Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Oreo/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet, visited the media center following NASCAR Busch Series testing on Thurday at Daytona International Speedway. The following are some highlights. On the test session "This is...
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Oreo/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet, visited the media center following NASCAR Busch Series testing on Thurday at Daytona International Speedway. The following are some highlights.
On the test session
"This is a DEI based team owned by Teresa and myself. I'm pretty happy about it. I'm real happy that we worked real good today. The guys that we've put into place to work on that team have done a great job building the cars. They're real clean, real good. They're no problem or bugs to work as of yet. Hopefully, it'll be fast on race day."
On the cold weather
"It's a pain in the butt getting up early being that cold."
On the smaller fuel cell.
"It's just an added hassle. I don't think it's something very necessary. That race at Talladega where we ran that smaller fuel cell, it did separate the pack but that was because people were making mistakes on and off pit road, running out of gas and not having as good a fuel mileage as everybody else. That's not the reasons that you want to be able to separate the packs. That's not a good result from the change they made. I hate the fact that I have to make more pit stops. It's really hard for us to get down pit road when you're running that fast. It's very dangerous. We've seen a lot of crashes happen coming onto pit road when a pack tries to come on pit road and everybody decides to and some guys don't. It's kind of dangerous. You've got guys who can't slow down or misjudged the entrance of pit road and run into the back of you. Things like that happen. You tear a tire off or blow a tire out coming down pit road. You don't want to take four, but you have to because you flat spotted both front tires sliding into the pits. You can tear the gears out, tear the read end out, tear the transmission out trying to get off of pit road. It just increases all those things. It increases the ability of those things to happen. It should definitely throw a twist into the finish of the race. You could definitely have surprise winners and things like that due to that."
What would a Daytona 500 victory mean?
"I think it's the second biggest thing you can do in the sport besides winning the championship. The Daytona 500 is probably the second coolest thing you can do. It's definitely the biggest race of the year to win. I don't think there's a race that tops it. The spectacle, the hype, everything that happens building up to it, the attention that drivers get from winning it, the accolades and all the bonuses that come along with winning it are really great."
Have you paid your dues or come close enough yet to a Daytona 500?
"I haven't come really close to coming down to the end and losing it like my daddy did for several years. Several of the drivers, Buddy Baker and all those guys, that tried and tried and tried and came down here with a dominate car and had engine failures and things like that bite you. I expect that to happen a time or two. I would love to win the race. The only thing about it is that it doesn't seem like it fares you well for the rest of the season. Not many people have come out of here with the trophy and done well throughout the season except Gordon for a time or two. It still would be a great race to win."
Why do you think it doesn't fare well for drivers?
"What I imagine happens is, that you're so overwhelmed to a point and excited about your Daytona 500 win, you might get a little relaxed. When you lose the ground or the position that you set for yourself, it's easy to get down. Things kind of spiral out of control and it makes for a long year. Some guys come out of the Daytona 500 and go into the next race just as hungry. Some guys don't."
Why are you doing so much racing at Daytona?
"I just like plate racing. I like racing on the restrictor-plate tracks. I like the tracks. I like the speed. I like racing in the close packs, bumper to bumper. It's a little bit different than what we normally do throughout the year. I don't feel like I get enough of it. I'm going to get the opportunity to do some more of it this year."
Do you think you'll contend for a Daytona 500 win this year?
"I feel like we're definitely a favorite. The Daytona 500 is different. I realize it's the same track, but it's different than the 400 or the races at Talladega. For some reason, there's a lot more going on. There's a lot more pressure on drivers and drivers are taking a lot more risks. You're kind of a little rusty from the offseason too. As the race boils down to the end, there are not that many guys in the hunt for the win. As we saw last year, there was only about 12 or 15 cars. Normally at Daytona and Talladega, there's a field running from start to finish. You've got to do things and be careful and watch yourself until the end of the race so you can be there until the end. I haven't really figured out the formula yet. I thought we had a good chance last year and we just had so much trouble and things just kept happening, but we kept coming back out and running pretty good. That was a good feeling."
On working together with Michael Waltrip
"At Talladega last year, we tried to work together and we couldn't get it to happen. Finally, I was like, just tell Michael to try to figure out a way to get him up there and I'll get myself up there and we'll just meet at the front. It didn't pan out like that. He had some trouble on pit stops. Most of the time, we just like working together if we can because it's safer to be up front. Fifth on back, you stand the risk of getting knocked out of the race. We just try to do what we can to stay up front. We've both come to realize and we really didn't want to admit, but we both had to. But with 10 or 15 to go, you just have to race for yourself. It's too hard for both of us we're so competitive, to try to be teammates, to try to help each other to the finish. To say all right you win this one and I'll take second. It's too hard to do that. We're just going to help each other out until 10 or 15 to go and whoever makes the move makes the move."