Watkins Glen: Earnhardt Jr grid position interview

DALE EARNHARDT , JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY, STARTING 2ND WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY'S RACE STARTING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FRONT ROW? "It is good for us if we can maintain the track position all day, that is really going to be...

DALE EARNHARDT , JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY, STARTING 2ND

WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY'S RACE STARTING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FRONT ROW?

"It is good for us if we can maintain the track position all day, that is really going to be the key, just trying to maintain it. It gives us a good opportunity so we don't really have to try certain strategies like we have in the past to get there. We can really kind of go off any strategy we want and feel like it is best for us and we don't have to make any sacrifices anywhere during the race unless we lose that track position and have to gain it back some way or another."

ARE YOU WORKING WITH RON FELLOWS THIS WEEK SINCE HE WON IN THE CAR YOU ARE DRIVING IN NATIONWIDE LAST WEEK?

"Yes. Ron drove our car last week. He is a good guy. I have known him for a long time. He is a hard act to follow so I have my work cut out for me! We became friends back in '99 when he was racing in the Nationwide Series periodically. I had a lot of respect for him; I went to several people like Ron to get help. We got to work together again with Corvette in 2001, he was a teammate of mine when I drove with my father and Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins, Ron was driving the other car. I have followed Ron's career, not just in NASCAR, but in the Corvette. He was another teammate of mine when we drove the Corvette again at Infineon. He has always been glad to help, you know. There are people that will help you; there is a difference in the guy that will help you and the guy that is glad to help you. He is one of those guys. He is happy to lend a hand however he can. He just likes to help people and see them do good. He is still a far superior road racer than a lot of the Cup guys in this sport that are regulars. It is good to be able to hang out with him once or twice a year throughout the season. It was a lot of fun to race with him last week and help him get a win. He helped us get the win too. It was very beneficial to my whole team while we are trying to search down some sponsorship money for next year and things like that. Then we had a new crew chief for that team. So, hopefully we can keep it rolling.

TALK ABOUT BEATING RON FELLOWS HERE AT WATKINS GLEN IN '99:

"I don't know I did that or how it happened. I just remember most of the day running about two car lengths behind him for about 20 laps, then I would run the next 20 laps about four car lengths behind him, then the next 20 laps would be about six car lengths and that was if I was lucky. At some point near the end of the race, his car started losing some power and my car was jumping out of gear, so he was running around with about 10 or 20 less horsepower and I was running around with one hand on the shifter holding it is third, fourth and whatnot. But it was a lot of fun. He come out of turn one and stumbles and I got on the inside of him and got by him through there. It was a big big moment for me because road racing is really really a challenge for me.

"When I first came in to this sport, I really applied myself to learning what I could about road racing and I felt like I was getting better at it. We only run it twice a year, I have had some pretty good cars over the last eight years, but here more recently we have struggled a little bit. That was it was a big win for me. It was a long, long, long time ago but it still meant a lot to me because I know how good Ron is."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN DEI AND MARTIN TRUEX, JR.:

"I was happy for Martin and DEI. It gives Martin another year because he can see what the landscape is like next year. What he did was take the best opportunity and that was staying where he was at and maybe next year he will have a better opportunity somewhere else or maybe it will still be where he is at. I didn't get in the middle of it. I didn't talk to Martin, didn't talk to Max (Siegel) or anybody at DEI but I am glad they have chosen to do what they did; I think it is good for both of them. Martin has a pretty good relationship with his team. He is the premier driver for that whole company. I think there were some changes made this silly season, but there wasn't a lot of domino effect to it so there really didn't open a whole lot of holes that would be interesting for anyone. So I think Martin made a wise decision to wait it out another year."

WHEN YOU RAN THE CORVETTE FOR A FEW RACES, WERE YOU DOING THAT TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD RACING SKILLS OR JUST FOR FUN AND DO YOU SEE YOURSELF EVER GETTING BACK IN ONE AGAIN AFTER THE INFINEON INCIDENT?

"The Corvette was the best car I have ever drove and it was the funnest car I ever drove. I would love to drive one again. I felt responsible for destroying that car, even though we had some issues with the fuel system that had a direct affect on the fire and all of that happening. But I was driving the race car, if I don't hit the fence, we don't have the problem. I went and drove the Crawford and that was fun. Running the 24 Hours of Daytona is a lot of responsibility. You go in early and think of it as being a novelty and it is a neat little quest or whatever you want to call it. But once you get there and start racing and see the seriousness of the situation, it becomes pretty heavy and pretty evident and then more so a real chore of an event. It is very taxing on everybody and heartbreaking for pretty much everyone but the winner. Before the Daytona 500 even starts, it takes a lot out of you. Me and Tony (Stewart) and Mr. Wallace were an hour and twenty minutes from winning with a two lap lead when the wheel fell off. That was devastating, that was pretty devastating. It was kind of like when my father lost the Daytona 500 in 1990, a last minute deal. It was similar devastation to me, personally because I really wanted a mental picture of me standing on that podium with those other guys with the trophy because we had run second in our class with the Corvette in '01 and Ron and those guys got to celebrate the win. We were pretty jealous to be honest. Sports car racing is a lot of fun, but what happened was the Cup side got to be more demanding on my schedule and asked for more focus and devotion to it for me to maintain what I felt like to be as competitive as I want, I kinda had to shut off a couple of things."

HOW IS YOUR SEARCH FOR A SPONSOR FOR YOUR NATIONWIDE PROGRAM GOING?

"I would hope that I wouldn't have a difficult time finding a sponsor for our team. We have a great race team that runs well and gets a lot of valuable recognition and television time that transfers in to sponsorship advertising dollars. I feel like we would give somebody a good opportunity. I can't really tell you who we are talking to, but we are talking to a group of people and hopefully one of those will be a great fit for us and be an exciting partner for us. But, it is a challenge; I wasn't anticipating facing this challenge this season. It is tough for any team, really, to have to be in that position. It is part of the business and you hope that you come out on the other end better off and in a better position. Our main goal is really to progress our company and to grow our company the best way we can and to compete as good as we can to give people a good opportunity, a good place to work and a place they enjoy coming to work."

TALK ABOUT GOING BACK TO MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK AND GOING BACK TO AUSTRAILIA AND WHAT THE TRIP ENTAILS.

"Actually, I have changed my mind. I am going to Aspen now. Yes. I never really planned on going to Australia the second time around. A buddy of mine started that rumor over there that has got a couple of race cars. He wants me to come drive them real bad, so he has been lying to everybody. He thinks he can media-wise lock me in to the situation and I will have to come do it. This guy also gives himself his own tattoos, so I don't know if he is a credible source. He just sent me some YouTube stuff of him learning how to tattoo on himself. He is a race car driver over in Australia, they are crazy over there.

"I have never been to Aspen and I wanted to go check it out. I took all my buddies last year so this year I am taking my Momma and my Sister with me and family member. So this year it should be a lot more boring, a lot less drinking, a lot less partying so maybe I will come out the end a better person.

"I am not skiing. You don't have to ski just because you are going to Aspen. (LAUGHS). That is the deal, can I go without any obligation at all, any guilt, can I just go?? (LAUGHING MORE) There are a couple of good bar stools I would like to sit on that don't have skis on the bottom of them. Good shopping, sure, I will go shopping. (CONTINUES LAUGHING) No, I am just going to hang out, see what's up. I might snowboard. I am taking my buddy Josh, a couple of you know Josh, he wants to snowboard so might go snowboard. But I got to take it easy, you know what I mean. I am not real good at that stuff; I don't want to get hurt.

"Anyways, Michigan. I am looking forward to going back. We run pretty good and had a pretty good car. I want to make the car better. I like that race track. It is a lot of fun to race on. These cars are pretty challenging this year but that is still a fun track for me. We are sort of starting to swing back toward the tracks that we have better runs at and we have better luck at. I have had some rough, rough, rough runs this summer but that seems to be the case every years. I wasn't a bit surprised that we didn't really light 'em on fire this summertime, but we will try again next year. But we are starting to lean toward these race tracks we run pretty good at and we get more top-fives with higher frequency toward last one-third of the year and we are in good shape to make a good run at it. Maybe we can start it off this weekend if we get lucky, we just need some luck.

WITH POSSIBILITY OF CHANGING CAR STYLES IN NATIONWIDE SERIES EITHER NEXT YEAR OR YEAR AFTER, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT HOW YOU LOOK FOR A SPONSOR?

"That is just being hypothetical, I don't really want to get in to a tug of war about what I would do if this happened or that happened. It really throws a lot of options up in the air when you are talking about bringing the COT in to the Nationwide Series. Depending on where your company is in its growth, you can look at opportunities in Cup if the sponsorships are there. I might have a better opportunity finding a sponsor in the Cup Series than I would in the Nationwide Series. If I have to build all new race equipment and if I can make more money finishing in the back one-third of the Cup Series as I can in the front one-third of the Nationwide Series, so I don't know. It is ridiculous really to think about. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever we decide is the way it is going to be. Hopefully we make the right decision, because, like I said, it is easy to sit here and talk about the what-ifs about where we might take the company or what we might do if this car comes in to the series or things to do with the sponsor search or whatnot. What it really boils down to is first off, your primary job is to give people a good place to work and give people a place where they enjoy working. That has got to happen first before all these other things happen. I have to make sure that the decisions we do chose to make are geared toward making sure those people are taken care of and they have good jobs and everybody is happy and we can keep doing what we are doing. We have really good success going right now in the Nationwide Series and I would like to maintain that, so working we are working toward securing sponsorships to maintain our company as it."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Kelly Collins