Continued from part 1 Q. Is fame been more of a burden over the past couple years? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, fame is never a burden. Fame is a lot of fun. Fame gets you to boxing matches, football games and cool stuff. Yeah, I mean, you get...
Continued from part 1
Q. Is fame been more of a burden over the past couple years?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, fame is never a burden. Fame is a lot of fun. Fame gets you to boxing matches, football games and cool stuff. Yeah, I mean, you get to do pretty much a lot of cool stuff, meet a lot of cool people.
Obviously, I don't take advantage of my fame as much as some drivers do. But I do enjoy it.
Q. Your dad seemed to be the voice of the drivers when it came to communicating with NASCAR. Has anybody assumed that role? If so, who is it?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we don't really have a voice as far as the drivers goes. There's a lot of drivers I respect and a lot of drivers that know exactly what they're talk about, but they don't necessarily get the type-- they don't get that ear from NASCAR that dad got.
I think NASCAR just periodically, if they do, they go -- they like to be able to pick and choose who they listen to, go to advice four. I wish we did have that voice. You know, I think that there's a lot of guys out there with a lot of good things to say and a lot of things that would be able to make NASCAR's job easier. Maybe they need to get up in that trailer. Maybe they do. I don't get up in that trailer much.
Q. Do you need to be that voice?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think I'll need to be, but I'll do it. As I get older, if I ever can visualize that this is the last five years of my career, I'll probably start to be a little more prominent around here.
Q. Richard Petty last year here said that that role is yours if you want it. Do you even want it?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't know that or I'd have took it (laughter). I thought I was still a rookie.
Q. You're a media-savvy guy. Your dad's anniversary, five years, did you have to sort of mentally prepare yourself to come here?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't really expect it to be talked about a lot. Hadn't really -- I hadn't personally thought about it. Obviously, I heard it mentioned a few times over the last couple weeks. But I didn't really know or really I didn't even think that there would be a lot going on, a lot of tributes or anything happening prior to the race, building up to the race, or really a lot of talk in the media. Because I didn't -- there aren't too many other things that you celebrate a fifth anniversary of. You know what I mean? I didn't think it was that big a deal.
Q. "Anniversary" might not be the right word.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, you know, whatever you want to call it. But maybe the 25th or something like that. But, you know, the silver, whatever.
But I didn't put a lot of thought into it. I mean, it's obviously -- don't seem like five years. You know, it's good that he's still on people's minds, people still miss him. I still like to see the 3s, the stickers in the back of everybody's pickup truck and stuff like that.
Q. I know in '04 when you won the Daytona 500, the next week at Rockingham you said I would like people to stop talking to me about my dad, what goes through my mind.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. No, I don't get those questions that I was getting then about dad. But it's okay to talk about him. I don't mind talking about him. But there's some questions that are hard to -- not hard to answer, you get tired of answering them. There's no real answer for them. And you probably could write the story without me even giving you the answer because you probably know the answer.
I just -- you know, I don't mind talking about him. I was proud of him. You know, I just don't know what it would be like if he was here as far as the company goes or as far as the sport goes. It's kind of hard for me to -- it's hard for me to imagine, even with my imagination.
Q. After what happened last year, what would you consider to be a good year? Would you take a fourth?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, no. I think we're going to come into the Chase being top three in the points. We'll have six or seven wins this season, if not more. If we lose the championship, it won't be by much.
Q. Did last year make you hungry, the team hungry?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'm with a different team. The company's really hungry as a whole. The company's showing a lot of fire, a lot of spark, a lot of promise. We got some guys that we're really excited about that are coming to work for us, making a few key hires.
Q. On a lighter note, Rusty Wallace is doing analysis for ESPN. How do you think he'll do?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Rusty, he's done it before. He's done great. You like to have that driver mentality up in the booth. I think Wally Dallenbach is one of the best at this point to have as little experience as he had. I think he does such a great job because he understands, as a driver, you can't be biased. I think Darrell has been retired for so long, he sort of lost that side of it where he's a little biased from one guy to the next. If he feels like beating up on somebody over a period of two or three races, he'll do it.
You know, Wally hadn't been out of the seat for that long, and he definitely knows to stay in the middle ground and not really try to offend anybody. We rely on those guys to paint that picture for the fans, and if they're sitting there painting me as an asshole, you know, that's no good for me (laughter).
Q. You don't expect that from Rusty, do you?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, no. I didn't say that. I think Rusty will do a good job because he knows as a driver how hard it is. And he knows what it's like when he hears what they said in the booth or what somebody said. He knows how that can go. I think he'll be up there and he'll just try to tell the fan how the sport works, and that's what Wally does. He tells the fan how the sport works and how racing works and how driving works, what you're thinking here, what you're thinking there.
Q. Talk about qualifying a little bit. Greg Biffle said the other day that qualifying at Daytona is the most boring thing y'all do as race drivers. What do you do waiting to go out and qualify? He said he talks on the cell phone, others say look for hot chicks.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I look for hot chicks in tube tops. You know, you people watch a lot. You talk to your crew to look busy. You look at people's cars. Still at that point you probably haven't seen everybody's paint schemes. You're looking at paint schemes, looking at cars. I didn't know he was driving that car.
Q. Years ago when they were running the 200 mph here, the expression was, I don't know if I can hold my breath that long. Is it a matter of, I don't know if I can keep my eyes open that long?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, it ain't that boring. You do run the lap, because you got to run as close to the apron as you can without hitting the apron, the shortest distance. When you're in the car driving it, you're busy, you're a busy guy. But it's easy to do. I mean, if you really took -- you could take somebody off the street and they could be doing it.
Q. Do you think people underestimate your commitment to making the company that your daddy built into what he dreamed it could be?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I think so. I think people see -- you know, I know what I want to do. I know I want to win a championship. I know I have sort of a vision of where I want to be at a certain age. But I don't look that far into the future and get specific. You know, I drive right off the hood. I look at where I'm at right now. I would love to drive the 3 on down the road, and Richard knows that. I hate him talking about it, because I don't want to put it off on him, put any pressure on him or disrupt what he's trying to do with RCR to date.
But he knows that. That's the extent of it. There's nothing more to it conversation-wise between me and him or anything. We've just made that clear to each other and dropped it. I told him -- I've asked him some questions. I've asked a lot of people questions that I get advice from. They've reiterated the same thing that I think, that I thought what I needed to do, and that's stay devoted to what I committed to, and that's working with the 8 team at DEI, working with Tony, Jr., working with Richey, showing my commitment, because up I've always sort of kept them at arm's length just in case something happened or just in case it didn't work out.
So I think to go in this year and show them I'm in the trench, we're going to do this together every minute from mile to mile, I think that will be more productive for the company than me standing there and saying, "Get it right now. I'm wanting to win."
For me to go in there and tie myself to the boat with them I think will be better for the company. I want everybody in the company to feel like I'm dedicated. See because there's certain levels in the company that we don't really get to -- we don't have heavy contact with, so they basically got to get their news and rumors from everybody else. If a guy in the engine shop thinks that I might be going to drive somewhere if something doesn't work out or somebody gets pissed off, that ain't good, that ain't good for the company. They got to know that that devotion is there and I want them to know that.
Q. Would you like to take over at DEI?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'd love to take over at DEI. Me and Teresa will talk about that when the time comes. We'll talk about that before the time comes obviously. That's not in the near future. I think JR Motorsports is a natural process of a company growing from one rank to the next, and it can go as far as it wants to go. I am not going to stop it at this level or that level. We'll just see however profitable. It don't even have to be profitable. If it breaks even, we'll keep on racing.
Q. What is Tony Eury Sr.'s role?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Tony, Sr. will kind of be back for us. He's really over the top of everything. If he sees a problem over at the 1 car, he'll be over there trying to help fix it. He's back and forth. He also handles the Busch side -- the Busch racing we'll do. He sort of oversees that a little bit. He won't be quite as hands-on with Tony, Jr.. but obviously Tony, Jr. will be like he was last year, his team will be like it was last year.
Q. Do you want to win a championship in the No. 3 car?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I mean, I could do it. We could do it now, but that would be just kind -- that would be a phoney tribute if we did it now. It just wouldn't feel right. I think it's something we can do whenever we want. I really seriously got to take my career -- I got to take my career seriously right now. I can't be fooling around with tributes and feel-good stories all the time. You know, we got to get down to business and race. When that opportunity comes to have that chance, we'll do that.
I think -- I don't think a lot of people are ready for it. It's not even than a option. When the time comes, we want to do it, we'll do it, have a little fun with it. No, I just want to be -- I want to win a race with Budweiser as my sponsor, with that 8 on the side, with Tony, Jr. as my crew chief.
Q. Were you humbled by not making the Chase?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I just thought that -- I don't know. It was humbling, but it was inevitable at one point. Wasn't too bad of a deal. Gave us an opportunity, me and Tony, Jr., to work together. I talked to the powers that be, they said that we didn't have to go to New York, so I didn't have to make that trip. Then we got through under the bus with Hunter. He pulled the Dale Earnhardt card on us. Said we should have been there. But they's the same people who told us we didn't have to go.
I just looked at it as during the off-season I'd have a little more time off. I had a lot of things I was wanting to do with the teams and the shows and whatnot, give me the time to be able to do that, focus on some other things, be close to Tony, Jr. and them.
Q. Is the season too long and too grueling?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The season is not too long. What I think they should do is, this is my personal opinion, they should make the cars in the sport more consistent to where the off-season you don't have to reskin everything, you don't have to cut every car in half and rebuild it. Start the season at the beginning of January, take some of them weeks and put them throughout the season and give us some days off during the summertime, in the month of August, September, what the hell ever, break up those 20-race stretches, start the season earlier. I don't care if we race year round. That way we ain't got to change the body. We just keep racing, racing, racing. We're spending a lot of money cutting these bodies up because we think we can make them better, but they're probably not. We just wouldn't have to do so much during the off-season. The off-season is short. Might as well make it another month shorter. Give us those weekends off during the year.
I'd rather be -- I'd rather go on vacation in (expletive) July rather than December, for crying out loud. I mean, give me a break.