Dale Earnhardt Jr. interview 2002-03-08

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo Do you feel like your team has struggled or is it just circumstances? "It was circumstances at Daytona. We struggled through Rockingham. We fought a tight car all last weekend at Las...

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Do you feel like your team has struggled or is it just circumstances?

"It was circumstances at Daytona. We struggled through Rockingham. We fought a tight car all last weekend at Las Vegas. Rarely do you dial-in a racecar at the race track. If you can't produce a great racecar from the shop, it's hard to be a great race team.

"I still feel we can turn around with three or four good finishes in a row. And I think we're the kind of team that can have three or four top fives in a row. There's a chance. We always run good here. We've just got to figure out how to finish here."

On his luck at Atlanta Motor Speedway

"I don't really feel like I have bad luck or bad karma here. I love the race track and I look forward to coming here. You can move around here. For drivers, this is one of the best racetracks that we run on. There's always a good three or four car battle here at the end."

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
On the one-engine rule

"I feel like we don't have the speed that we had in qualifying last year. A lot of the teams don't. I feel like our race motors are so conservative (vs. qualifying motors) that we're really not qualifying as good as we should have. I'm the type of guy to push the envelope a little bit and try to get the horsepower out of the motor even if it's a risk. I'd rather blow-up running first than run 20th all day. I feel like we're really soft on our motors. I feel like there's a lot there that we're not taking advantage of. Also the new rules of the components being a certain weight has really hurt our engine program as far as the race motor goes. We've just got to find ways around that. I like the one-engine rule, myself. It's very cost effective for the programs. I give it a year or a year and a half, and it'll be old news."

Are the Chevys at a disadvantage?

"Last week, I thought the Chevrolets were at a huge disadvantage as far as front aerodynamics. But when we come to a track like Atlanta or Charlotte, we seem to be able to compete pretty well, if not a little bit better than the Fords and Dodges and even the Pontiacs. It seems like certain styles - certain shaped tracks - are good for certain cars, teams, and manufacturers. The Chevrolet teams have something to be learned or gained at flat track programs. But when we come here, it seems like we're as good as anybody else. But we are at a disadvantage at flat race tracks. I don't know why, or where on the racecar we need to go to improve it. I think overall, the balance of our cars is way off. The Fords and Dodges have a good balance. We have way too much rear downforce compared to what we have on the front and it makes our cars real tight. I'd give up 40 on the back to get 40 counts on the front."

On Steve Park returning to the No. 1 car

"I have mixed emotions. I'm excited about it. Kenny Wallace and I were friends before, but when he came to DEI I learned a lot more about him and got real close with him. He's the kind of guy that you would like to see the opportunity he probably deserves and be with a competitive team. He's definitely a good spokesperson for a sponsor. He's got a good attitude and he's fun to be around. And he's a talented racecar. I hate to see us unplug him and plug Steve in, but that's the way business works sometimes.

"But I'm glad to have Steve back. It's probably real emotional for him to make his return at Darlington. I can't speak for him. He wants to get in the racecar and run good. He's ready to come back."

Do you think NASCAR's decisions are still under scrutiny?

"I think if you have to ask that question, the answer is probably yes. Before the TV contracts and long before NASCAR came into the public eye, they had run the business 'as is'. I don't think they thought about the kind of scrutiny that would come to them because of the decisions they made. They have to make some decisions at the blink of an eye. There's not really time to sit around and talk about it. Apparently we have learned something from it. But I hate to see in the news that their credibility is being questioned. Some of their decisions haven't been that great. But I don't really know what they could have done different. It's not good to see that in the headlines instead of who won the race."

Is it too early to worry about the end of the season?

"I started worrying about the season at Daytona. You really want to get off to a great start. We've made such a steep hill for us to climb in the first three races already. I wanted to come out with good finishes and be in the top 15 in the points at this point in the season, but we're not. So there's a sense of urgency, but also caution. As much as I want to get a great finish out of here, I know that I have to be smart to get it and be reserved at times and not take too many seasons. Maybe this isn't our season. But we'll go week in and week out. We might be good at one and totally miss the set up someplace else. But there's no one thing that plugs in your team that puts you up front. It just evolves."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Steve Park , Kenny Wallace