Daytona 500: Earnhardt Jr Media Day transcript, part 1

Daytona 500 Media Day Daytona International Speedway An interview with: DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NO. 8 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: Q. Back to the old gang. Do you feel that gives you confidence for the 500? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was real ...

Daytona 500 Media Day
Daytona International Speedway

An interview with:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NO. 8 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:

Q. Back to the old gang. Do you feel that gives you confidence for the 500?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.:  I was real confident last year going into last
year's season.  But knowing what I know now, I didn't know then, I
definitely feel pretty comfortable.  Working with Tony, Jr. is going to
be a lot of fun.  We've already tested a lot of time and have a good
mentality and rapport with each other.  Obviously, we worked together the
end of last year.  This is a new start.

The beginning of the year, we're definitely paying a lot more attention what's going on with the race car, what's going on with each other. There's a good, close bond there. It's always been close. The working relationship definitely improved.

Q. Is that going to change the way you used to talk to each other or let it slide and not worry about it as much?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think we'll change how we talk to each other. I don't know, maybe you'll think it's a change, but to me nothing's really different. It should sound different when everybody else hears it, but to us, no.

Q. On his new episode Speedchannel

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: There was a show a long time ago called Car and Track. Joe Whitlock gave me a couple of tapes one day, and I watched 'em. Kind of got just really glued to what I was seeing in it. It was a bunch of episodes with Car and Track. I watched them over and over and over and over and over and over, and never give them back to Joe.

But I ended up losing the tapes when I loaned them to Chocolate Meyers. So I asked somebody at SPEED Channel. Actually I called Bud, and Bud had passed away. I called his son to see if he could make me some tapes. Apparently his son has passed away, and the tapes went to SPEED Channel. So now SPEED has them across the street from their building.

I talked to Chris Long at SPEED a couple years about doing a show, maybe like a pop-up video style show with those races in the background. You know, we finally got around to it.

Q. When does it begin?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The first episode is Monday at 9:00.

Q. What about your satellite radio show? They put Howard Stern on satellite radio so he can say anything he wants to. Do you think you'll have the freedom to say what you want to?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you can say whatever you want to, there's just repercussions. You know, I just want -- I thought we'd do the show, see how it went. If XM is happy, we'll keep doing it. If they want to change something, we'll change something.

But it's basically just me. Like the first episode, you know, I get Shane Huffman and Russ Ward from the Hooter's team to talk about the sponsorship, the practicing, the testing. Steve Crisp drops a line or two about the Busch team, their testing, how that's going, what kind of driver Mark is like, what made those guys want to come work for me, what inspired them about our company. Little known company as far as the ownership side of it. All new, so why would they take that chance, you know. And we told a couple stories of me and Steve Crisp when he was traveling with me in the Busch Series. Just had some fun.

Q. Have you all (inaudible) enough anywhere to get any idea where that DEI restrictor plate edge could come back for you?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We never lost it. I mean, we had some strong cars here last year. I should have won the Daytona 500. If I would have made a certain move, I could have won the Daytona 500 last year. But we had a fast car at Talladega, got in a crash. I don't remember what happened the other races. I think we finished third at Daytona here. That's strong.

You know, we're strong. I got the car to beat over in the garage for the 500. It's the fastest car. You know, it won't run fast in qualifying, but that's the way we built it. We build it to race good. A lot of guys build their cars to go fast by themselves in a straight line. That's not how you win.

Q. Were you embarrassed by the way things ended up last year?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. I wasn't bothered by it at all. I just kind of took -- I had a lot of extra free time so I wasn't complaining.

But, you know, we learned a lot. I mean, I don't want to really separate myself too far from where I am last year because I learned a lot and I want to remember those lessons and maintain the mentality and the traits that I gained from last year.

I've said it before, and nobody seems to understand because I don't really read about it too much, but working with Steve Hmiel taught me a lot. Going through the changes, working with Pete, going through those changes taught me a lot. I mean, I still got a lot of respect for Pete. You know, those people had an effect on me, for the better I believe. You know, we didn't have any success on the racetrack, but I learned a lot.

It was something that had to happen. That was an unfortunate season that I had to experience for some reason to really get back -- to really mentally get back to where I needed to be.

Yeah, I felt real good, like we were going to have a good season, but it all kind of unfolded like it did. I think now we got a better understanding.

Q. Do you learn more from adversity than success?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. You don't learn much from success. Obviously, you learn a lot when you make mistakes.

Q. Do you feel under pressure to get off to a fast start this year because of your fans?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I want to get off on a fast start because I want to prove not only just to the fans but to everybody that this team's strong. I look at my race cars and they're better looking than I've ever seen. The cars that we're going to unload in the garage in Daytona, they're beautiful. I never really felt that way about a race car, but I saw them getting loaded up and I couldn't believe how they looked to me.

Q. Do you think Martin Truex Jr. has enough experience plate racing to be as strong a drafting partner with you? Everybody said, if the 8 and 15 hooked up, good-bye.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, he is. He was good in the Busch Series, plate tracks. Had some success there. If they can get his cars where he can get up through there, he'll be fine. We'll work together without a problem.

Q. What are some of the lessons you took from last year that you can apply to this year?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I can't be specific. They're just personal -- you know, just personal adjustments in personality, in respect for people, how you look at somebody and how you feel about 'em.

I got more respect for Tony, Jr. than I had before because I seen how he works being on the other side of the fence. That's a totally different view than I've had over the last several years.

Q.  You said mid-season last year he was really out to prove something to
you over there on the other side.  Have you talked about that at all?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.:  No, not really.  I mean, that's not been anything I
guess we wanted to talk about.  You know, he was out to prove that he
could make it happen.  Prove it to everybody really, not just me.

Q. Can you even begin to describe how much your life changed in the last five years?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You could probably do a better job than I could.

Q. You've lived it.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, but it's just a blur, you know. I don't take many mental notes as far as that goes.

But, you know, I just want to get in the race car and race and have fun, get out of the race car, tend to my Busch team, tend to other activities we have going on, enjoy the experiences that I get from those, win a Winston Cup Championship, win more races, win those Daytona 500s, those type of races, those meaningful races, and be proud and satisfied what I'm doing.

Q. On the public impact of being famous

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, that's been the toughest part of this whole thing, is how each statement is -- I mean, when I say things, obviously if you know me, when I say 'em, I've thought about what I'm saying, I say what I think. And a lot of times, I have -- you know, what I say may have a different impact on me than it does on you. A lot of times it digs a little deeper when I didn't intend it to.

You know, when we were talking about driving the No. 3 one day, things like that, it's all over the place the next day. And that's not my intention. My intention is to make it clear that I would like to do that at the end of my career. That's all it is to it. There's no rumors. There's no -- y'all's talking about doing it sooner. I would tell you. You're not going to keep that secret.

Q. Your dad's legacy is growing at this time. Are you proud of that and of the Dale Earnhardt foundation?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, Teresa started the foundation, did a lot of things. I was kind of curious as to how the foundation -- I don't really understand everything the foundation does, don't really know a whole lot about the foundation. I know it plants a lot of trees.

But there's -- you know, I wanted his -- the foundation is a good thing, if ran properly, if it has the right people running it. But like I said, I really know nothing about it. I want his legacy to be -- to be sort of a John Wayne type or, you know, a Clint Eastwood style legacy, that he did a good job when he worked. When he worked, he did a good job. He'd give you everything he could give you. He'd try to do his best. He was respected, well-mannered, treated people the way he wanted to be treated.

You know, he's very similar to Clint Eastwood in how Clint was a great actor, did a great job, was hard-nosed, started directing, has been amazing at that, and continues to maintain his personality throughout the entire process.

Q. How would he have been as an out-of-car team owner?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think he would have probably occupied his time with something else. He would have never -- he would have focused maybe a little bit more time towards the team than he had while he was driving. But I think he probably would have took the focus that he used while he drove and did something else with that focus instead of 100% towards the owner's side of it.

Q. Do you not wonder what it would be like if he was running the team, how much stronger the team might be?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, it would obviously be -- it obviously would be different. But I don't spend a whole lot of time because that's not -- you know, it's not going to happen. We just have to do as well we can.

I'm telling you, I'm really proud of Richey Gilmore. Over the off-season, we sit down and we decided that only way this is going to work, we truly and genuinely had to come together.

Q. Would it have been any easier being Dale Earnhardt, Jr., if you had not been the Earnhardt these last several years? Would it have been just as hard either way?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know what you mean.

Q. If he kept driving.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It was hard to be Dale Jr. when dad was around. Still tough. A lot of advantages. I had a lot of fun. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

I don't really know how different that would have been. When he was around, man, you knew he was there (laughter). That was tough. But, you know, I miss him a lot. Obviously, you know, he was -- he could be a huge assist in a lot of things that happened to me personally over the last five years, so...

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Martin Truex Jr. , Shane Huffman