Daytona Media Day - Earnhardt Jr




ON TONY STEWART'S ATTEMPT AT THE DAYTONA 500: "Most drivers get 20 shots on average so it's very worrisome, very troublesome and I'm sure that Tony's getting into the part of his career to where his urgency is picking up quite a bit to win this race and he's had a good enough car in the past that he's known how close he's been able to come to win it. Obviously I think that his tenacity will increase. As my father sort of did, as he got older, the tenacity and not so much aggression on the racetrack but just how they prepared for the race before coming to the track, while they were at the track how they raced, how they were aggressive in the qualifying races and what not, I think you'll see that."

PAYTON MANNING FINALLY WON A SUPER BOWL - WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO FINALLY WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP? "Probably in a lot of people's eyes it would help validate my career but me personally, I won't carry any burden with me if I don't. As a race car driver I come in here and I compete; winning the championship is the ultimate goal, I go as hard as I can for it. I haven't yet, but I try to do the right things to win it. The thing about it is, I didn't ever think that I'd be good enough to race full time. I didn't ever think I'd be able to hold down a job as a driver or win at the Cup level. I never thought I was going to make it. I look around and I see people that have followed their fathers' footsteps in this sport, limited success or not. I just never counted on it so I had no goals set as a driver. I raced late-models, didn't win anything. It was basically a hobby. I've already accomplished more than I ever thought I would; I've shook hands and met people and done things that I've never thought I'd see or do. I have quite a lot of fond memories of my career up to this point already and I don't even think I'm halfway yet. I got a lot of years left to focus on winning the championship and hopefully that does happen."

YOU'VE WORKED WITH TONY STEWART IN PLATE RACES, ESPECIALLY TALLADEGA. YOU'VE WON IT BUT HE HASN'T - WOULD THAT AFFECT THE LAST LAP IN THE DAYTONA 500 IF YOU ARE RACING FOR THE WIN? "Me and Tony do like to work together to put ourselves in position to have a chance to win at these plate tracks. We haven't done it as much in the past couple of years but we used to really seek each other out. If Daytona played out that way, the thing that crosses my mind is that Tony (Eury) Jr. ain't going to want me to set up for second. Them guys put so much effort, late nights, hours of tuning on the dynos building motors and what not, trying to find a bit of horsepower here and there for me to go as hard as I can. I want it too, though. To have two Daytona 500s, shoot, that'd be super. If I were in that position, I would be as aggressive as Tony would be."

IN THE CONTRACT CONTROVERSY DURING TESTING, ARE YOU GLAD YOU GOT WHAT YOU DID OFF YOUR CHEST? "Well, I try to be good. I try to do good and stay professional in my comments. I try to convey my feelings to y'all but try to keep the bitterness out of it. Because at times, you get bitter about. Being the younger guy in the whole mess, I try to stay professional. But it was kind of frustrating at times. It was frustrating from one side to the other, not so much. everything that I've read that's been written whether it's been y'all's opinion or another drivers or owner's comments, everything I've read I've not had any problems or issues with. I've actually taken a lot of that stuff and helped form my position and opinion. I was telling those guys over there, you don't like public opinion or media opinion to sway your decisions but in this case I have a real bad habit about being way too modest about my position in the sport. And a lot of people including the media sort of helped me understand what I'm actually worth; what the situation really is."

SO IT HELPED YOU TO READ ABOUT IT? "Yeah. I mean, other times I've been in any kind of controversial trouble, the media has always been a good release for me - if I can conduct it correctly. There's times where I've said things and done things I shouldn't have done and it didn't help. A lot of times the media is a good, not so much. because the public doesn't really know the whole story and the true story. I try my best to do that in a professional manner."

IS ANYTHING NEW WITH THE NEGOTIATIONS? "No, me and Max (Siegel). the whole deal yesterday was really funny. We kind of laughed about it. It was basically me and him and Kelly (Earnhardt-Elledge) and Richie (Gilmore) sitting down. I hadn't sit down and talked to him for more than about 15 minutes so that was the first time that me and him actually sit down and talked. We hadn't even met yet so yesterday was just lunch. He told me where he came from; what his upbringing was like. He told me basically his whole history and what he was about; why he took the job and how that went down - that whole story; what he thought he could bring to the table and a lot of the connections he had, about his ideas and stuff. I told him how I felt about all that and how I felt about where the company (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) was, where it should be, some of the things that I'd like to see done differently. So we just sort of bounced a lot of ideas and things off of each other and we didn't even talk about the contract."

DID YOU FEEL THAT THIS MIGHT BE A BREAKTHROUGH IN THE NEGOTIATIONS, THAT YOU GOT A DIFFERENT PERSON? HOW DID YOU GET A FEEL FOR MAX AS A PERSON AND DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HELP? "It's one hell of a breakthrough for DEI, I'll tell you that. I hate to make predictions because I hate to often be incorrect but this guy is pretty impressive. To sit down with him and talk to him for a little bit, I think that he brings a lot of integrity and credibility to wherever he's at. I'm excited that he's at DEI."

IS THIS ALSO A HELL OF A BREAKTHROUGH FOR DALE EARNHARDT, JR.? "I mean, I just have to see. I don't really know whether. I don't think that would affect my decision. (Max is) a great guy to talk to and a great guy to work with and he's going to speed things up. He's going to speed things up. He's going to improve the negotiations and help those things; make it a little bit easier. A lot of the problems in the past is that it was very 'clunky' in the way it went along. This really could never get its gears meshed."

WHO DO YOU HAVE DOING THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR YOU? "My sister and me, basically."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAID BY READING AND LISTENING TO SOME OF THE MEDIA IT HELPED YOU SEE YOUR WORTH? "When we go do stuff like the Jay-Z deal and I'm sitting there in awe like 'how in the hell did I get here' and 'why am I here', people around me all the time have to remind me of the magnitude of me and my sister, they're like, 'they want you to come to the ESPYs to present. I'm freaked out and scared to death to go do it, or go be on Jay Leno. And they say 'you've got to get more confidence because you're that dude - you deserve to be on that stage.' And I don't see it that way. So when the media, when you guys write about the position and the leverage that I have it sort of helps me understand what my sister and all these people have been trying to explain to me these five or six years."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER TO HAVE A CHAMPIONHIP SEASON? "Well, like last year, there's really no 'hey, this one piece is missing'. I think we're a great team and I think we'll be very competitive this year. We actually, I was scared to death at the test knowing that the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) wasn't going so good for us. I bought a pull-down plate for my Busch team and DEI doesn't have one so they've been over there using the pull-down plate and learning a lot of things. We went back and tested the other day and it was really, really good. So that whole deal has improved 60-70 % as far as my outlook on the CoT so I'm feeling a lot better about this year."

WAS THAT THE WILD CARD OF THE SEASON? "Absolutely. That had me worried to death earlier."

"That's a possibility. I like things to be and I think that most people like it pretty easily laid out for them to understand. I think the fans, the hardcore fans that care to know will tune that in and indulge it and figure it out but the casual fan might lose interest because of the changes. From a driver's standpoint, I hope NASCAR chooses what they want to choose and make the changes they want to make. I don't have any issues and I'm not negative about it but from a driver's standpoint it couldn't matter less the way it's laid out."

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE SO POPULAR? "I just hope because I'm personable and when I, I'm thoughtful, and just a good character. My all-around character is really solid; I hope that that's the impression people have and I'm much more easy to relate to than the other drivers. Hopefully that's what it is."

YOU'VE BEEN PRETTY HUMBLE ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS - WERE YOU CAUGHT OFF GUARD WHEN YOU READ WHAT TERESA EARNHARDT SAID ABOUT YOU CHOOSING BETWEEN BEING A PUBLIC FIGURE OR A RACE CAR DRIVER? "Yeah, that was exactly the reaction. It wasn't so much. the reaction was more like 'I don't make the statement and make it a habit of seeking out attention all the time.' She portrayed it as I was out there waving a flag 'hey, look at me, I can dance, I can sing and check me out.' Like I'm trying to do all this different stuff. I enjoy my radio show, it's an hour long and takes no time to do. My TV show takes five days out of the year to shoot. These things are easy. I've got work delegated to other people for editing and all that stuff. I don't have to mess with it, it don't take no time at all. And it's fun. It's fun to create it; it don't make no money but it's fun to create and see the finished product; it's great. So it was, that was a little like a low blow there."

WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT LOOKING BACK THROUGH THIS THAT YOU DON'T REGRET OPENING UP A BIT IN JANUARY? "Yeah, I feel fine with everything that I've said. I feel very fine with it. You've got to understand that there's a fine line in front of the media when you can say what you want to say and talk how you want to talk but I've had a little time to think about it and I've had a little time to figure out what my position was on it and everything that I've said and done I feel very comfortable with."

HAS TERESA COMMENTED ON ANYTHING SHE'S READ? "I haven't talked to her about it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MEDIA BEING THE MIDDLE MAN IN THIS? "For the most part the media and I have pretty much gotten along; I hear about other drivers and I even asked my father, having butted heads with the personalities in the media. I've never really had those problems."

MOST OF US HAVE WRITTEN THAT DEI NEEDS YOU A LOT MORE THAN YOU NEED DEI. DO YOU FEEL THAT TO BE TRUE? "Well, I don't believe it to be true. I think DEI provides me with a lot to be successful. They're a huge credit to everything I've ever done - every race I've ever won, every finish I've ever had. The people that I've had to work with, the caliber of engines that I've had in the past, the bodies, they're a credit to that. You can't take anything away from DEI and what they've been able to accomplish. My dad started that team and the success that I've had is very credible and very impressive. So there's really no one thing more important than the other when it comes to one side or the other."

YOUR DAD DROVE FOR RICHARD CHILDRESS. DO YOU EVER THINK IT WOULD BE FUN OVER THERE? "Richard's a great car owner and a good friend of mine. I get advice from Richard all the time. His program has definitely improved a lot. They have probably tested the CoT more than any other team and will probably have a lot of success with that car as it becomes a bigger factor in the sport. I get along with all those guys over there; a lot of the guys that worked for my dad still work there and I talk to them quite regularly in the garage area. I still have those relationships that I had with them when my father was around."

IF THINGS DON'T WORK OUT, WOULD YOU CONSIDER OWNING YOUR OWN CUP TEAM? "I really don't want the headaches of being a Cup owner. I would just as soon drive, save as much money as I can and retire. I want to race a long, long, long time. The older I get, the better I feel about my ability to compete longer and not run into the burnout of just wanting to get out of it. Once I am done driving, I really don't want to do anything else as far as ownership. That may change as I get older; it might turn in to something else. For my company right now, working with the Busch Series and understanding it all is really difficult. Last year, we had a huge loss obviously as a startup team that we had anticipated. This year, we may, if we play out cards right, come close to breaking even and that is all I really wanted to do. If I can race and not lose any money at the end of the night, even make a little even, that is just something I like to do for fun and that is what I enjoy. If I continue to get better as an owner there are things I need to do better as an owner as far as working with my guys. I have to get at better at gaining the respect of the people that work with me. Having the same relationship that they say my father had with employees and what-not. But if I can do those things, I know that I would be great as an owner. I wouldn't have any problems with seeking that and trying to pursue that."

WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF YOUR NEW CONTRACT WITH DEI? "The main factor is the ownership part. It has nothing to do with money and nothing else really. I would really like my team; I like how things are going. Max is going to be great for the company. The motors are improving, everything is on an upswing. My father has been gone for almost six years now; I want majority ownership. "

OVER 50%? "Absolutely."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jay Leno