Continued from part 1 Q: What do you think he would have thought if he would have known that the future of DEI long-term wouldn't have included two of his children? Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Obviously I think -- obviously, I feel like his...
Continued from part 1
Q: What do you think he would have thought if he would have known that the future of DEI long-term wouldn't have included two of his children?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Obviously I think -- obviously, I feel like his vision, and he said it himself, was for me to have a huge role in the company itself. Throughout the negotiations I felt like me and Kelley came to the understanding that that was not in the cards, you know what I'm saying? So it may be in the cards 20 years down the road. It may be something that happens. But from a driver's standpoint, and from where I feel I am as a driver and what I want to do and what I want to accomplish, this is a decision I made today.
Q: If Dale and Kelley could answer this. When this process first started, did you truly believe that the end result would be something other than what we're doing today? That it would be the other option?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Absolutely. When we first started our talks and negotiations, I was anticipating signing a new contract with DEI, and we worked pretty hard on it. I mean, we've done contracts with DEI before. I can't -- I can say that this was probably 10 times the effort, and 10 times the work and discussions and the meetings and the back and forth, you know. It was really, really hectic. Difficult, you know. But we had I think Max and Teresa, they worked hard trying to provide something, we worked hard trying to provide something, and tried to meet in the middle, so to speak. But like I said, we never even got close.
I don't think that what they provided was wrong or whatever. I mean, that was what they felt was in their best interests, and it was just not anywhere close to where we were, and how we felt, so this is why. That's basically why we made the decision today. But we worked really hard trying to put something together and that was our intention from the start.
Q: Did you feel like DEI had become TEI in the vision that your father had was no longer the vision that that company was following? And have you talked with Teresa?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: As far as where the company is now and what my dad's vision was for it, obviously, you know, if he were still here we would, I think I'd be in a different place right now. He was very good at -- he was a great race car driver, but he was totally focused and devoted to the company and getting out of the company what he expected and for the most part he was able to do that.
After he passed and as years went by, you know, it would be difficult for any one individual, much less a group of people to try to maintain that vision. Only he was -- he was the only one that was really able to make it reality, you know, because when he was here he was able to do those things. Without him here, it's much more difficult. It's a much more difficult task.
I believe DEI can still be successful as a functioning race team, and as a motorsports program. It may not have the -- it may not be the exact thing that my father wanted, but I feel like it can be successful. I feel like Max is -- Max Siegel's going to be a huge asset to the company as he learns and develops and understands the business itself. I think when he starts moving and shaking, things will really start happening for that company, and that he can get out of it, I believe, what he expects.
Q: You've made it clear that you want to remain with Chevrolet, and you've made it even more clear that you want to win races and championships. There's three Chevrolet teams that in recent years have really distanced themselves from the field, those being RCR, Hendrick and Gibbs. Is there another scenario out there other than those top three teams that you look around and say wow, that's an appealing option?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Yeah, well, we're going to listen to everybody. I'm going to want to hear what everybody has to say. That will help me form my opinion about each certain opportunity. I think you have to take the time to understand every aspect of each one opportunity to be able to make that decision correctly.
I'm not going to sit here today and narrow it down before I even have a chance to understand what all is out there. I feel like I want to -- like I said, I want to give myself the best chance where I can be most comfortable and feel like I can be as successful as I possibly can. I don't want to make this decision or change again.
I want to drive for a long time, and I want to be successful at doing it, and that's going to be what I focus on over the next two or three months is trying to make that a possibility for me.
I like Chevrolets. I love driving them. They're an icon in the sport. And that's where I feel like my heart is, and so we're going to try to work in that direction.
Q: If I owned a team, what kind of offer would I have to make to turn your head?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Wow. You know, there's -- you know, if I can speak frankly, I think there's not one team out there that's going to lay a dollar figure in front of you that's any different than anybody else. They all probably can do about the same, so the money's not really the issue. It's not the guy that gives me the biggest paycheck. It's the person that I feel like will allow me to accomplish what I want to accomplish throughout my career on the racetrack, in this shop itself, with my employees and our company.
It has to be something that will complement my efforts here. Because I feel like we will be able to do something to complement their efforts with our drivers and our mechanics as they improve and move up the ladder, it will provide whoever my employer might be, with some talent at the Cup level. It's more about, you know, there are some things that you can't get with money. You know, peace of mind and satisfaction in what do you every day and who you are and why you're doing it, and who you're doing it for.
I'm seeking, you know, to have that peace of mind and that comfort to be able to really be an asset to somebody. So that's what -- I want to go somewhere, and really make some things happen for somebody and have that appreciation go back and forth there.
Q: This is for both of you, actually. I'm curious have you heard much feedback yet from your sponsors, and what have you told sponsors so far in terms of what the future holds?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I think we've talked to sponsors over the last couple of days.
Kelley Earnhardt Elledge: Yeah, we've communicated to our sponsors the same thing that we're communicating here today. We have relationships that stem from both sides from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and from JR Motorsports, and we jointly let those people know what was happening.
Again, as Dale said, we haven't sat down with each of those individually to see what their efforts are and what they want to do, what their plans entail. I'm sure that will happen as we continue to work with DEI through the rest of the year and continue to work with them on what the rest of the year looks like and how things play out for both companies. So we haven't gotten there. We haven't been there.
Q: Dale, I understand what you talked about and just certain things you want to find out of teams and want to be able to win, and what you want to do down the road. But a lot of people will automatically make the assumption or just kind of look ahead that Richard Childress Racing is the best opportunity for you. Give you the opportunity to drive the 3 car if you wanted it. So how would you address that specifically? People are saying it would be logical that you would just go to Childress for next season?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Yeah, there's a lot of logical -- there's a lot of logical scenarios that people are going to put together. We saw -- we've seen quite a few scenarios over the last couple of days that were kind of amusing. Some bright and some not so bright. But you know, I have a great relationship with Richard and I feel like on his behalf, that he stepped his programs up. He's made a great effort to improve and be as good as his teams can be.
But I don't know whether -- I've got to do a little soul searching about how I feel about driving a No. 3 car. That doesn't change my opinion of whether I would go drive for Richard or not. I don't have to drive the No. 3 car. But I don't personally know whether that's what I want to do, specific to that number. I need to really sit down. Because like I said, I'm going to make this decision once. So I have to really ask myself if I want to be driving that number the rest of my career.
With respect to my father, I don't feel very comfortable with that. He made that number what it is. With respect to him, I believe that it belongs to him, you know what I mean? I never say never, and I've told you guys before that I was interested in doing that but later in my career, and I still feel like that. I still feel that way. If that's something Richard's interested in, we can explore that, but that's a long way down the road. And again, I'm just going to, like I said, I'm going to listen to everybody who wants to talk and form my decision from those discussions.
Q: How much of your want to see what your father's vision was through to fruition drug this thing on? Would you have possibly decided to move on quicker were it not for your loyalty to that vision?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Yeah, I think so. I drove for DEI my entire career. There's something to be said for that, you know. There's a lot of -- there is a great bond there not only with the employees but with that vision, you know that my father had with the idea that we would win championships. You know, we showed up every weekend to sort of make that a reality. I really wanted to you know, have a larger, more personal interest in driving at DEI through the contract negotiations, we were unable to come to terms that would give me that.
So, you know, I, yeah, we, you know, we danced around that bush for quite a long time I think the negotiations went deeper and longer and more in depth than naturally they would go with any other owner-driver. This is a unique situation, and so everything about it has been unique from day one. I guess it will continue to be that way.
On my part I just have to get up here and handle it like I've -- I just have to get up here and be myself and do it like I would want to do it. I take advice from my sister and take advice from people close around me.
But when it comes down to it, this is my decision, and mine to make. And this is something that, like I said, I'm going to miss the employees. I'm going to miss the employees the most, some of the guys on my team that I may never get to work with again. I'm going to miss those relationships, and that's probably going to be the toughest part about it. But you know, again, I'm excited about looking over the horizon and seeing what's out there and seeing what great things and cool things that we can become involved in.
Q: We all know how loyal race fans are, and I'm just wondering are you concerned about fans being disappointed with the change? Especially if there is a car change, a Chevy to a Ford?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Well, I don't think my fans have to worry about that part of it. I'm disappointed, So I expect my fans to be disappointed. Obviously, I know a lot of my fans wanted me to stay at DEI and continue driving for DEI, So I expect them to be disappointed in that aspect of it.
Again, hopefully I can go accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and put on the show that I think I can put on. Give my fans more to celebrate. I feel like over the last year or two I've short changed my fans. They've been very loyal and stuck behind me when we haven't been able to put up the results that we feel like we're capable of doing.
So I'm hoping to win some races and win some championships to give those guys what they paid all that money to go see us for.
Q: I guess the question I had for you earlier was more about what was missing at DEI from a competition level that you thought perhaps you couldn't get to do the job you needed to get done? Or is there just other, better corporation suited competitively for you to use resources to work what you're working at, which is championships and winning races?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I feel like Tony Jr. is going to be one of the best crew chiefs out there when it's all said and done. He'll go down in the books as one of the best mechanics in the garage. I love my team, I love the guys that work on my team. We have great camaraderie. We all get along really well. A lot of them have been there for a while, and the camaraderie's just gotten better over the years.
I enjoy racing with them, and enjoy going to the track and racing with them. We run well. We've had fast cars every week. It really comes down to not so much today, but where I feel like I need to be and where I feel like DEI, what DEI's direction is, and what their opinions on how they need to get successful. There was a difference there personally in those opinions. You know what I'm saying?
So it wasn't so much well, the motors ain't fast enough or the cars ain't good enough. That's not necessarily the case. They've improved the engine shop quite a bit. Our open motors at Atlanta and Charlotte tracks are as on par with anybody else. But for me personally, I made this decision to put myself in a better position next year and down the road, you know. I want to contend for championships and win races. That's never been any different than any other year.
But also I've got my family to consider, as far as my ability. My ability to -- my mom's sitting here. I don't feel comfortable telling you all this in front of her. But there will be a day when I have to take care of her financially and what not, for her to be able to live and have the life she wants. You know, there's -- I've got to put myself in a position to take care of the things that are going to need to be taken care of when I'm at that age and what not. And I feel like this is a way to go, you know? I feel like this is what I need to do personally.
Continued in part 3