DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Chicagoland, racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, season to-date and other topics: HOW IS YOUR CAR TODAY? "I think it is all...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Chicagoland, racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, season to-date and other topics:
HOW IS YOUR CAR TODAY? "I think it is all right. We gained on it the second half of practice. We feel like we are one of the only cars still really running on the bottom of the track where I think you need to be learning. We are running pretty good times down there. We can't really crack off good laps the first five laps, but over the long run, we seem to be just fine. We just need to gain a little bit more still; we have a little bit more work to do still."
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU GUYS TO WHERE YOU THINK YOU NEED TO BE? "Eleven positions right now if you go by the points. We're about the 11th best team in the sport, so I think that would be a slightly generous estimate."
WERE YOU ALWAYS LIKE YOU WERE AFTER THE RACE AT DAYTONA IN TERMS OF SAYING FOURTH WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH BECAUSE YOUR CAR WASN'T GOOD? "I just know right from wrong, I guess, I don't know. I've always been the same person as far as I can remember. People don't evolve that much I don't think."
THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE WRITING THAT FROM THE IN-CAR CAMERA SHOT, YOU LOOKED SO MUCH LIKE YOUR DAD, DO YOU SEE THAT? "When was this?" IT WAS THE IN-CAR SHOT OF YOUR PROFILE AFTER THE RACE: "I don't know, Kerry (Earnhardt) looks like Daddy which is awesome."
WITH THE FOCUS ON YOU AND DANICA (PATRICK), DO YOU TWO EVER COMPARE NOTES ON THE PRESSURES? "No. I haven't talked to her since New Hampshire. She's got a crew chief; I don't need to talk to her. I've got my own set of damn problems to deal with."
I THINK PEOPLE WERE SURPRISED BY YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR GOOD LUCK AND HOW IT WILL RUN OUT; DO YOU STILL FEEL THE SAME WAY AS YOU FELT AFTER DAYTONA? "I just think we need to keep working hard, we need to get better. We didn't have a good car last weekend and we were real fortunate to finish where we did. We would have been lucky to get into the top-20 if they hadn't of all been crashed out. That ain't good. We're working really hard and that's all we can do. I know everybody probably says this, but I feel like we are one of the hardest working teams in the garage. I don't feel like we slack off at all. I don't feel like we lack anything when it comes to determination and passion. Hopefully we are just smart; we just have to use our heads."
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE RACES BEFORE THE CHASE STARTS, ARE THERE ANY THAT YOU ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT? "I think there are some tracks that obviously that you could point out that we haven't had good runs at. Watkins Glen, places like that. To be honest, it's so competitive, I'm about as nervous about them all. Which is the way I feel like I need to approach it. I need to approach each one as if it is the most important race of the season."
TONY EURY, SR. SAID IN THE NNS GARAGE YESTERDAY HE WAS SICK OF PEOPLE SAYING THE WIN WAS HANDED TO YOUR TEAM BECAUSE YOU WORKED YOUR BUTTS OFF, HE STOOD UP READY TO FIGHT, YOU KNOW? DOES IT GET HIM FIRED UP? "Yeah, that is Tony. He reads too much. (LAUGHS) He needs to work more during the week instead of sitting at the desk reading on the internet all the time. That or all of his buddies calling and harassing him about it. You hear that stuff...I heard that stuff when we won in 2001, you know. I heard that it might have been a conspiracy, this, that and the other. I don't know man; this sport has too much to lo\se pulling tricks like that. I believe, as far as on our end, with everything we knew about it, it was pretty legit."
WHEN YOU THINK OF INDY, WHAT IS THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO YOUR MIND? "A.J. Foyt or somebody like that. Bricks come to mind."
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND INDY? "It is real tight into turn one. If you can roll down into that corner, there is a lot of speed to be gained there because as you go around the track each corner seems to be easier and freer to get through, turn four being the loosest corner. So turn one, just turning down in there and getting the car turned and being able to carry speed into two I think creates a good lap. From there one, you build on the momentum and speed from what you did in turn one. It all has a repercussion on each following corner. I think that is the most important."
WHERE DO YOU THINK INDIANAPOLIS RANKS IN THE LIST OF MOST PRESTIGIOUS ON THE NASCAR SCHEDULE? "It is a battle between it and Daytona in the country in my opinion of being the most prestigious tracks in the United States. There are a lot of other road courses that are famous that could be in that conversation but between it and Daytona, man, it is hard to beat the heritage of those two places."
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER YOU WERE NERVOUS ABOUT UPCOMING TRACKS, WHAT ARE YOU THE MOST NERVOUS ABOUT? "I'm nervous about losing points and not making the Chase. Just having a bad week. I don't think I'm any more nervous about it than I usually am. Everybody hates to fail, but I think people are saying we have to think about Pocono and Watkins Glen and a couple of other tracks. I agree. But I think each one of them needs to be held to a certain accountability. We need to be able to not take any track for granted for sure. We need to approach them all with the feeling that they are equally, all as dangerous...one is as dangerous as the other as far as how it could affect us in the Chase."
HOW HARD IS IT TO NOT PUT EMPHASIS ON CHICAGO AND INDIANAPOLIS BUT LIKE YOU SAID POCONO AND WATKINS GLEN? "I don't know man. I mean I haven't really run that good here. We didn't run good last year so I have been working really hard in practice trying to help Lance (McGrew, crew chief) with car in the center of the corner and getting the front to work better. Trying to free it up as much as I can possibly stand it so we can try to do what we did in Michigan and places like that where we have been able to get a pretty decent car all day long. I'll just see how it goes; I ain't really worried about qualifying. Just trying to get the car where I feel it should race good."
WHAT IS IT LIKE IF YOU MAKE THE CHASE ARE AREN'T ABLE TO COMPETE? "It is real frustrating to make the Chase and not be able to compete. Not be able to be competitive enough to be in the middle of it is really frustrating. You feel like the odd-man out when you Miss the Chase and then when you get in there, you happen to make it and you get about half way in and start feeling like the difference is too much to overcome, it is a frustrating feeling. There has to be a good analogy for it but I can't think of one right now. You get there and you are happy. Then you find out that maybe you weren't good enough to be in it and that's frustrating. You don't want to get out-pointed by somebody who's not in the Chase, all of those things. You really pay attention to that kind of stuff there during the Chase if you make it. It is a great feeling to be in the points battle going to into Homestead, just numerically, that is a good feeling."
DID YOU TAKE ANYTHING POSITIVE AWAY FROM POCONO? "Yeah, I don't know. We need to get a little bit faster on the race track. We qualified well, but we didn't have a good start to the race. We need to be a little more competitive, which I think we're not very far off. We just need a little bit more so we can race inside the top 10 all day. And I think that helps you. When you run inside the top 10, it's a little bit more difficult to screw up yourself on strategy; do you know what I mean?"
ON BRIAN FRANCE POSSIBLY MAKE CHANGE TO THE CHASE, DOES NASCAR NEED TO BE LIKE OTHER SPORTS OR DOES NASCAR NEED TO STAND ON ITS OWN? "I really think that the argument for that is split dead down the middle and there are great positives to each argument. I struggle, really, thinking about that and deciding which side of that argument I'm on. I feel like though, with the way the world is compared to how it was 10 years ago, that changes they want to make sort of fit into what seems to be the demand these days, even if it isn't traditional. It just seems to be what's hot. I'm not sure that it's a positive thing for the long haul. I just don't know. I don't know whether after this, what's next. It's sort of like when I started giving people bonuses in '98 and I was so happy because we won a championship and I wanted to give everybody a big bonus and my daddy said, 'If you're going to race for a long time, you might want to start off small (laughter).' After we make this kind of change, where do to go from there? That's pretty radical. I think it'll be awesome and exciting and I kind of look forward to it. I look forward to all the changes but I do think it fits. That sort of extreme is scary to the traditionalist but it' fits the world we're living in today, if you look around and what's popular and what's going on and what's working and what's not."
ARE THE CHANGES THEY'VE MADE TO THIS POINT WORKING, LIKE WITH RE-STARTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT? "I think so. I like double-file restarts a lot. I like how they've allowed the lapped cars to be involved in the race; the wave-around and the different opportunities you have to get your lap back. I think they've done a great job. They're really sort of making a balance between what the drivers would like to have and what the fans want for excitement. I like the green-white-checkereds although I think three is a little bit much; but it's good to have at least one. You hate races finishing under caution. The cars seem to be getting better. I feel like the CoT is getting a little bit better. The cars are a little bit better to drive. I used to really not like them too much but I'm starting to grow on them a little bit."
GIVEN ALL THOSE POSITIVES, IS THERE A REASON WHY THE CROWDS HAVEN'T COME BACK AS MUCH? "I don't think people have the kind of income these days to be able to do exactly what they want with their extra money all year long. I don't know. I think that the economy had a big affect on it but why people aren't coming back, I don't know. Maybe they went home and liked what they saw on television and that's better than a ticket, I don't know."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE NEW CAR? HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFERENT WAYS TO ADJUST IT THAT YOU HAVEN'T HAD IN THE PAST? "Lance (McGrew) and I are just working together better. My cars feel better to me. They're more comfortable. I feel like I'm able to drive them instead of the car really being difficult to control. I don't know if the spoiler helped me any but I it feels like to me that I have a little less downforce on the back and the aero balance on the car is a little bit better, which I feel like I'm liking that better."
HAVE YOU LEARNED A LOT ABOUT CHANGING WHAT YOU COMMUNICATE TO THE TEAM? "Well I've just listened to Lance (McGrew). We still bicker and joke and pick on each other but I believe in what he's doing. I believe in the people that are around him. I put my faith in them when we go to the race track that we're doing the right thing. I don't question what they're doing, their ideas, or their direction. And I just try to believe in it and try to keep a positive attitude."
-source: gm racing