DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT Q. Your former teammate Michael Waltrip failed to qualify in Charlotte. What is going wrong there? "I don't know. I don't know much about the team." Q.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT
Q. Your former teammate Michael Waltrip failed to qualify in Charlotte. What is going wrong there?
"I don't know. I don't know much about the team."
Q. Do you ever talk with Michael about what is going on with them?
Q. Last year at this point you were 15th in points. What's different this year?
"Tony (Eury) Jr. He's a big difference. All the guys at our shop have a real positive attitude compared to last year. He has a lot to do with that too. We've got a lot of good people making things happen for me but Tony Jr. sort of straightened the whole deal out and that's a big deal."
Q. What are your three favorite tracks?
"I don't know. There's so many out there I like."
Q. Were you surprised at Kyle Busch's penalty?
"Yeah. I don't know. I thought mine was severe for cussing in victory lane. That was nowhere near as bad as what he did. He did what he did. I didn't really see any reason to penalize him for it. He threw his HANS device, big deal. I didn't see any reason to penalize him. Just tell him not to do it anymore and that should have taken care of it."
Q. Why do you think there is more tension on the track today?
"I don't know. I don't think there is for me."
Q. Does more tension have to do with the higher competition level?
"I don't really feel more tension. I just think some personalities clash and some don't. I don't really have a whole lot of problems on the race track with anybody. I just try to get out there and do my thing. It's pretty easy to do that."
Q. This will be the third year of the Chase for the Championship. In comparison with this year and last year, are you feeling a little better about how to race for points and getting into the top 10?
" No not really. We're human and we're going to make mistakes. I don't think you can be perfect. My car drives better this year than it did last year so I'm not on that edge as much. I've won championships before and I've run good in the title chase before so it ain't like I learned how to run in the point system any better than I did last year. I'm really not on that edge like I was last year. I'm really not on that edge a lot like last year with the car and (we) got bit a bunch."
Q. Are you getting the consistency you want week in and week out or are you still looking for it?
"I think I am (more consistent). I'm really happy. I had a way better car than we were able to finish week in Charlotte. We were fourth at Darlington and a win at Richmond. We had a bunch great finishes and a bunch of great cars this year. I really feel like we have gotten more consistent. We're doing a better job right now than we've done before. I think we're doing it better now than we've ever done it."
Q. What would be a comfortable position for you to be in five or six races from now?
"Fifth I guess. I don't know. Just being in the top 10 is what is important. I don't really know what is comfortable. I guess first (place) 500 points ahead of second is really comfortable."
Q. At the Richmond test you mentioned June being an important month for you. Can you expand on that?
"We're going to Sonoma, Pocono, Michigan, a bunch of race tracks where we have been hit or miss or miss all together. We need to be able to get through that stretch with some satisfaction and confidence in how we ran. I'd like to get some good runs in Michigan. I like that track and I've run good there before but I haven't got the good finishes I think we should be getting. Pocono, I think we can go there and do OK. We've been top five there before. Sonoma, I've had some great race cars but I just seem to find a way to ruin them. Hopefully we'll do a better job when we go back there." Q. What's your biggest challenge at Pocono?
"I don't really have one, just to save it one piece. I don't know. If the car drives good you'll do OK."
Q. How is Martin Truex Jr.?
"I think he's doing fine. He's really good today (Friday). He seems like he's really doing well today (Friday). I think he's done good. He's got to continue to take everybody's advice because it never fails; nobody knows more than a rookie right? He's got to continue to take people's advice and listen to people that are around him and not get so frustrated I guess because he wants to run better. He gets frustrated real easy. We just got to keep him from getting frustrated and shutting down any lines of communication he has with his crew chief, me, Tony Jr. or people in the organization that make his lap times faster because that's really all he wants in the first place."
Q. Is that something he needs to work on?
"No I think he is doing fine. He's just very competitive and competition will kill you. So you just got to continue even in the face of bad practice, you need to have a good all positive attitude."
Q. On Tony Stewart Injury:
"We do have a responsibility to show up and drive Cup cars every week. As a businessman, you have a responsibility to make sure you show up on time for your job. At the same time, who is anybody to tell Tony Stewart what to do with his time? If he wants to drive race cars, he should drive race cars, if he wants to fly kites, he should fly kites. What ever he wants to do, he ought to be able to make that choice himself. I can't be upset or fault a guy for doing what he wants to do and that is his decision. He knows the repercussions probably better than any body else, better than you and maybe even me. He knows the risks and repercussions when he climbs in a car and I don't think you can get down on him too hard for getting injured in the non-Cup stuff. He loves racing. It is what he loves to do, it makes him happy."
Q. On NASCAR allowing one race a season to be thrown out at driver/team discretion for instances such as Tony:
"No that isn't any good. I don't think they should do that. That is too much fine-tuning of the system. "
Q. Should decision whether a driver can or can't race be taken out of driver's hands?
"Sure, a Dr. should be making that decision. NASCAR can bring somebody in to make their own conclusion but Tony is working with Dr. Petty and he is everybody's buddy. He is everyone's friend. But, I have been hurt and he never cut me any slack and I don't see him cutting Tony any slack.
"I had the same injury and raced the next day and finished third. Tony can race, but this is a tough race track, it isn't like the one I ran on. With the load he will feel out there, it isn't any injury like, if you it the wall, it is going to make it worse. It is already broken, I don't think he can break it again, that is done. He already broke it off, it is the tip of his shoulder blade and one he already broke it off, but what hurts the most is when you are leaning in the corner. The weight when you are going around the corner, slings you in the seat puts pressure on it. But he can handle it, he'll be all right, I don't think he will get out."
Q. Did Budweiser tell you that you can't run any other races"
"They done it. I got a deal where I can only run "X" amount of Busch races and blah, blah, blah. That's the sponsor's decision more for continuity with me driving the red car every week. They want consistency for the fans seeing me in a red car. They really don't want to see me in a Taco Bell or KFC car. Bud would rather have me in a red Bud car. That's why I don't really get the opportunity to run more."
Q. Did they do that after your accident?
"No. We've had that contract."
Q. What about your interests and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated?
"Well everybody has an interest. But that's Bud side of it, which is understandable. DEI don't want me going and driving for somebody else and helping them out. I'd like to drive Harvick's Busch car if he asked me but I doubt I could. I'd like to drive my own Busch cars but I don't know if that's a possibility through my commitments and contracts with DEI. You get yourself in a couple of spider webs and it's hard to get out of."
Q. What was it like this time last year for you when you were going through the crew chief change?
"That side of it was miserable swapping the crew chiefs, sitting in an office with Pete Rondeau. Telling him that we didn't need him to be our crew chief anymore was one of the hardest things I ever did because he deserved to be there. I was being a little bit selfish because I wanted Steve (Hmiel) to come in there with his experience to tell me what was wrong instead of being just a spotter. I needed him to get down in there and say 'Hey man you're not driving it right' or that we didn't have a good enough car. I needed his help to really find out where my team was."
Q. Did you know then that you wanted Tony Jr. for the next year?
"I wanted to work with Tony Jr. again but we were both just being hard headed about it. Heck, if I would have went out and won 10 races with Steve in a row who would have blamed me for staying with him. I thought that was a possibility and could happen. We talked to other crew chiefs about hiring other crew chiefs. We talked to other guys. One of them is really successful right now. A lot of what ifs. I'm glad to be with (Tony) Junior, man. He's going to get his credit down the line one day in the books for being one of the best and I'll stick with him."
Q. Is Tony Eury Jr. an old school crew chief with no engineering degree?
"He doesn't have the engineering degree but he's got something a lot of them don't and that's common sense. Sometimes engineering really comes down to is having common sense, figuring something out. He does a great job with staying on top of what's happening in the garage and the latest technology. He rarely ever gets behind. If anything he's right on par with a lot of guys like (Chip) Ganassi and these guys that do have a lot of engineering background and a lot of engineering help. My engineering department is pretty good. We don't put enough money into it."
Q. Is it hard to split time and focus between being a team owner and a driver?
"No, it is not hard to focus just hard to not let the ownership side of it affect the driver side of it or vice versa. It is real easy to drag anger to the other side. If the Cup car isn't running good and I am angry about that, it is hard to drop that when I go be the owner for the Busch team. Or when the Busch car has a bad Saturday, it is hard not to be angry about that and bring it to my race on Sunday. That is probably the hardest part, keeping the temper down."