DALE EARNHARDT JR , OWNER, CHANCE 2 MOTORSPORTS:
"This is a tribute to all our supporters and sponsors. Today it was Wrangler. On other winning days it was Bass Pro Shops, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell. We've had a lot of people come together to really support this team this year and make it what it is. All the employees at DEI have pitched in to give Chance 2 a legitimate shot at the championship this year. I thank them all including Teresa, my co-partner in ownership. We do a lot of cool things together and this is probably by far the coolest experience that we've had together. And what can I say about Martin Truex Jr. that hasn't already been said. He's a fine race car driver, a great person, and a great friend of mine. I think his daddy for allowing him to come up here and join us." More to follow
MARTIN TRUEX JR.
, NO. 8 WRANGLER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
New 2004 NASCAR Busch Series Champion:
"Who would have thought this a year ago? I've got to thank Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Jr. and everybody involved and all the guys back at the shop for building our race cars. These guys have stood behind us all year long and we've been through some tough times and have fought back. It just shows how strong these guys are."
Q: WHAT WAS THE STRENGTH OF THIS RACE TEAM THROUGHOUT 2004?
TRUEX JR: "I think we just all pulled together and took on an equal load. We're all good friends and have fun together and that's the biggest thing. We don't put any pressure on each other. We just had a lot of fun this year. When times got tough, we didn't let us get it down and that's what got us here."
Q: HOW MUCH DID YOUR CAR OWNERHELP YOU OUT?
TRUEX JR: "A lot more than most people know. He's got everything I need to know. All I need to do is ask him." More to follow
Q: WHAT MADE YOU BELIEVE IN MARTIN TRUEX JR?
EARNHART JR: "I knew Martin was still kind of raw as a driver. He had a lot of given talent. He'd run really well at the end of the season last year. I could see in his eyes that he knew how to run the longer races. He was telling me that up north they don't run very long races - 150 laps or 200 laps. He got into the wall at Homestead and I knew he learned a lesson from things like that. I told him if he could eliminate those types of mistakes, and keep yourself cool all the time, you've got a car that's fast enough to do what you want to do. You don't have to give 110 percent. One hundred percent in this type of equipment will get the job done. There will be times over maybe a period of a lap, you might step it up a bit. But I just told him if he just had a pace, he could handle it hands down. Coming into the series like I did was almost the same situation for him.
"I didn't have anybody telling me how to win it or what to do to win it. I was wrecking a lot and putting myself into a couple of holes to dig myself out of. I knew if he just listened to what I was telling him, that maybe 25 percent into the season he would understand how the equation worked. And man, he just managed himself in and out of the race car all year long. He got great finishes. He drove a couple of tenth place cars to top five finishes. That's always a big help. He didn't overdrive his equipment too often and get into any kind of trouble. He just stayed out of trouble the best he could. So, I knew the car was there, the team was there, the motors were there, and everything was there. He had what it took as a driver if he would only know it himself. Once he figured it out himself, he'd be on it."
Q: 18 MONTHS AGO, WE PROBABLY KNEW YOUR DAD'S NAME MORE THAN YOURS. WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE?
TRUEX JR: "It's been pretty wild. When I started out, obviously nobody here knew me. Now, it seems like every track I go to, in driver intros I get all Dale Jr. fans cheering for me. That's a big step. They've treated me really well and I've tried to treat them just as well.
"I've gotten to do a lot of neat things off the race track with sponsors and appearances. I've even been able to do a commercial with him (Dale Jr.). It's just been a lot of fun. I've gotten to meet a lot of people and race with a lot of older drivers that I have a lot of respect for and can remember watching for a long time. It's just been different. My whole life has changed. It's been the most fun year of my life. A year and a half ago, I was just building race cars and racing them - trying to get somebody to notice me and to get a break."
Q: WITH THE WRANGLER PAINT SCHEME, IS TODAY A LITTLE ETRA SPECIAL TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
EARNHARDT JR: "We just announced our organization and funding and support for the next couple of years with Martin and pairing him with Bass Pro Shops. And as much as Bass Pro Shops and everybody has been such a big part of this year, this scheme was my idea - for lack of a better way to explain it. We had an association with Wrangler. We didn't have enough sponsors for all the races, so I carved into the personal agreement some money that shoved over to the Busch team and put them on the car for a couple of races which they were really excited about and didn't anticipate being a part of. They have a new generation logo and they wanted to really advertise that. I asked them nicely if they wouldn't mind running a scheme that was my favorite of my father's that was on the circuit '81 and '82. The first half of the season he was with Richard and then he went to Bud Moore for the rest of that year and then a full year, and then back to Richard (Childress).
"It's a scheme that not many people are as familiar with as the others. I knew it would look good on the race track. I asked Martin if he could do anything possible for me this weekend it would be to wrap the championship up in this car. It was just kind of a special scheme for me, and one that I enjoyed for many years. Seeing him in that uniform just gives me chills. He wears it with pride and understands the whole situation too. That just means a lot and adds a little bonus to the deal."
Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE TEAM TO WIN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON?
EARNHARDT JR: "This is a story I've told a 100 times. I never anticipated coming a full circle this fast. I never anticipated the team running a full schedule this quickly. We just kept on working with Martin and that became more promising. It was almost as if his acceleration and learning curve was faster than how we wanted to build the team. But as we started piecing funding together from different areas - everybody that's been on the car - we got a sponsor for each race. We then decided it was a great idea to run a full season. We'd only decided to run 22 I believe. I could see it in Martin's demeanor that he wanted to run a full season and see what kind of champion contender he could be. I was really glad we were able to do that. Ninety percent of the employees at DEI for many years saw that as an opportunity for them. That's really the reason we began the team in the first place was to give a few more avenues for some of the guys in the fabrication department and other departments a chance. A lot of guys jumped right on it. They really love the choices they made and when Martin runs good it makes it all worth it. Just the sight on every single one of their faces today was worth the sacrifice that each of us have made. It's going to take a while to sink in, but it's a personal deal that we all came into this. We all came into it 100 percent for it with no doubts or questions whatever. So it's a pretty neat deal."
Q: YOU JUST WON AS A TEAM OWNER, AND IN 8 DAYS YOU COULD ADD A CHAMPIONSHIP AS A DRIVER. CAN YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT THAT POSSIBILITY?
EARNHARDT JR: "That would be really cool. But just sitting up here (on stage), these guys are some of my better friends in the sport. They know that I just take it one day at a time. I want to come out of here with a fighting chance going into Homestead. I'm just looking at it like I won the Busch championship in my first year and I won the Busch Series championship as an owner in my first full year so I feel like a real dominant force in this series. We're going to come back next year with a great positive attitude and being real competitive. Martin is looking forward to sticking around for another year and learning some more and dialing himself in more and the team gelling a little bit more and preparing themselves for that next step into the Cup level. This year has been fantastic. Everything I've asked of that team they have delivered on every account."
Q: DID YOU FEEL LIKE THEY COULD WIN THE TITLE?
EARNHARDT JR: "I felt like they could win it. Martin was the driver. He didn't really know his own potential. He really hadn't spent a lot of time around the series and didn't really know the true depth of the competition. But the team and the employee resources were there. I knew it was a big possibility. Everybody else knew but Martin. He just had to get through the first 10 or so races to where he started to believe in himself to where he had the confidence in the team and the cars and knowing what type of equipment he was taking to the track every weekend."
Q: WHEN DID YOU START BELIEVING THAT YOU AND YOUR TEAM WERE CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER?
TRUEX JR: "I think I knew my team was championship caliber before I ever even started driving the car. They've got just a great organization at DEI and everything they do is just right there with the best. It was just an honor to come drive with them. I had to make the best of it or I wasn't going to be around for very long. At the end of the year last year, I knew we could contend this year if we ran all the races. I didn't know we'd win six or seven races and win all these things, but I knew we could contend and win a few races."
Q: WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU HEARD THAT KYLE GUSCH HAD CRASHED?
TRUEX JR: "I really didn't hear about it actually, I remember passing him one time and then I remember lapping him but I wasn't thinking about him. I knew at any time a car could spin out in front of me, that actually happened once or something else. These races are never over until they are over, especially here at Darlington. It was pretty slick out there, it is a little hard to race. You can't race side-by-side so it is really easy to get caught up in someone else's mess. So I didn't really think about anything except getting to the checkered flag, then they told me and I was kinda...I don't even know what I was."
EARNHARDT JR: "I am the same way, when I saw the 5 car spin out, I thought about Kansas, there we were looking like we were going to lose a lot of points, but both teams ran poorly that day and had trouble. I knew there was a strong possibility it could happen to us on the very next lap. I just waited until the checkered flag came out and he crossed the line."
Q: WHAT WERE THE TOUGHEST THINGS YOU HAD TO LEARN AND WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU NEED TO IMPROVE UPON NEXT YEAR?
TRUEX JR: "The toughest thing I think is the racing. I think the rest of it has been coming pretty easy. I have enjoyed doing the stuff away from the race track, I think that has been pretty easy for me. I have pretty much had fun with all of that. I think it has been going to new tracks and trying to figure it out quick and doing all the testing and getting used to not being home much has been most difficult for me. I think we will get better in every aspect of our racing, I think we can get more poles, win more races and win by more points. That is what we are looking at doing, If we don't get better, next year is just kind of a waste so we plan to work hard over the winter and try to get better at everything we do."
Q: IS IT BETTER TO WIN IT THIS WEEK RATHER THAN HAVE A PRESSURE COOKER NEXT WEEK? DOES IT CHANGE HOW YOU FEEL ON A DAY WHEN KYLE HAD A LOT OF PROBLEMS?
TRUEX JR: "It doesn't really matter how you win it, you win it. It just makes it a lot easier going to Homestead. We can just go to Homestead with the whole goal of winning the race. Plus it gives us an extra week to plan a party!"
Q: THERE ISN'T MUCH AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND MARTIN BUT DOES THIS FEEL KIND OF LIKE 'FATHERLY' PRIDE FOR YOU?"
EARNHARDT JR: "Not really. Working with Martin has been kind of like working with a brother or a close cousin. We really has a lot of similar interests. He is genuinely happy with the way things are going and he genuinely enjoys being a part of this program. Our friendship is very genuine. Everything is really cool about it. I see Martin's Dad, he comes to the shop every once and a while and he comes to the track a lot and to see the look on his face, is probably one of the bigger rewards of this whole deal. To see how happy he is and relieved he is to see how well things have worked out for all of us. He had a lot of confidence in his son but he was worried I think about what kind of example I might set for him. You know how that is, everybody hears stories.
"We have maintained a very steady pace of working hard this year, we worried together and we have worked separately but we have both busted our butts all year long to make this a really good season for both teams. I am very proud of that. We have been able to go out and enjoy ourselves when we have had time but we have kept it straight and narrow for the most part. It has been just a great year. I am glad for everyone involved. I said it a couple of weeks ago that working with Martin was really easy because he has a lot of knowledge already and knows what the deal is and knows how to do it. There aren't a lot of thing he didn't have some idea of what he needed to do. One of the things I didn't anticipate was the friendship I gained from this and I would say that even if he wasn't sitting here next to me. There a lot of guys coming in this sport now that I am not sure I could be that good of friends with. They might be good race car drivers and they might be able to do the job for me but I don't know if I can get along with them. We just clicked from the start. He has respect for me and I have a lot of respect for him and I think that is where is starts."
Q: IS THIS WHAT YOUR FATHER HAD ENVISIONED FOR THE COMPANY?
EARNHARDT JR: "Well, I don't know if Dad had any idea that anything like this would happen. I was really thinking about that with about 15 laps to go. I was thinking what he might think about this accomplishment versus what I've done on the race track. But I think it's something he'd be pretty proud of because we just did such a great job this year of working together. Me and Martin have become great friends and yet the professional relationship is solid. There are no holes in it. When I ask him to do something he does it without any questions. We discuss and talk about things. I'm learning a lot for myself. As far as the future of DEI, that's exactly what we need. We need another guy to come in and be able to get out there and win races. It's been difficult. We lost a team a couple of years ago. Martin's got a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders but I think next year we'll polish him more so than this year now that he knows what's going to happen and what to expect. He'll be so much more prepared for the Cup level that he would if he'd been going into it this year or in 2005. I think it's awesome for the company to rejuvenate that car with this team. I think it's going to work out perfectly, I really do."
Q: ARE YOU THE DESIGNATED DRIVER FOR MARTIN IF HE GETS INJURED OR SICK?
EARNHARDT JR: "I guess so. But it's really up to Richie Gilmore or Martin. They might have somebody else in mind, I don't know. It just depends. I would if they asked me to. If I ever got injured again and he weren't already a driver in the field, I'd ask him to substitute for me again too."
Q: HOW PROUD ARE TONY SR. AND THE BUD 8 TEAM OF THIS TITLE?
TRUEX JR: "Yeah, I've become pretty good friends with everybody on that team. Me and Pops have become good friends throughout the season. He's just a great guy - a legend in the sport. He's somebody that I have a huge level of respect for. For him to be out there cheering me on means a lot to me."
EARNHARDT JR: "A couple of times Martin and Tony Jr. got to work together this year and Tony Jr. had a lot of good things to say about Martin. I think both of them would agree that they work together well and get along really good. They function as a car chief and a driver should at a test. They get a lot accomplished. Tony Sr. has a lot of respect for Martin and thinks the world of him."