Tuesday, May 25, 1999. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Dale DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Earnhardt Jr., the defending NASCAR Busch Grand National champion, will make his NASCAR ...
Tuesday, May 25, 1999. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Dale
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Earnhardt Jr., the defending NASCAR Busch Grand National champion, will make his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. "We're real excited. A lot of stuff has been going on building up to this. We've been competing in the Busch Series every weekend, trying to do our best there. We're to the point now where we're just a day away from qualifying and everybody is real excited, real anxious to get going. I'm kind of enjoying the publicity and the coverage we're getting. Everybody else is excited about it, the fans are accepting it and the sponsors are looking forward to it. It gives you a lot of confidence when you see a lot of good, positive energy. "I've watched pretty closely a lot of races, especially in the past five or six years. You get three or four guys that are a lot faster than everybody else and the rest of the field has a difficult time, especially on long green-flag runs to stay on the lead. If we can possibly anyway stay on the lead lap and can have some good green-flag pit stops... It's our first race and we're pretty much prepared for it the best we can, the best we know how. We know we've got a lot of growing to do and a lot of changes and improvements probably can be made. This is where we're going to find out what the improvements are. We are not points racing and those guys are. They've got a lot on the line every week, and we're just trying to get our feet wet in these five races and see exactly what we need to do improvement-wise to compete for next year. "It gives you a lot of confidence that we ran competitively on a one-lap run. You don't know if everybody else was showing their hand or not. We have a little bit left. We didn't have a qualifying motor in or anywhere near the horsepower we're going to have Wednesday night. We're excited we ran well in the test, and we do have a good, competitive car from where we stand. Those guys ran sixth tenths quicker in qualifying for The Winston and Winston Open, so we know that everybody is going to pick up. We hope we can do the same and be right where we need to be. "We ran pretty well at Nazareth (last Sunday in Busch race). We were happy with the way the car performed. We had ourselves in position to win and somehow or the other got out of it. We traded paint a little bit and knocked a few fenders off and ended up behind Matt (Kenseth). Anyhow, we were looking for that consistency. We've had some trouble the past couple of weeks, got in wrecks and things like that. We had some problems on our pit stops. At Richmond, we had two pit stops of 29 seconds and 22 seconds. We'd lose six to eight spots on pit road and get in wrecks on restarts. Those guys start piling up. This weekend we've got a new man we've hired for a right-rear tire changer. "I think everybody has that (fear of failure) in the back of their mind when they're getting ready to do something that's really important. If you didn't have a small bit of fear of failure in the back of your mind, then something is obviously wrong with you. I'm sure every time you guys do a story, you have that small bit of doubt in the back of your mind. Most of the time I try not to focus on that too much. There's all kind of possibilities. There's all kind of opportunities ahead. If for some reason things don't turn out like we hope this weekend, we're going to have to face the music. We'regoing to prepare for a full season next year, and that's why we're doing these five races. We've got to see if we've got a large margin to gain or a small one. We'll find out. "We may have misfocused on a few events or maybe didn't go in as prepared as we were last year. There's only a certain amount of time you can devote to one thing, and we're trying to split it up to two things. I think Tony (crew chief Eury) and Tony Jr. are pretty smart, and they're aren't going to allow too much of that to go on. We went to these races and ran pretty well. We just got mixed up in these accidents. It cost us a lot on pit road. You get back in the pack and get leery of the guys you're racing around when they start bouncing off each other. They start bouncing into you and there's not a lot you can do. "It's pretty special to dad I'm sure. That's something that I enjoy, knowing that it's important to him. That really makes it a lot easier to handle the pressure, the hype and buildup to it. He's always been real special in my life and always been a big, big part of it. He's still a big part of it going into one of the most important days in my life. "It's nothing we haven't seen before. I don't think you ever get to a point where your dad tells you that you're right. As long as you live, you're always going to think you know more than he does, and he's always going to tell you that you don't. That's something I don't think you ever grow out of. He's done so much for the sport, and he's in a position now where I'd be a fool to think I knew more than he did. If there's one person whose respect I want to earn out there, it's his.
"I think it's a natural father-son relationship. We go do something on the race track, and I think the car is driving better with this spring and he thinks it ain't going to work. He has a different opinion, but it's no big deal at all. "We've got a couple more things to do today, and we're going to ride in the parade at Charlotte. On pole day, we don't have much planned other than what we have to do on the race track. I'm sure we'll talk to some press and do some TV after qualifying and get in the press room and give those guys some time. Thursday, we'll do a little practicing with the Busch car and Winston Cup car as well. We've got a few things planned for that evening. The same thing Friday. We have no practice with the Winston Cup and then Busch practice. I have a concert and some other things to do Friday evening and then Saturday we race the Busch car and probably do a few things that evening. On Sunday we've got a few meet and greets and a few hospitality tents to do about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then we go racing. "Hopefully it won't be too big of an adjustment. I've raced against some of the Cup guys in the Busch Series. What I've been most surprised about is how calm they were and how careful they were when they were out there racing. They really took care of their equipment and never really raced anybody real hard when it didn't mean anything to 'em until the end of the race. Hopefully that's the same thing I'll see when I go race with the Cup guys in the Winston Cup Series. Everybody has a lot of respect for each other, a lot of give and take so we can get there to the end. "I hope so. I ain't got time to get in no feud with a race car driver. You ain't going to win a championship trying to bang off of each other every weekend. I hope he (Todd Bodine) is over his part of it, and I'm surely over my part of it. That stuff really doesn't bother me that much. You're upset about it when it happens, but it's all water under the bridge now. There's not much we can do about it. We didn't come out on that good end of it no more than he did. You're going to have disagreements and some disagreements are bigger than others. I guess we just ran into a big one this weekend. "When I was a little kid, about 13 or 14 years old, I used to run around those garages all the time and most of them guys (Winston Cup drivers) pretty much know me. They've seen me around before. I don't think I'll have as big a wall to climb to get accepted as most, especially with some of the success we've had in the Busch Series. Hopefully, some of those guys will be more comfortable racing with me knowing I have a little common sense about it. That's the biggest part. What's most important to them is that you're smart as a race car driver. They don't want you out there making a lot of mistakes, and they don't want you to be difficult to be around on the race track. We've already got over that hurdle. "We're going to Michigan and Loudon, N.H., the next Richmond race and the last Atlanta race. We're going to test at each and every event. We should get a decent setup under the car to go back and race. That pressure won't be there. This is Charlotte. This is right next to the house. You won't have that type of feeling having the whole family there and having all your friends close by. You won't have that situation, but there will be just as much pressure on me as the next guy. "She (mother, Brenda Jackson) follows it pretty good. She lives up in Norfolk, Va. She tries to get to as many events as she can. She works for a packaging company, so it's difficult for her to get off work a lot. She wanted to get to Richmond and didn't get to. She was pretty upset about that. I'm sure she'll take every opportunity she can to get to the races. I'm not sure if she's coming this weekend or not. "I sure learned a lot between the time that article was printed and the time up to the race. I sure learned a lot about a lot of things and people as well, but it was all beneficial and I have no regrets at all. We had to work on some things to make this a lot more comfortable for not only myself but for the people who are working with me. I think we were all a little curious of how smooth things were going to roll and how well we were going to do. Once we looked at the scheduled and prepared it a lot better, that took a lot of pressure off, knowing we were going to be hitting on all eight cylinders when we were going to these appearances and everything else was all lined up and nothing overlapped anything and everything was cool with that. Then we went and tested well, so all that kind of eased off after all that. It was a big worry there for awhile. "It wasn't a points race (in Japan), and I'm not sure how much it meant to those guys to win there. I'm sure everybody wanted to win, but I don't know if they were putting 110 percent into it, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed practicing and qualifying and everything we went through and being competitive. Hopefully, the situation and the atmosphere on the race track there is similar to what I'll see over here. "I think it's possible if you're successful (to create your own identity). If you're not successful it's very difficult. You just go on and take it one day at a time and do the best you can. Creating your own identity will take care of itself. It's not something you do. It's not an activity or something you focus on. It's something that just happens by itself. It doesn't really matter. I'm always going to be an Earnhardt. I sure want people to know that as much as I love my dad that we have differences. That's only natural. Of course, we don't like the same kind of music, and there's a lot of other things, too. If I end up being pretty successful at this and am a successful race car driver for many years to come, people are going to find that out, and that'll be cool. I think they'll be surprised at some things and interested. I like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, bands like that, alternative rock. I like Elvis Presley. I'm a big Elvis Presley fan. I like a lot of rock 'n roll and soul music and disco, and a lot of rap. Dad just listens to country. I think he needs to spread out a little more than that."