DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed how his car is running so far, the Joe Gibbs penalties, the new Chevrolet Camaro and much more. HOW HAS YOUR CAR BEEN? ...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed how his car is running so far, the Joe Gibbs penalties, the new Chevrolet Camaro and much more.
HOW HAS YOUR CAR BEEN? "A little tight. We've run okay. We need to work on getting it to turn a little bit. It's pretty tight through the center and doesn't roll through the center really good. We struggled with that here last time too. It was alright we just need to get it a little better. Not in the top-five yet."
TALK ABOUT YOU JUST GETTING FRUSTRATED WITH IT ALL WHILE YOU ARE IN THE CAR? "I work hard in 140 degree temperatures every week and I'm going to get frustrated. I don't care how good it's going. It's not a bed of roses out there even when we're running good. It's hot in them cars, doing one hell of a job out there in the first place. I used to try to watch my manners I guess and I think I do a good job of it. Sometimes it's important to try to get your point across and winning is more important than how mad I am on the radio I think. I don't know I get into it. It's what I do for a living."
YOU HAVE BEEN PRETTY OUTSPOKEN ABOUT HOW YOU DISLIKED THE PAST MAYBE FIVE OR SIX TRACKS IN THE SUMMER MONTHS, NOW YOU'RE BACK TO ONE WHERE YOU'VE DONE REAL WELL IN YOUR CAREER. "I don't think we've weathered them too good, but we could have done better this summer. I like Bristol and I love running here. I look forward to the race. A fun, fun race. I'm glad to be here after all that."
AS A NATIONWIDE SERIES OWNER YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE AN INTEREST IN WHAT HAPPENED TO GIBBS, WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THAT? "I don't know that they were tough enough. That was pretty wild. I had never heard of anybody doing that after a race and had they not been as dominate I think their penalties were more fair but for all the races they won I think they should have been a lot tougher on them. It was just obvious, blatant cheating and a unique circumstance too on the chassis dyno. I feel like they deserved unique style of punishment."
WHAT COULD THEY HAVE DONE? "I don't know. I never really liked people being suspended indefinitely and I don't think even if you are on the side of being suspended you rather know if it fits. I don't like that. I'd say even the guy being suspended even if was me that I would want to know this is the deal. What more could they have done? I don't know. They're not necessarily running for a title or they're running for owner's points I assume, but it's not necessarily about a driver title right there. It's hard to really kind of hit them where it hurts. It's a bad deal and I don't think really anything they did hurt them all that much. Other than the personnel, it embarrassed them obviously. Joe (Gibbs) takes a lot of pride in his deal and I believe what he says when he says he's upset. And I believe what he says when he says he's going to take action on his own. It really doesn't take away from them on a performance deal so I don't know. They didn't say a four letter cuss word. I still am bitter about that. I thought that was way too much punishment. They're out right cheating."
YOU MENTIONED THE SORT OF PERCEPTION AND HOW MUCH GIBBS PAYS ATTENTION TO THAT. THEY'VE HAD ESSENTIALLY A SPOTLESS RECORD FOR 17 YEARS. "Did that 20 car not get confiscated?"
YEAH, IN TEXAS. "Ya'll need to do your homework."
DO YOU THINK THIS CHANGES THE PERCEPTION IN THE GENERAL PUBLIC'S EYE? "Well I don't know about the public. In the garage everybody knows everybody is trying to do what they can to push the envelope and bend the rules. I don't think any less of Joe or the crew members that were doing it. There's a little part of you that is ticked because you're competing against these guys and they're trying to bend the rules. You're just also envious and mad that you didn't think of it yourself you know what I mean. I don't think anything less of them because everybody is trying and sometimes you think more of people, unfortunately it's not a great example to set, sometimes the creativity of the situation makes it a little more admirable in a sense."
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE WHAT KYLE'S DONE WITH 17 WINS IN THREE DIFFERENT SERIES WITH THE YEAR THAT GORDON HAD WITH 13 CUP WINS IN '98? "No disrespect to Jeff but I don't really recall that season. Kyle's having an amazing year and he's a great talent. You can't take anything away from him as much as you would like to. He races hard, he dominates and the guy is just hard to beat right now. It looks like Carl (Edwards) is just as good. I think Carl's well capable of winning a championship."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS THIS TRACK NOW THAN IT WAS? "Well they put in variable degrees of banking and changed some of the transitions or something but otherwise it feels the same to me."
HOW MUCH DOES THE INSANITY OUT THERE CHANGE PRE AND POST CHASE? SOME PEOPLE WONDER IF THE CHASE DILUTED WHAT MADE BRISTOL SO FAMOUS. "Not really. Bristol didn't get any better in '87, early 90's pretty good. When they had the bias-ply tire here they just had some great races. '85 they had two great races. The radial tire made the style of racing different. The way the track got changed ain't done nothing to make it better. Ya'll said that the race with Carl (Edwards) and Kasey (Kahne) wasn't a good race. I remember being in the lead battle with them at the midway portion of that race and we were all three under a blanket. One on top, the middle, the bottom. I don't understand how that's not awesome.
"There's been some really good historical events here and some bump and runs and some awesome finishes. The track is not that much different. They changed the track but I'm going to be honest with you, it doesn't feel any different. Same characteristics it had before, it's just a little bit smoother. Just a little, not a whole lot. It's a wider race track and that's always better any where you go. I think we'll see great races for many years here. Everybody that ever asks me that's never been to a race for tickets is to this night race at Bristol. When I'm done driving this will probably be one of them that I'll still come to just because it's a great race to see."
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS ON THE NEW CAMARO? "I had a good time doing that with Chevrolet and they were kind enough to let me go over there (to Australia) and see that and drive it. It's a neat little car. It's a good looking car. I drove the V6 and the V8. It's like an old muscle car. It's real heavy and kind of looms around on the road a little bit. It's really heavy and seems to be a little wider than you would expect it to be. It drives very much like my '67 Camaro and my '73. It has a lot of great style. I think it has a lot of good style to it. They brought in some of the older concepts as far as the body lines and character lines and stuff. The interior is kind of neat too how they did the interior."
DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE A GREAT HIT WITH THE YOUNG GUYS? "They will have a hard time selling that to an old guy when he can spend the same amount of money on an old car. I think it will do well."
THIS IS THE FIFTH YEAR OF THE CHASE, HOW HAS THAT CHANGED THE SPORT? "I don't think it's done anything detrimental. I don't think it's really hurt us in any way. It gave us a playoff atmosphere that people get excited about. I do recall how sort of boring the last portion of the year was even when you did have a title chase among two to three guys. It's definitely more exciting and I think it's done the sport a lot of good. It's kind of took us to the next level as far as being able to compete for new fans and interest new fans with a new format and a new way and a new exciting style of finishing the season. We could have maintained but we decided to try to improve the sport and make it more interesting. I think they did that."
THERE'S A LOT OF GUYS COMING INTO THE SPORT AT EIGHTEEN, NINETEEN, TWENTY-YEARS-OLD. AT EIGHTEEN WEREN'T YOU RUNNING LATE MODELS? "Yeah, I didn't get to go until twenty-six or so."
DID YOU KIND OF FEEL LIKE YOU WERE AT THE PINNACLE AND COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED COMING INTO THIS SPORT AT EIGHTEEN, NINETEEN, TWENTY? "No, I had no business driving stock cars at that age. I was lucky to do it at that age. I didn't driver go-karts and legend cars and all those little things when I was a kid. I didn't really start racing full-time, full size cars until I was sixteen or seventeen and I shared my ride with my brother every other week. We weren't winning and I didn't know what the future held for me. I felt lucky to get in and be able to keep a job and afford to live the way that I do. It's exciting to see these young guys come in. So much talent at such a young age. I remember how I was at eighteen. I didn't have the mentality and the matureness to handle all the things that they'll face in the garage in and outside the car. I think that's really where the owners and the mentors can be most careful is how this guy is affected by the attention outside the car and what kind of driver that changes and makes him. I wish Joey (Logano) and those guys the best because they're coming up and hopefully they'll have a lot of respect for the guys that have been here for a while and we'll all have a lot of fun out there racing and have some good close, hard racing."
HOW DID YOU AND KERRY DECIDE WHO WAS GOING TO RACE WHAT RACE? "Kerry had his kids every other weekend so when he had his kids I drove and when he didn't have his kids he drove."
YOU TALK ABOUT BRISTOL SUCH A CRAP SHOOT WITH THE POINTS SITUATION, SO HOW DO YOU LOOK AT BRISTOL? YOU LOVE THE TRACK BUT HOW DO YOU RACE IT? "I get to go hard because I'm in the Chase pretty good. Once you're locked in or you've got a spot in the Chase it doesn't matter really where you start the race everybody is kind of even so you can throw caution to the wind. Try to stay off the fence though. I ruined it last week. I take all responsibility for last week. Jim Utter said somebody needs to take responsibility for what we're doing so I'll take it for last week. Hopefully we'll have a good run this week and stay out of trouble and I'll do my job."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE NASCAR NEEDS A BAD BOY IMAGE RIGHT NOW? "There's plenty of them out there. There's plenty of good guys and bad guys. I for one just like to go and race and do my job. The theatrical side of it is not entertaining at all to me but I've heard the fans really enjoy it."
NOW THAT THE NEW CAR HAS BEEN OUT FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, OBVIOUSLY IT'S BETTER PERFORMING THAN IT WAS WHEN YOU STARTED OUT HERE AT BRISTOL IN THE SPRING, IS IT ANY EASIER TO BALANCE? "It was better before. It drove better when we didn't know what we were doing. I'll be honest with you. When we first started messing with this car last year, we ran it at a couple of the short tracks I was really pleased. I really, really was. But this year I've not been as happy with the car. That is no reflection on my team I'm just saying with the car itself. It hasn't done the same that I anticipated it would do for me and drove the way I anticipated the way it would drive."
TALLADEGA IS GOING TO BE IN THE CHASE IN '09 IS THAT GOING TO MAKE IT MORE INTENSE THAN IT ALREADY IS? "I don't know. I'm ready. I'm ready to go to Talladega and get up front."
HALLOWEEN? "Yeah, Halloween. That's a good time. I look forward to that race every time I go there. We like to put on a show. We've got a good car. We're going to run hard and should do well."
-credit: gm racing