Daytona Preseason Thunder - Earnhardt Jr press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Certainly there are people that have chased Hendrick here for a little bit. You've been in that role and now are inside the fences there at Hendrick. From your experience and just from what you're seeing now, what do...

Continued from part 1

Q: Certainly there are people that have chased Hendrick here for a little bit. You've been in that role and now are inside the fences there at Hendrick. From your experience and just from what you're seeing now, what do you see that is so different or what's kind of opened your eyes about being at Hendrick that maybe you kind of wondered about when you were chasing them?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's hard to say what I see that's different. They have more stuff as far as if it's a CNC machine or whatever. They have more of everything. They're able to mass-produce more, and they have the ability to cover all the bases easier with the amount of personnel and the talent in each individual. I see that.

Otherwise it's about the same. I mean, I really was proud of where I came from and proud of the team that I had last year, and it's hard for me to really put into words without - I'd rather - I choose really not to discuss it that often because I don't want anyone that I've worked with in the past to get the impression that I am in a much better place and much more happier and I've got better people, because it really just comes down to the tools and how you use them.

Now, Rick has built - Rick's deal is bigger, like I said. He's got more stuff, and he's had a lot of the same employees for a long time. When I first started winning races and running good in the Cup Series, the one thing that I started to understand that I should worry about was loyalty, and I see that they have that there. They have a lot of loyalty and there's a lot of pride in being loyal and being dedicated to that team, and there's a lot of pride in people doing it for Rick. You work with people for years and years and you see where some people are - some people concentrate and focus on how to improve their position and improve their - whether it be their way or their title or whatever. I see a lot of people at Hendrick that sacrifice - sort of the opposite; they sacrifice for the good of the company or for Rick or whatever makes that car go faster.

I know I'm just seeing things for the first time, but that's really the initial thing that popped up to me that I saw. You get to know things more and better and deeper and you start to understand it more, and I'm sure there will be more evident things that I didn't - other tools or people or whatever that I didn't realize I had before or didn't use before or that wasn't around at DEI or whatever.

But it's hard to get real specific. DEI builds race cars just like Hendrick does. They build good race cars. I drove them. We won. We ran up front.

I just think you look at the track record that Hendrick has and they're doing something different and they're doing it better. It's hard to say really where it is other than just how large a program it is. They have 20-some CNC machines cranking stuff out all the time, and DEI has nine. Or they had nine. I don't know how many they have now. That's an instance in maybe 150, 200 instances where that makes a difference when you add all that up. That's how Hendrick is so consistently dominant.

Q: I want to ask you, when you made this move you obviously anticipated your life changing to some degree. Now that you've been through it, what has changed? Is it busier? Are there more sponsors, more responsibilities, less time, and is maybe the greatest change a peace of mind?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: There is a peace of mind. I think one of the changes, like I said, has been not being the son of the boss anymore, going to somewhere - me and Tony, Jr., both experienced sort of a little bit of a growth or maturity about just going from one door to the other overnight. You know, like I said, I got away - I grew up over the years, but when I first started you could get away with saying things and get being quoted certain ways and be able to get away with it working for my daddy. I wouldn't be able - my job now is to stay out of Rick's office as much as I can.

We have a great relationship, and he seems to - I mean, he's known me for a long time like everybody else here, and I think everybody gets the kind of person I am. And I think he made the choice to hire me as much as I made the choice to go there, and I feel like it's going to work out and be fine. But it's sort of refreshing to not have that safety net, you know?

I've always talked about trying to get credibility and people to respect you and whatnot, and by putting yourself out on a limb here, it's definitely hopefully going to get me some of that, especially if we can perform and get the job done that everybody thinks we should get done, and I think we will.

Peace of mind, I think the peace of mind comes from probably the same thing, just knowing that I'm taking the risk and it took a lot of guts to do it, so I'm pretty proud of being able to just do it, just to do that. I could have popped out or went another direction, but I went in the best direction and I took the risk to put my career and my credibility on the line to work with a company that has won a lot of races. So that should - hopefully if we win some races, it'll all work out.

Q: Fans are IM'ing, what did he wear today, did he get here early, did he get here late, is he smiling, not smiling, but one of the things that hasn't been addressed is Kyle Busch, whether people can compare you and him or if he does better or you do better early on and are you rivals, and can you sort of address that? Is that a story line that we might see? Is that fair?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's up to y'all what y'all write, but I told Rick - when you were talking about what time I got up, I told him I don't like to stay at the hotels right next to the track because these race cars wake me up first thing in the morning. I thought that was funny.

But anyways, getting back to your question, I think that I've got a lot of respect for Kyle's ability, and it's been a little bit of a challenge to not let - for me not to get under his skin and for him not to get under mine, I suppose, to end the season last year, especially after I wrecked him at Kansas.

But I think that we both understand we need to be successful where we're at, where he is and where I am, and that's what our priority should be, and getting to know our teammates and getting to work well and being an asset to the company.

Joe is an amazing man regardless of his involvement in motorsports, but I think Kyle, if he doesn't know that already, he'll understand that and realize how important that is that he does well and represents the company well and is an asset to Gibbs. And for me, too, it's probably the same thing.

Q: A lot of people talked about your relationship with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, but not much is talked about in your relationship with Casey Mears, and since you guys are going to be - your cars are going to be built in the same shop, how is your relationship with him and how do you guys interact?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Me and Casey, you know, I goof off with him because we've hung out before at the racetrack and we were pretty good buddies. You know, he drove for - he drove with Jimmy who was married to my sister, so we became pretty good friends through that. I've known Jimmy for a longer period of time and I've known Jeff for even longer than that, but I've never really spent time around them away from the racetrack. I know how they are as race car drivers and what their work ethic is, and I think we'll be able to work together and be pretty happy that we're teammates.

But me and Casey will probably do more goofing off and take it - I mean, he takes it pretty serious because he wants to do good. Me and him, we'll spend time together away from the racetrack where I might not do that so much with Jimmy and whatnot.

Q: A lot of people are already making predictions about how you'll do this year. Tony, Jr., said yesterday you'd win at least four. What are your expectations for the year, goals, and what would be a successful first season for you at Hendrick Motorsports?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I just like running up front every week. I like going to the racetrack and being in the - being toward the top of the chart, at least on the left side of the page in practices and whatnot.

And in the race I like to run up front. We did that a lot last year, and when I look at - when I take a look at all my seasons, I was better last year at showing up and being there every weekend. We weren't there every weekend, but I had a better car the majority of the season than I had had in seasons past.

That's really all I wanted out of driving race cars. I want to be up front and be toward the front and challenging, and when I show up to the racetrack I want people to expect me to run well, not just at particular tracks everywhere. It was good to go and to do that at some tracks last year that I typically hadn't been able to do that at.

I was hoping that with some of the extra ability that Hendrick has in winning championships and races on a regular basis that that could even improve my finishing. I don't want to sit here and guess how many races we'll win. We'll win some races, and I expect to win soon. I'm a good driver with a good team, and if we don't make mistakes on a Sunday we should have great finishes and win some races.

JOSH HAMILTON: Thanks a lot for your time, Dale.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports