Bristol II: Earnhardt Jr - GM Top-10 interview

SHARPIE 500 - WEEKLY TOP 10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS: HOW IS YOUR CAR? "There was something wrong with the way the car was driving, but we found it there at the end. So I don't know how...



HOW IS YOUR CAR? "There was something wrong with the way the car was driving, but we found it there at the end. So I don't know how good we'll qualify, but I'm really glad we fixed it."

ON THE CRAZINESS OF DRIVING THIS TRACK AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON: "It's a great race track and an historical part of the sport. It's very indicative of the different type of tracks we race on. I wish we ran on more short tracks. They're fun and they're wild and they're exciting. I think it's great that we get to come to Bristol twice a year, no matter when we race."


AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE THIS PLACE AND SITTING 10TH IN THE POINTS, WOULD YOU RATHER BE AT SOME OTHER TRACK THAN HERE? "Well, it is what it is. I'd love to be in third, first, or second. It is what it is. Racing is racing and here we are at Bristol. I know that Bristol is dangerous and you can get in accidents here very easily compared to other race tracks. But other race tracks have different things about them too that sort of bring up a question mark about whether you're going to be all right or run good or whatever."

IS BRISTOL MORE PREDICTABLE THAN TALLADEGA? "It's a little more predictable than Talladega. I can't describe it any better than anybody else. It's a great race track. It's a lot of fun. I wish I would have had a chance to race on it when it was asphalt because it looks like a lot of fun. But I'm proud to say that I won a race here, because it's very difficult to pass."

DO YOU RUN THE RACE LESS AGGRESSIVELY THAN MOST PEOPLE DO HERE? "I don't really know. Some guys run really hard and aggressively and charge the corners. You'll have a lot of success setting yourself a comfortable pace and sticking with that. Before the Lucky Dog, you could stay on the lead lap and finish 10th. Now, with the Lucky Dog, it changes the whole outcome of the race. You've got 36 cars on the lead lap on the end of each race at a short track - if you had 10 cars on the lead lap and you had a caution with 30 to go, the leader ain't pitting but the guy in sixth might. And he might have a shot at challenging for the win where that's not a factor as much anymore. The Lucky Dog changed how you approach this race. Now, it's more about being smooth and keeping track position - not making mistakes and not tearing the fenders up banging on people."

ON RACING KASEY KAHNE: "He's tough. He's a great race car driver. There are some other good ones who ain't even close that ain't going to have a shot at it. I like it because he's a good friend of mine. I won't be too dejected, I guess, by being outrun by him rather than being beaten by somebody else that I don't have as much respect for."


WAS CARL EDWARDS' $20,000 FINE APPROPRIATE? "I felt like years ago, we should have been stepping the fines up into the $100,000 - $200,000 range. Nothing against Carl or the situation, but $10, $15, or $20 grand don't mean anything to these guys - myself included."

DID CARL EDWARDS APOLOGIZE TO YOU? "He apologized for what he did. I don't feel like I wrecked him intentionally and he felt like I did and he wanted me to apologize for that. But I did feel sorry and apologized to how his race ended up and told him I didn't take much pride in winning that way. It wasn't like I ran home bragging to Momma about it. But it was a tough situation for him and myself. I can't say I would have handled it any different than he did, but I hope he learned a lesson just like I did."

WHEN THE CHASE IS OVER, WILL YOU BE RELIEVED WHETHER OR NOT YOU MAKE THE CHASE? "No, not really. I'm always relieved. I really don't get worked up over stuff because it just aggravates you and gets under your skin and can't go home and enjoy yourself. It's just always on your mind if you let it. So, I just focus on racing. When I'm on the car, I just focus on what it takes to get around the corner faster."

THE WAY YOU RAN AT MICHIGAN, DOES THAT GIVE YOU HOPE FOR CALIFORNIA? "Yeah. My guys are real excited so I'm just sort of following their lead. Hopefully once we get there, I'll feel like I've known my way around there all along."

ON GETTING AROUND BRISTOL: "I've gotten this question 150,000 times in my career of what my Daddy told me. Well, this is one of the things he told me. And I guess I must have been doing it pretty bad for him to have to actually speak up. But he told me a few things about getting in the corner. Personally, once I get in the car I back myself up about 10 percent just to be on the safe side and that seems to really take care of the car - especially here and at Martinsville - and that seems to take care of the car. When I first came here I was running hard and deep and running the tires and the car all to pieces. Now, I just relax. I know what the car is capable of and I really just try to let that happen and don't really push the issue. Most of the time, no matter where you race, you'll come out with a lead lap finish or still be in one piece and that's really important here. I try to be careful, more so running down in the corners beside people. I'm a lot more careful than a lot of people about that."

IS KURT BUSCH STILL THE GUY TO BEAT HERE? "It's definitely going to be dominant because of the history of that car and him. That combination has got to be lethal here. I look for him to be one of the guys to beat."

ON THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF THE HEAT IN SUNDAY'S RACE: "Yeah, this is more difficult than a road course to me. It's really tough. The air doesn't move and the carbon monoxide and the heat and everything just sits right around the track and you can't get a whole lot of cool air. You just drink a lot of water."

DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO BRISTOL? "Once I get in the car and I'm racing and I'm away from everybody, I don't feel a lot of pressure and expectations and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. But this whole week is about as moody as I get. If there is a time when I'm tough to be around, this would be the week."

DO YOU THINK YOU GOT A "SUPERSTAR" BREAK AT THE END OF THE BUSCH RACE?" "Not really. I'm going to see it differently. NASCAR is watched so closely for that - especially in the past - that they are more aware of it. I'm not in those situations all too often, but they really are careful not to give that perception and they go out of their way to make sure that people aren't going to say that hey man, they cut him a break. But they told me not to go to pit lane - we're going to watch the tape. And they watched the tape and watched the tape and finally decided it was all right. They give us the benefit of the doubt - just like everybody else. I don't feel like I get treated any differently. Of course I ain't been in that situation enough to know. If I was in it more often, I'd have a better idea of whether I was or not. But I have a lot of respect for those guys in there and I've done the best I can to represent the sport well and not embarrass any of the employees or anybody at NASCAR. I try my best to be mindful of that as I get older. I feel like maybe it would have been a whole lot different if what happened after the race hadn't happened. Maybe there would be two fines. Or maybe there would have been some sort of probation for myself."

NASCAR DOESN'T LIKE TO DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE: "NASCAR expressed to me that they weren't negative toward my actions on the track, but they were negative toward how we allowed the race to finish and how ugly it was. It wasn't a very pretty finish. It wasn't. When I got in Victory Lane, I didn't have a lot of pride in what just happened. I was happy for my team. They work hard. But for myself, personally, I was not really getting a whole lot of excitement out of it. That was one thing they told me is that in that situation again, I could have done something different and I would have allowed that to play out differently and that I should try to look at the options in that situation. They just don't want the race to end ugly like that and have to deal with that type of stuff.

"I know right from wrong and I know good from bad and I know what's fair and unfair. Sometimes you fall in the gray area and you're not quite sure. And I'm not going to jump up and down and scream and holler over what happened Saturday. It wasn't necessarily fair for Carl (Edwards). I'd be ticked off if I was him. You know I didn't have intentions of wrecking him, but I would be mad with what happened and how it went down. Like I said, my team worked really hard. That's all they do is build them Busch cars. It's not like they just pitch in. That's very important when they show up. They want to race for the win. I was happy about that and I was excited that we had a good car and all, but I don't like having controversial finishes. I like having clean, exciting finishes where we come down and are running side-by-side the last three or four laps and race clean."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup