SEVERAL FORMER DAYTONA 500 WINNERS INCLUDING DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 IMPALA SS AND KEVIN HARVICK, DRIVER OF THE NO. 29 IMPALA SS met with media members and discussed what it means to win the Daytona 500, the early years in their...
SEVERAL FORMER DAYTONA 500 WINNERS INCLUDING DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 IMPALA SS AND KEVIN HARVICK, DRIVER OF THE NO. 29 IMPALA SS met with media members and discussed what it means to win the Daytona 500, the early years in their racing careers, and more.
DALE, HAD YOU EVER MET CALE YARBOROUGH BEFORE TODAY?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Yeah, we've met a couple of times. Really the first time we really got to get around each other was at a fundraiser in South Carolina to put a field down on a football field for a team to be able to practice a little better. Yeah, at Newberry College."
ON WHAT WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 REALLY MEANS:
Kevin Harvick: "I think obviously everybody freshly remembers what happened last year. The best moment for me was pulling into Victory Lane and seeing Richard Childress's face and really understanding what the Daytona 500 meant pulling in. We have been fortunate to win a lot of races with Richard and I've seen him in Victory Lane a lot, but it's just the emotion and the excitement knowing that he's only been able to win the race twice now and to see that look on his face was the ultimate memory for me.
My first Daytona 500 was a lot different than everybody else's just because I came after a whole year of the first season and wound up at the front of a 22-car pile-up. The best memory was just the fact of seeing Richard's face just knowing what he's done in the sport and seeing that emotion. For me that was the best moment."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "You know you do about anything in the world just to get into the race and once you're in the race there is no feeling like it.You're sitting on the starting grid and - you know with Daddy running here 20 times and the first one I saw was the first race I was in. Really intimidating but you know it's just a crazy feeling to be in that field, yet alone win that race. Winning it is just potluck mainly. You got to have a fast car but circumstances and variables throughout the race dictate whose going to be around at the end with a shot to win.I just had an amazing race car that day. It's an incredible feeling. There's no way to describe it and I get asked it all the time, what was that like and I can't answer that question. It's impossible."
ON HIS DRIVING STYLE COMPARED TO CALE YARBOROUGH'S:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "It's hard to put a description on your style. I think we change as the cars change and you do whatever you think the car needs. You see people that you admire when you are growing up and you see them do things. You see them act a certain way and you take little pieces of that maybe from each guy and when you come across a certain similar situation maybe you handle it the same way, do it the same way or remember they came out okay with this approach or what not.
"I've got a lot of respect for Cale (Yarborough) and how he was and how he handled himself. I didn't really come to appreciate that until after he had finished driving. When he was driving I was just kind of starting to pay attention and realize what was going on around me. You know it's a lot of fun to go back and look at the history really closely and see a little bit more and learn a little bit more about Cale and Bobby (Allison) and those guys and what the sport was like. You know, try to imagine what it was like to be around at that time. But it must have been interesting, kind of neat."
WHEN YOU WERE GOING TO MYRTLE BEACH, IF YOU TORE IT UP YOU HAD TO FIX IT DIDN'T YOU?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Yeah, I didn't have it that tough. I didn't have it as tough as Cale did obviously. We would drive down to the beach and we would drive home after the race, we didn't get a hotel room. I didn't have any money to myself and Daddy wouldn't give you any more than what it cost to buy the tires and you couldn't lie to him because in ten minutes he could make a phone call and find out what they really cost. So he would ask you and you would tell him $400 and that's what you would take down to the beach. I was lucky, I had him helping me get my tires and getting my pit passes and stuff. But when it first started I was working with Gary Hargett and he worked with Gant on that red No. 77 sportsman car and he worked with my Daddy in the 70's. My Daddy introduced me to Hargett. I was working on my street stock car and I was working at my Dad's dealership making minimum wage, changing oil every 29 minutes. They put me on commission and that lasted a week. I had a little bottle full of transmission fluid that seemed to get sprayed on everything on new cars.
"Anyway, I was going down to Hargett's Wednesday nights after working in Denver. Hargett lived in Union County. So it was about all I could do to afford to pay to go down there and back on Wednesday nights to work on the car and then I would drive back on Friday, spend the night and we would go to the race on Saturday. We didn't have any money from Daddy. Hargett had a car and a motor. It had a little stock clip on it and I think it was the last stock clip race car that they ran in South Carolina. Hargett would borrow $800 maybe $600 from the bank on Friday and we would take that $600 or $800 if we were lucky back on Monday. One week we didn't make it and we got down to where we had to sit out a couple of weeks. Definitely like I said it wasn't nowhere as hard as what Cale and those guys had to come up through, it was just a tougher world back then.
"But it was a good lesson and Gary taught it well to me. He showed me everything when it came down to how tight the books were. I got to see it all. You would be surprised how long diesel oil would go. They say to change it every 6,000 miles but it will go 20,000 (laughter). We finally got us a little bit of money from SunDrop, believe it or not, to finish the season out and then we got a better sponsor the next year. It was a good lesson and Daddy always said he was going to make it as tough as he could on me when we first started but he wouldn't let me starve so I never really had to worry about that."
DO YOU HAVE SOME MEMORIES?
Kevin Harvick: "Well I think for me, you know my father and I, we raced. My dad was a fireman and on the side he would -- you know he started off drag racing and then he went to working on stock cars and that was the money we raced our go-karts on from the time I was five until I was 15. As I got closer to being old enough to drive in the late model cars we started acquiring parts from the cars that he worked on and the people didn't want the brake rotors or brakes or whatever they didn't want any more that's how we built our first car. So we got to the point where we got the car done and he always wanted to have a '55 Chevrolet so he found one that he liked and he put it in the garage. He put it right next to the race car and he says you can have one or the other. We can sell the '55 and you can race that or that and we will be done racing. So we sold the '55 and we kept racing and we went out and raced the next year. We didn't have enough money to buy tires and luckily the Collins family, they owned Mesa Marin Raceway at the time, they would give us tires here and there to show up at the race track. We basically raced off of the $600 or $700 you would win from the late model race that week. I didn't make many races the first year. I think I ran seven races in the whole year because we spent more time fixing the car than we did racing the car, so we ran seven races the first year and that was probably the best thing that happened to me.
"When you got to go back and fix them yourself and you couldn't afford to go, we didn't have a trailer, we had to borrow a trailer, we had to borrow a truck and we didn't have any spare tires. We didn't have anything, but the next year we went out and won a championship. We just tore one fender off the car and I think that first year really helped us understand. As we went through the years, my Dad and I, we couldn't afford to go on so I went to school for about six months and luckily got the opportunity with Wayne and Connie Spears. All those times of not being able to afford to race and the lessons that he put me through, help us take care of our stuff now. That was good, and lessons that you can't ever give back."
-credit: gm racing