Talladega: Earnhardt Jr - GM top-ten interview

Aaron's 499 - Talladega Superspeedway Behind the Hauler Chat with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME FOR THIS RACE: "Sure, it's a lot of fun. It's a...

Aaron's 499 - Talladega Superspeedway
Behind the Hauler Chat with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS

ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME FOR THIS RACE: "Sure, it's a lot of fun. It's a good-looking car. It's a pretty neat little paint scheme. And it's a great weekend to have it."

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE WAY YOUR DAD (DALE EARNHARDT) ATTACKED THIS PLACE? "He just seemed to know exactly what to do whenever he needed to do it. He had some good race cars. RCR had a pretty good program. He was a great driver on the plate tracks and he just knew everything he needed to do and he had people around him and other drivers that believed if they stuck with him, they'd get somewhere. So he always had plenty of help on hand."

AS AN IMPRESSIONABLE YOUNG RACE CAR DRIVER BACK THEN, WHAT DID YOU THINK? "I just pulled for him, you know. I was his son. I wasn't much thinking about the driving side of it. I just wanted to go to victory lane when the day was over with (laughs)."

DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING IN PRACTICE? "Yeah, we tried a couple of things and we improved the car. It's kind of tough out there. Everybody is sort of clued together. It's hard to see a dominant car. Everybody seems to be about the same. You've just got to make the right moves and be in the right line."

DO YOU THINK THESE SOFT BUMPERS ARE GOING TO HAVE ANY KIND OF IMPACT ON THE RACE SUNDAY? "I don't know. I used mine and it works just fine (laughter)."

WITH SO MANY WINS HERE BY YOUR DAD AND YOU, WHAT DOES TALLADEGA MEAN TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY? "Well, I've got a lot of friends in the area and fans love to see us run good. So it's great to come here because you know you're going to have a lot of people cheering for you. That's probably the thing that stands out. We want to do good here and keep those guys happy. We like to get out front and like to lead laps."

MARK MARTIN SAYS YOU'VE INHERITED THE SAME TALENTS AS YOUR DAD AND THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT COLOR CAR YOU HAVE, YOU'RE ALWAYS DANGEROUS TO WATCH "I appreciate that Mark Martin has given me a couple of good compliments over the last couple of months and it means a lot coming a veteran like him -- a guy I look up to and admire so much. I just watched him drive races here. He never really had any 'moves' or anything you could copy, you just had to know what you were doing and know when to do it. I try to find my way to the front with respect for the people who are out on the race track with me. Sometimes you have to ditch your friends and that's the tough part about it. You want to lead and you want to win and you can't do it by pushing one of your buddies to the front all the time. I try to help the guys who have worked with me in the past as much as I can, but at one point, there are decisions that have got to be made between the two of you and that's probably the hardest out there is knowing when you've got to do that."

WILL YOU DRIVE THE BLACK AND SILVER NO. 8 CAR AT FUTURE RACES? "I'm not the best person to ask. I got an e-mail from Jade (Gurss, PR manager) that we were going to do it, about two months ago. Obviously if Teresa (Earnhardt) wants to run it again, I'd be happy to drive the car."

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO PUT THIS CAR IN VICTORY LANE HERE IN TALLADEGA? "It'd be pretty hot. I think the fans would appreciate it a lot. It'd make a lot of the fans happy and make a lot of the guys at RCR happy and a lot of the guys from that team in the 80s and early 90s. I think they can appreciate the paint scheme and the fans definitely appreciate it. It'd mean a lot to me to be able to see the look on their faces."

HOW ARE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING SUNDAY? "They're good. We have a good track record here. I feel confident in the car that I drove a few minutes ago. As long as things go good for us maybe we'll have a shot."

ON HOW THE SOFT BUMPERS WILL AFFECT THE RACE: "From what I feel, a lot of guys are real timid to use the bumpers right now. They're still useable you just got to be careful and be easy while you're doing it.

"I think a lot of guys will get into about middle way through the race and everybody probably will have forgotten they're on there. It worked pretty good. I used mine a little bit. If you draft easy and bump draft easy, it's still really, really effective and you can do it without harming the nose of the car at all from what I've seen."

DO YOU AGREE THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID BUMP DRAFTING DOESN'T USUALLY CAUSE THE BIG ONE? "Well no. We've seen a lot of big crashes over the years caused by a lot of different reasons. Bump drafting came under criticism because of how rough it had become not necessarily because of the wrecks it was causing. It was just getting rough and a lot of guys don't like getting run into that hard no matter where you are at. It's probably a good thing to do with the draft. I think once we get out there at the end with the soft bumpers and have a race or two under our belt, it will definitely be a positive."

ARE YOU CONCERNED YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TO VICTORY LANE IN A WHILE OR ARE YOU CLOSE TO GETTING A WIN? "We're always there. I think we're a great race team with a lot of talent throughout the team. We just have to get a couple of races to go our way. It's a matter of time in my hands."

DO YOU FIND IT HARDER TO GET FRIENDS TO DRAFT WITH YOU AT THE END OF THE RACE BECAUSE OF YOUR SUCCESS HERE? "It's probably true. Yeah, that's a good way to put it. It's harder to get guys to draft with you. We used to get a lot of help because our car was real, real dominant. It was obviously better than anything here and when you see that kind of car going around the race track, you want to latch onto it and go to the front with it. I think when guys see that we're not as dominant and maybe just on an even playing field, everybody is sort of looking at it as an opportunity for them to get their shot to win. They're looking at an opportunity to be up front and for them to win the race.

So yeah you're not going to get quite as much help but you still have some guys that got a lot of respect for you and understand the skill I have on the plate tracks and will work with me."

WHAT'S THE PROCESS OF CLIMBING THAT LADDER TO SUCCESS? "I think it's just time working together. Tony (Eury) Jr. (crew chief) will make some decisions over the next several months that will improve the team as any crew chief does. Without the opportunity to test as much as we had in the past, we're in search a little bit on some set-up stuff. Once we hit on it, like you see other teams that have hit on things, I think we'll be able to contend regularly. Right now we're every other week hit and miss. If you look at our track record, that was our theme in the past except for '04. (Then) we were strong pretty much every week. We'll try to get back to that form. Like I said, some of the set-up stuff that we're running right now we're just a little bit from having it figured out and mastered."

ARE YOU MAKING PROGRESS? "We struggled pretty badly last year with our motors and our cars and our programs even in the Busch Series. Martin (Truex Jr.) struggled there for a good part of the season at the beginning. As a company, we're definitely on the up swing. I don't know what that's attributed to, maybe everybody getting off each other's backs and me keeping my mouth shut and trying to provide some encouragement when I can and some positive comments on how things have improved and trying to keep people's morale up. I think we'll continue to improve as along as we continue to keep our morale up. I think when I beat up the engine shop, morale got down and those guys don't want to build engines for a guy that's going to talk about them like that. You learn your lessons through those experiences."

-gm racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP