Earnhardt Jr - Daytona Fan Fest interview, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: With so many drivers out of work and quality seats across the board in the three series shrinking, to your mind what can a guy do to help himself to get a job in this market? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Shoot, man. ...

Continued from part 1

Q: With so many drivers out of work and quality seats across the board in the three series shrinking, to your mind what can a guy do to help himself to get a job in this market?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Shoot, man. Well, you know, it's sort of every job that anybody I don't know if I can say that fully. But there's a lot percentage of people who have jobs in this sport because of people they knew and connections and friends. There's a small percentage of guys that worked for nothing for a little while to try to prove their worth. That was real common over at my dad's place in the '90s was you'd come work for free for three months, and if we thought you were any good we'd keep you and start paying.

I mean, just like everything else, man, over the last several years we sort of all were living oblivious to the perils of what we were to face and what we're facing now. We sort of quit cutting corners and costs and just stopped paying attention to the little things, trying to save a buck here and there, and it's sort of biting a bunch of people in the butt now.

You know, we just have to I think it's important for us all to get back to some of the simpler ways of doing things, and people are going to have to work for free in some cases to prove their worth. I'm using that more metaphorically than anything because it's going to be there's so much more supply when it comes to individuals than there is demand now, and it's tough. It's a very, very unfortunate time, and I'm speaking mainly around Mooresville and in that area where so many people have lost their jobs. It's very difficult and very challenging, and the mood is such, and you just drive around and see all of these development properties that have screeched to a halt and they're just sitting there and not moving and not developing. But it's unfortunate. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm as interested as everybody in this room to see where we're going to be about a year and a half from now. I'm on top of that stuff. I mean, I read and study and try to understand the best I can about what's happening and what really how many different things can happen to us in the future and what happens to our sport or how is our sport affected, and should it get worse how would it be affected. I try to have a good idea.

I'm in this. I have a lot of business connections in this sport and things that I'm doing as an owner and whatnot, that it would be smart for me to be aware. I don't know how to get somebody a job, though. It's almost impossible right now.

Q: You've obviously had a chance to meet a lot of interesting people throughout your career, actors, singers, athletes, presidents. Who is one person you've come across that you were really surprised to find out was a NASCAR or a racing fan?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Oh, man. Well, that's tough to say. I really appreciated LeAnn Rimes for being so kind to me. I met her a couple times, most recently in Michigan, and her husband was a big fan, and she, too, is a big fan, and they're just really really she was always just really pleasant.

I didn't know it at the time, but to be able to speak to the president over the telephone after winning the Daytona 500. I was so naïve at the time and just in a zone because of the win, and I look back on that and can't even recall the conversation. But I'm proud of that.

I know for a fact that he was aware of who I was and what I did and possibly a fan, but Dirks Bentley is a big fan. That was kind of cool. We've become pretty good friends. I got a phone call from Dwight Yokum a year ago. We've talked on the phone a couple times since. He's a fan.

In 2000 I sent Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters a guitar, and he got the guitar two days before my dad was killed, so he played the guitar after he found out about the whole story, he played it on a couple shows the next several months, and then he called me, left me a couple messages, and I was too scared to call him back. I regret that one.

I mean, I met a lot of different people. But it surprises you, I guess, to more so to meet the people that don't know much about the sport and then run into them down the road after they've experienced it. You bring a lot of guys like McConaughey and people like that who have never been around this and then they experience it and you see them six months down the road, and they've become a fan. That's what's really great. That's what I like about it. Everybody we show this to typically falls in love with it.

Q: I have two questions for you. You've already won the Daytona 500, and you had one year under your belt with the Car of Tomorrow, so you know what you need in the way of driving it and Tony knows what it needs in the way of setting it up. What do you think it's going to take to win the Daytona this year with this car in the second season?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know. I've got to be fast, I know that. That was pretty apparent. When the 18 and the 11 and those guys were leading last year, man, you couldn't even get to them. You've got to handle good. They were handling good and had some good power. We've just got to get our car to handle a little bit better. I think I've wrecked out of the last two Daytona 500s or maybe I finished ninth or something last year, but I've not finished well, done well near the end of the races, made the wrong choices, picking the wrong line and finishing bad or crashing out. You've just got to make the right choices near the end of the Daytona 500. The night falls and the grip comes, the track gets a lot more grip, and the two wide racing becomes more common. If you're not in the front of one of them lines, you're kind of stuck where you are. So you've got to make sure you're near the front of that thing just about all day.

You've got to think in the back of your mind, every battle for every position is a potential battle for the win. If you think for one minute that I'll just let this guy go because it's so early in the race, that could have been the pass that lost you the race. Especially, like I said, because it gets cooler and you get the grip in, it's harder to pass.

What was the other question?

Q: You're in the Bud Shootout this year, and how do you like NASCAR's expanding into 28 entries this year.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I wish you wouldn't have asked me because I didn't want to talk about it. I don't like the new format. You had a race for guys who won poles, you had a race for guys who won races in the middle of the season, and now neither one of those are hardly recognizable. I mean, if NASCAR I haven't asked NASCAR why they changed it, so I don't feel like I can rightfully say much without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves for their reasons. But apparently there were some reasons they changed it, and it's obviously better for the manufacturers with this new format for the Shootout. But it's less about why the race was started in the first place.

It just sucks because I'm such a historian of the sport, and I just like all the history and I like all the cool things about the history, and I like looking back on the guys who were in this race in the '80s and '90s and why they were in it and how they got in it and who missed it the next year and made it the next year. I don't know, just sort of things change. Maybe there's nothing wrong with this new format. Maybe I just hate change. But I don't like it. I like the old format.

Q: Brad Keselowski who drives for you in the Nationwide series is going to be entered in seven Cup events this season. How can you help him prepare for his Cup debut and do you think he's ready to race with some of the top names in the sport.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know, man. Brad is pretty smart. Brad has been the cool thing about Brad is I don't have to tutor him hardly at all because he grew up around racing, so he knows everything. He always tells me what's new and what I need to be doing. He's really, really passionate about seatbelts, the latest and greatest, helmets. He's got me wearing this impact helmet which I really like, but he's trying to get me to wear these new seatbelts, and I'm just a little stubborn.

Seriously, he comes from a racing family and he knows a lot about racing. He grew up in the sport, and he knows the trials and tribulations, and he knows the things that I would tutor him on or want to tutor him on would be keeping your head on straight, staying away from the bad crowd, trying not to get caught up in controversy early and trying to be yourself, show me and show the public who you really are, be a good guy, be a respectful guy early. That's really the first impression, you know? But he already probably knows most of that. I think if I see him say something out of line that he shouldn't have said that's going to haunt him, I'll try to remind him because he doesn't want to make that mistake. He won't admit it and I'd tell this to Brad even if you weren't in the room when we wrecked our cars at Vegas that was a tough time for us. Mark won the race, I was excited. Brad lost the race, which he might have been able to win if he could have held them guys. Do y'all remember that Busch race? So it was hard for Brad to sort of get over what happened there and Mark wrecking him. Everybody knows who Mark Martin is, and he doesn't go around wrecking guys, but Brad doesn't know that. So it just took Brad a little while to get over that. Those type of situations I can help Brad with once he finds himself in them, but I don't think I can do anything to help him prepare because he's pretty much well ready to go.

Do I think he's ready to race everybody? Sure. He's going to race them harder than he should, but he's so used to doing that in the Busch Series because he's trying to get a job. Once he gets in the Cup Series maybe he'll take better care he'll have to take better care of his equipment because he's going to have to run an additional 200 miles. Who knows, he might be a hell of a deal in a Cup car. I hope so. I mean, I take some credit for it.

Q: Aric Almirola was in here yesterday and he said he's got no guarantees after Daytona and that the 8 car is in question for the rest of the season. Would that disappoint you if the 8 wasn't in NASCAR, and do you still have an emotional connection to that car?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, yeah, I do have an emotional connection to it. I hope that it's able to run all year. You know, I think probably more so for Aric because he's had to sort of put off this season, this full season, that he's been so excited about having for a couple years now, and he's not had that opportunity. I hope that he gets the chance to run this year and run all year, and I hope he's with a good group of guys that will do a good job. Obviously he had a good group last year with Tony and them guys, but they moved on. You know, it's just unfortunate. So much has changed in the last six months in this sport, in the last 18 months a bunch has changed, and I just hope we can get all settled down somehow and start having a little bit of order around here and start rebuilding, everybody getting some stability financially to where we can have more expectations than we have questions.

Q: You must have gotten a lot of advice growing up in racing, maybe too much advice. What advice that you got seemed to work the best for you throughout the years?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Man, I don't know. It's hard to answer. That's a tough answer right there. I didn't have a lot of it when somebody says what kind of advice did you get, the only thing that ever springs to mind, and it's such a cliche, but it's really serious, is stay away from drugs. For some reason I was pretty I had a pretty decent head on my shoulders, and I was actually scared to death of that stuff when I was 13. If somebody would have showed me I had never seen what weed looked like or what cocaine looked like, and if somebody would have showed me I probably would have run in the other direction. For some reason my daddy was real adamant, and he mentioned it almost on a daily basis or a weekly basis at least about staying away from it, stay away from people who were doing it. I think he was worried because he was out of town racing. He just didn't know what me and Kelly were doing on the weekends. But he talked about it a lot, talked about it all the time. I had no idea how close it was to me. I had no idea I assumed that that was miles and miles away.

When you're a teenager, you have no idea that it could be in the house next door. It could be in the classroom across the hall. You have no idea, and you wouldn't ever assume it at that age. You just assume everything is great and everybody is right and everybody is true, you know what I mean?

But he talked about it and talked about it and talked about it. And as I got older and understood really how dangerously close that is to everyone, and myself included at a young age, I guess I realized his urgency and his paranoia a little bit about it.

I've had some I've known some friends to have some trouble with it and struggle with several years of their life, getting mixed up in certain drugs, but you see it you don't have to have friends. You see it every day amongst a lot of people, and fortunately or unfortunately we hear about it on the radio or the television a lot. I didn't know how difficult or how vulnerable of a situation I was in until I got older and realized how close it was.

I'm glad that he said what he said and I'm glad he reminded me about it all the time, because even as I was scared to death of it, and I probably didn't need anybody telling me how dangerous it was, but maybe some kids are all too confident in that situation and would make that mistake.

You know, we never talked when somebody asks me that question nothing ever pops in my head about somebody told me to do this at this race or somebody told me to handle the media this way or somebody gave me some advice about nothing race related. The first thing that pops in my head is that for some reason because that's just such a dangerous deal.

ANDREW BOOTH: Dale, that wraps it up. Thank you very much.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brad Keselowski , Aric Almirola , Mark Martin