Daytona 500: Earnhardt Jr - Media Day visit

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES DAYTONA MEDIA DAY DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY February 5, 2009 DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pre-Daytona Media Day and discussed NASCAR fans, Mark ...

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DAYTONA MEDIA DAY
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
February 5, 2009

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pre-Daytona Media Day and discussed NASCAR fans, Mark Martin, the Bud Shootout, his business enterprises and other topics.

IT WAS RECENTLY WRITTEN THAT YOU WERE KIND OF UPSET WITH SOME PEOPLE SOMEWHAT PUTTING THE ONUS ON THE DRIVERS TO REACH OUT TO THE FANS MORE, CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT AT ALL? "I thought I was pretty clear in that statement. Someone said that the track owners were complaining that the drivers were negative toward helping out. That is not true. We do the Winner's Circle program. We are constantly doing things every week for this guy, that guy to help race tracks. Shoot, we were in Daytona for the FanFest thing. I read off 20 darn scripts about selling tickets, that very thing. I have to take a little responsibility for themselves.

"I was thinking the other day they should build their own hotels. That way they can control and bring the hotel prices down and control the hotel price in the region and make a little bit of money. People aren't coming to the race track because the drivers don't care, that is not what I meant. People aren't coming to the race track because it is expensive to do it.

"The drivers do pitch in. The drivers do go that extra mile and we are willing to do more. It is very easy to sit down and shoot a damn 30-second commercial, it is a piece of cake these days to do it. I can it at home. We have the NASCAR tech center where we can do live teleconferences for an hour, whatever they want. We can push all we can push but they have to get a little more creative. They can't expect people to come back to spend that kind of money in this economy."

WHAT DID YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAID YOU READ OFF 20 SCRIPTS? "TV, video. Easily 20. It was pretty challenging too. You have to be in a frame of mind to be able to memorize stuff. You know what I mean."

BORIS SAID MENTIONED THAT HIS NASCAR MEMBERSHIP HAS GONE UP 20%, HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT? "All of the hard cards, everything went up."

DO YOU THINK THAT IS RIGHT IN THIS DAY AND TIME? "You bought one. They have to do what they have to do. They have to make the choices they need to make to survive. They are a business; they have to make business choices. I don't want to argue the call about raising prices here and there, but, there is some gouging in certain areas. But not so much across the board. Who is to say what is the correct choice on a hard card. What is it worth? You know what I mean? It is work quite a bit actually. Tripling a hotel room for a night is a bunch of BS."

DO YOU WORRY THAT A BACKLASH MIGHT HIT DRIVERS SURROUNDING ALL THE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT BIG SALARIES PAID TO CEOS OF COMPANIES? "No. I told Rick (Hendrick) he could pay me whatever he wants to pay me. I don't have a problem. Rick can pay me whatever in the hell he wants to pay me. I will drive a race car for nothing."

DO YOU THINK THIS ECONOMIC CORRECTION MIGHT BE GOOD FOR NASCAR AND BRING IT BACK TO THE COMMON MAN? "Obviously there are negatives and positives in everything and there will obviously be a lot of negatives in the swing the economy is taking. There will be some positives; there will be some good things that will come out of it too. It will be hard to see the silver lining in this but there will be some. I really don't know what that is. That is a good way of explaining it, kind of a correction, if you will."

WHAT IS IT LIKE HAVING MARK MARTIN AS YOUR TEAMMATE? "I don't really know yet, man, we really haven't got to racing yet. I like Mark a lot, he is a good guy. What is not to like. The guy has a great attitude, easy to talk to. He has been great all his life. Always run well, won races. He has always spoken well, always been considerate. Had some great battles with my Daddy. I have had some good battles with him. He treats you like a gentleman on the race track and off the race track."

HOW IS THE PROGRAM GOING MARK HAS RICK ON EATING AND EXERCISING TO CHANGE HIS LIFE?: "I think Rick just sent his first email last week. It is a hell of a thing happening. Rick has me working out a little bit."

TALK ABOUT BRAD'S (KESELOWSKI) CUP SCHEDULE: "I told him it was a good deal man. Anytime you can go hang out with Finch (James, team owner) is good. Mark Reno is a hell of a man. Been around the sport for a long time. Got a lot of history. It would be good for Brad to be around a man like that, learn a little bit. Like I said, being around Finch will loosen Brad up a little bit and that will be good for him."

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HIM NOT BEING IN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS EQUIPMENT? "No, hell, that pretty much is Hendrick equipment. Do you homework."

DO PEOPLE RELY ON YOU TOO MUCH, THINKING WELL THEY CAN JUST CALL DALE, JR. TO DO A PROMOTION FOR US, IS THAT PART OF IT? "No. I don't know man; I try to help whenever I can help. It is pisses you off when people use your name without asking you though. That happens every once in a while. I mean, just ask. Like the Memphis thing with the ribs, they didn't even say nothing, you know.

"Texas has done it a couple of times, putting them billboards up at the track. Las Vegas did it. Used some kind of thing where they were give somebody season tickets if I won something championship or something, I don't know. I like those kind of things, but damn, you know, notify us a little bit. Let's get a little more creative."

ARE YOU JUST ANNOYED BY THIS OR ARE YOU MAD ENOUGH TO GET LAWYERS INVOLVED? "Hell no. No, I don't care that much. It is just a waste of time."

WHEN YOU WON SHOOTOUT LAST YEAR, WHAT WAS THE EMOTION OF THAT? "Just relief. I mean, I don't know. It is exciting to win any race. But we just came out of the box as a new team; I got some great help from my teammates in that race which was really inspiring to me. It made me feel great to have them helping me in the race to win. It is so easy to get competitive and you are competitive toward each other. But when it really came down to it, they saw opportunity, they worked with me and that was really good. I don't know, we were kind of shocked and surprised. It is a tough race to win; it is sort of a crapshoot. Whoever is up front."

DID THAT KIND OF HELP THE HYPE A LITTLE BIT? "Oh yea. Then we went in and won the Gatorade race. It was good. We broke away though, man. We weren't trying to shut it down, you know what I mean?"

HOW IS YOUR MINDSET NOW THAT YOU HAVE A YEAR IN WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "I feel a little more comfortable and a little less concerned. Going to a race season with a new team, you have not had any laps with, man; you really wonder how it is going to work out. We kind of have an idea that we are a pretty good team. We make a few adjustments, do some things right, catch a few breaks and we are a great team. We are going to try and make that happen this year. I feel pretty comfortable though, no real worries."

DENNY HAMLIN NO SAYS HE HASN'T LIVED UP TO HIS POTENTIAL AND HE IS TIRED OF BEING THE GUY THAT HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING, WHY DO YOU THINK HE HASN'T ACCOMPLISHED WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT HE COULD DO? "I think Denny is really hard on himself. I think he has accomplished a lot. Look at it. The damn kid was running a late model, what, three or four years ago. Who knows if he would have ever got a shot at driving a stock car in the Cup Series. Here he is with a great team, good job. Making money, living in a nice house. Basically he has the world in the palm of his hand. I mean, I know he wants more. That is the sign of a true racer and he will get it. Circumstances have went against him. I think he is a talented driver. Just solid. Real good damn race car driver. Circumstances, personnel, maybe."

IS HE TOO IMMATURE? "No, hell, everybody makes personal mistakes and learns a little bit about being more mature. What to say and don't say. He is just too critical of himself. He is real hard on himself. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to compete at a certain level. He feels like he should be there every week. We all do, but I think that he has already done a lot more than a lot of people would have thought."

HEARING YOU TALK ABOUT DENNY, HOW ARE YOU ON YOURSELF? "I feel the same way that Denny feels, especially the last three years, I haven't really done the things that I thought I would be doing. I haven't competed like I felt I should be competing. I felt like I was on an upswing ever since I started in the Cup Series in 2000 all the way to 2004. I made some choices and I let some other people make some choices and I started to go in the wrong direction performance wise. That has been the biggest hurdle to try to get over. The biggest thing to try to reverse. My speech to Hendrick was really what I thought hadn't put me in that direction again to where I go back toward improving upon each year, each race and become more and more the total package.

"The switch to Tony, Jr. (Eury). Tony, Sr. off the box, Tony, Sr. not my crew chief, Tony, Jr. my crew chief. Tony, Jr. not my crew chief. Rondo (Pete Rondeau) my crew chief. Switch the whole teams, all kinds of things that went on that probably just weren't the best choices."

WOULD ANOTHER WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT BE A LAUNCH FOR YOUR TEAM FOR A SEASON OR FOR A LONG TIME? "Any time you win, it is a damn good boost for your team. It is pretty exciting and a good morale booster for the team and the shop. Really does a lot of all the guys at the shop. The whole mood, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are different. That only lasts for a week."

IT IS SAID YOU ARE THE GUY TO BEAT IN THE SHOOTOUT, AS TONY PUT IT, IT IS BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE AIR SO WELL. ARE YOU THE MAN TO BEAT? "I think I am the man to beat. I thought I was pretty good at it. They have put more cars in the race, which makes it more of a challenge. It sort of lessens everyone's odd a little bit. It is going to be quite a challenge. You just have to put yourself in the right position at the end. I feel like I know what to do."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? "It is hard. There is no way to explain what that feeling it is like, winning the Daytona 500."

HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WINNING OTHER RACES? "You just put some much in to this race. You know, you put so much in to winning here. Your team builds certain cars, special cars. They work on those cars so much. The media and the fans adore the race and build it up. It is such an event. So growing up around that, you are taught that it is a huge race and it means the most of any other event in the season, it is the most important race."

DO YOU BURDENED BY YOUR FAN BASE? "No, the fans don't burden you; it is the media that is friend and foe. That's all right. That is your job, I am fine with that too and it is fun reading you guy's take on things. Because a lot of times, you are just one person and you see things one way, especially when you are in the position I am in, you have very strong views about how you feel things are. You guys have a way of telling both sides of the story, sometimes. Whether you like to hear it or not."

ARE THERE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP? "The thing about the track owners is going to get more play that it should. I don't really want to go after Bruton (Smith), he is way too big. He's way tougher than I am. I just wish it was easier to go see a race and I want the fans to have whatever they want. I want the racing to be like they want it. I want the drivers have such diverse personalities that everyone has a favorite. I want the weather to be perfect, you know what I mean. You just want them to be able to go to the race and have a good time. You remember how it was 10 years ago? It seemed like nobody was really complaining about little things like camper parking and the traffic. The cost of a parking pass for the infield, whatever, you know what I mean? All these things not really being discussed. Now these are big issues for some reason. They have to figure out how to fix that."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO OR PLACES YOU LIKE TO GO? "I like to be home. Nothing is better than being home man, being around your friends and family."

HOW IS A KID LIKE LOGANO GOING TO DO IN THE SHOOTOUT? "It is hard to say. Depends on how fast his car it. If you have a really good car, guys have got to go with you no matter who is driving it. Hopefully he can get out there in drafting practice and get some miles and learn some stuff. See what is going on. Chances are he is going to find the going difficult there at the start of the race because a lot of guys are going to try and shuffle him to the back because of his laugh of experience."

HOW IS THE NEW BAR (WHISKEY RIVER) GOING? "The bar has been great. It has surprised me how successful it has been. I have some great people. J.R. Rhodes being one of them and a good partner that is making it easy. I don't really have to do much. The thing just sits there and people enjoy it. I can get down there whenever I feel like it. I haven't really got down there, I didn't go down there as much as I thought I was going to go, especially when it got later in the month of January. I was like man, I am going to go down there a lot but never really got down to it. I bought this old '53 pickup truck and I tooled around in it for awhile, a week. It was a lot of run. It is an old ratty and old rusty looking thing; it is pretty fun driving it."

WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF BEING YOU? "Answering a lot of questions. I got to answer so many damn questions. I never wanted to be asked so many questions. I just wanted to drive but that's not all there is to it."

HOW DO YOU SEE THE ENTHUSIASM OF MARK MARTIN? "I already knew a lot about Mark so it is hard to say I have picked up anything new. He has a strong work ethic and his attitude, persistence and diligence is sort of contagious. I hope it rubs off on everybody. He works really hard to be where he is and who he is and to be as successful as he is."

TALK ABOUT HIS WORKING OUT AND BEING FIT? "His personality and his take on being fit. Jimmie is the same way. Jimmie does a lot of things to stay in shape. Those things are smart."

SO YOU ARE WORKING OUT HOW? "No, shit. (LAUGHS) There is a time in your life you have to take a little responsibility and try and take a little bit better care of yourself. I have 20/13 vision in each eye and both eyes together. But my cholesterol got a little bit higher, so I am trying to eat better and not eat so many fried foods. Trying to drink a lot more water too, drink too many sodas. It is like 300 times better for you."

MARK MARTIN SAID YOU HAVE THE BROADEST SHOULDERS OF ANYONE IN THE BUSINESS, HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? "That is a hell of a compliment, man. It is a great compliment. I feel like I take a big role in this sport. I am glad to be part of this sport. I am glad to represent the sport, either on my good days or my bad days. I love being a part of it and whatever I got to shoulder that I feel is fair, I am fine with. If it isn't fair, I am not fine with it. But I bet a lot of people are like that. I have been through enough crap to not want to be here anymore, but I love driving race cars and I am going to drive them as long as I want to drive them. I hope that is a long, long time. It feels like it will be a long time. I want to have good years, I want to have good seasons, I want to win races. I just enjoy driving a race car, whatever level that is on, whatever I'm supposed to be. However good of a damn driver I am, I guess that is up to everyone else to decide."

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP?"I don't know what it is going to take? Wins, points, I know that for sure."

DO YOU HAVE GOALS FOR THIS SEASON? "I try not to set specific goals. I think if I can have a good season like I had in 2004, I would be happy if I could have that year every year. I hate to set specific goals, man, because you end up shootin' a little short or over shooting. And be disappointed either way."

DO YOU THINK OF YOUR DAD EVERYDAY? "Yup, every day. Sure why not. This place (Daytona) doesn't really bring it out. I just think of him every day because that was part of my life. I just think about him. He was an awesome S.O.B. He is fun to think about. Everybody thinks about him. I am not angry, but I am excited because I think everybody does at some point. Maybe not as much as me obviously, but I think about him the same way you would. Just in conversation, something he did. Something cool he did on the track. Something he won or how he won it or what he said. Think about that all the time."

IS EVERY RACE JUST LIKE AN ADVENTURE TO YOU? "Every race? Hell yes! Pretty much. They are all like a little mini season, you know what I mean. They all have a lot of drama."

DO YOU THINK THIS SHOOTOUT WILL BE WILDER THAN USUAL BECAUSE NO ONE HAS TESTED? "I think it is going to be more of an adventure because of the amount of cars. More so than the testing thing. It is just going to be wilder. Everybody is going to practice and know what they have got here in a minute. It will be pretty much what you do in testing. You run the car and go that is a good one, that is not a good one. That is the better car. Let's run this one in the Shootout and we will race this one in the 500. You are pretty much done. But if you have a hard-ass crew chief like I do, he will run you for three damn days if they will let him."

DO YOU THINK A LOT OF THOSE THINGS YOU SAID EARLIER ARE PART OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITY? "I don't like being asked those questions because I don't want to be responsible or have that responsibility for speaking, speaking for anyone. I try to speak for myself and how I feel. I try not to be the voice of anyone else because that is just a dangerous situation to be in. I am not telling anyone how to do their job. I have an opinion and you all asked me what it was. I don't like....pigeon-holed is a good way to put it. But, I just don't like being...if people agree, they agree. If they don't agree then they don't agree. I am not the damn voice of reason by no means."

-credit: gm racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin