at having a profit is a little bit better. In the corporate world, it's a well-known fact what the dollar is for a sponsorship versus the Nationwide Series. In truth, what you spend and the sponsorship dollars are two different things. In the Nationwide Series and the Cup Series, it costs about the same to race. But the sponsorship dollars are quite a bit more.
"That's smart to be in the Cup Series. It's a whole lot more feasible financially. I asked Kevin Harvick a lot of questions when I got in the Nationwide Series and he gave me some advice in a couple of areas on what I could do to watch costs and where costs were going to come from where I would least expect it and where I wouldn't really expect it to happen. That helped me a lot to get advice from Kevin. But I'm sure the same things apply in the Cup Series. The parts department could get out of control if you're allowing just any of your employees to run up to any of the parts trailers here at the race track or the radio trailer or whatever, at free will. That can get out of control. You need one guy for covering all those different things in the parts department. The parts department is kind of like once the guy who works in there goes in and locks the door behind him, nobody goes in. Everybody has to come over to the counter to get what they need. Everybody has to write in and sign off to get what they need. If you've got people walking in and out of your parts department, the parts are walking in and out too. There are just a lot of different things like that I would tell him."
IT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO HIM OR NOT? "I would recommend it to Tony. Like I said, I feel like he would be successful if he chose to go that way. I think he would be a fun owner. I'm sure he's going to continue to race, but at one point he won't and having been a driver will (help). You really like to work with the guys who understand where you're coming from, like Richard Childress and Rick (Hendrick) has even drove a lot and so you feel like you have a little better understanding with the guys that have been behind the wheel. So, Tony would fit right in there. He would be a fun owner. He would be a great guy to work for, I'm sure."
ON MOVING OUT OF A CONTRACT POSITION MORE THAN A YEAR AHEAD OF THE EXPIRATION, WHAT IS YOUR VIEW FROM THE DRIVER'S SIDE AND FROM THE OWNER'S SIDE? "I don't disagree with it happening this soon? I feel like too much press is being made of it at this point. I want to sit down at this table and eat, but I don't want to eat at it for year and a half. I want to read what you've (the media) got to say and I want to know what happens, but is it necessary for us to really begin the coverage at this point even though it's going on and we want to know and if everybody in this room agreed to just let it ride and get after it six months down the road, one guy is not going to agree with that and he's going to get a story and then so does the next guy and the next guy and we just go back to where we are now.
"More than anything, you just get tired of hearing about it. But I don't disagree that it's going on this early. I think it's fair for either side, the owner and the driver. Contracts are written in certain ways to prevent certain things from happening and certain people from talking to certain people. As long as everybody is going by those guidelines and being honest and truthful, I feel like all is fair. The media would do it justice by bringing a point to it, but yet when there is nothing else until the next true grit and true substance comes to the surface in the story itself, just really kind of letting it ride and letting it go. But some interesting points will be made throughout, what happens with Tony, whatever it is.
ON OWNERSHIP IN GENERAL "Yeah, it's tough. We built a Busch team in six months and we were on the race track. We didn't have nothing. We didn't have trailer. We didn't have employees. We had me and Steve Crisp and Kelley (Earnhardt) and in six months we had an entire team with cars. Where there's a will, there's a way. If you want to get it done, you'll get it done. But the sooner you can begin, the better. Now we're not talking about Tony moving to another team and just getting his seats and changing his address on his paycheck. We're talking about him creating his own Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing and that in itself might take that long. I assume that his mind isn't even made up there. That could take six months. I'm sure he has such a vision that it might take that long to get it the way he wants it."
REGARDING DALE EARNHARDT DAY ON THE 29TH, WHAT IS YOU PERSPECTIVE ON THAT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOUR FAMILY AND TO DEI? "I like the fact that they are making a point to have the celebration every year at DEI. It goes along to further how we think of my father and how we remember my father long after his death. I'm very proud of that. I'm very happy for Teresa and Dale Earnhardt Inc. and all the drivers that participate. It is a great sense of pride to have Aric and Mark and Truex and them guys showing up and putting in the time for the fans that will show up there. It's a little bit of work for those guys, and it's not necessarily in their contract, so I appreciate that they try to make that deal as big as they can for the fans that show up. When you start something, every day you've kind of got to outdo yourself a little bit and it's kind of tough. I think Taylor is going to be doing a little barrel racing and stuff like that so that'll be kind of fun. But Kerry will be there and all kinds of other cool stuff, I'm sure."
WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE IF HE WON SUNDAY'S RACE WITH HIS NEW TEAM? "We're looking forward to getting that (first) win (with HMS). You think about it. You dream about it. You want that feeling. You want to be able to celebrate like that. And so we're working really hard. We've got a great opportunity this weekend to win here at Talladega. We've had a lot of success here. We're going to have a lot of strong competition, I'm sure. But we've got a good shot. We've got a good race car and great crew chief. I feel like I can do a good job here. We've got a great opportunity, no doubt. We always come into this race as a favorite and I'd like to keep it that way for a long time."
-credit: gm racing