DALE EARNHARDT, JR, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed racing at Richmond, the All Star race and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING HERE AT RICHMOND? “It’s a good track and it’s a little bit bigger than most short tracks we race on but the racing is always fun here and its always a great market and the shape of the track is quite unique which makes it pretty interesting. She’s getting a little bit slick out there, and the last couple trips here it has become more slick but it’s a fun track and looking forward to the weekend and getting in the car and seeing what we got.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE SECRET TO YOUR SUCCESS SO FAR THIS SEASON? “It’s because I am the only one under the pressure to keep it up. Probably, so I hope I can come into the next race and keep up the consistency and do it again, and do it again. I don’t have the time to be worried about anything else other than just trying to keep going. So, it’s a lot of pressure to try and keep going and try to keep up the expectations that everybody has for you. So when we accomplish certain goals like when we win a race or a couple of races, or make the Chase, or win a race in the Chase or battle for the championship……..those are the kinds of things that I can excited about and be happy with and I will enjoy those moments. And I am happy to be consistent but we still have another step to go and still we are running 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th at Texas when we should be running 3rd, 4th, and 5th you know? I can understand when one or two cars really hit on something and just outrun the field but you are going to want to be right behind them if you are not one of those two and you want to be right there. We are hustling and hustling pretty hard, but hustling just inside the top-ten and we need to step up just another notch and we have been just trying to work on that, focus on that and what that is and get that done as soon as possible so that we can continue our consistency and continue our strong run in the points up to this point.”
TALK ABOUT THE DONATION THAT JUNIOR MOTORSPORTS MADE TO A MIDDLE SCHOOL IN DURHAM AND WHY THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU: “We are actually running a car at Charlotte at the All-Star race that has my foundation logos on it and my sponsors with AMP and National Guard are nice enough to allow me to use the hood on the car and we were trying to think about what would be interesting and unique to do this year and we were able to pair up with VH1 Save the Music and work with them on a program connected to the foundation and when we were lucky enough to pair with them, for whatever reason on the car, we needed the quarter panels and we went to our sponsors and asked if we could have that and they were nice enough again to give us more of the car this year. We came up with a pretty good paint scheme and I am excited about the way the car looks and I just read the press release this morning for the first time myself and I am not quiet tuned-up on the particulars of it. But being a big music fan myself I am excited about the partnership with VH1 and hoping its an effective one and looking forward to taking that car to the racetrack and seeing what kind of response we get from the fans.”
TALK ABOUT RYAN KERRIGAN BEING DRAFTED BY THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS: “I was surprised by the pick. I didn’t really know much about him, but now that they have a couple of book-ends, defense ends, or outside linebackers, whichever they choose. But, I am excited about anytime the team gets better. They needed a quarterback, but there’s not many quarterbacks in the draft this year, I don’t know if they wanted to risk first round on the guys that were left.”
BASICALLY THERE ARE THREE RACES LEFT FOR YOU TO WIN AND QUALIFY FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE, PROBABLY PRETTY GOOD CHANCE YOU GET IN ON THE FAN VOTE, BUT IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO QUALIFY BY WINNING THE RACE? “No, not really. That weekend…I don’t take it for granted that we’ll get the fan vote; anything can happen. So, we’re just going to go and enjoy that weekend. That weekend is pretty fun. I would rather, personally make it through the fan vote because the qualifying procedure is a little bit of a pain in the tail, but, from a driver’s standpoint anyways, I’m sure that is probably not everybody’s opinion. Having to qualify and then sit around and wait for everybody else to qualify and run up and down pit road like hooligans is not a lot of fun. The most important thing is just focusing on the points races, the races that matter toward the championship. When we get to All Star weekend, however things are lined up is how things are lined up. That is just a fun weekend regardless. It will be interesting being on the other side of the fence, trying to find a way into the race and going through that experience myself personally to have an appreciation for what that is like versus just showing up and being locked in. It could be interesting and good for me to have that experience as well.”
Well, I have run good at a lot of race tracks in my career.
YOU’VE HAD SUCCESS AT RIR IN THE PAST, BUT NOT AT THE LAST FOUR RACES HERE. WHY HAVE YOU STRUGGLED? DO YOU THINK YOUR CURRENT MOMENTUM CAN HELP YOU GET OVER THAT? “Well, I have run good at a lot of race tracks in my career. If you pick out the three or four that maybe were my best, I’ve struggled at all three or four of them in the last couple of years. My last couple of years, I have struggled every weekend. It’s not a good reflection I guess, of how well I can do at this place. And hopefully with the changes that we’ve made, (that) seem to be working everywhere else; and I hope that they work this weekend. And I hope that (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and the guys are on the ball and the car and me work together well and I feel comfortable in it. And I’m just anxious right now to get out there today and see how the car is going to drive. I know it’s going to be quite different track conditions than the race will be. But every time we go to the race track every weekend, it’s me and Steve going to the track for the first time together. And there is a lot of anticipation to get in the car for that first practice; tons of anticipation. So I look forward to seeing how the day turns out. Hopefully tomorrow night
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE PROVIDING BETTER INFORMATION FROM INSIDE THE RACE CAR AND THAT YOU HAVE STEPPED IT UP AND THAT’S WHY YOU GUYS ARE DOING BETTER? “No, I don’t think so. There are a lot of different variables, just like there are a lot of different variables on the race car to turn and tune; there are a lot of different variables within a team that make it good and make it work. And the ingredients that make this team up are really why we’re doing pretty decent right now. So, there are a lot of different things, I think, that have a lot to do with it.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID HE COULDN’T COMPARE YOU TO LAST YEAR BUT THAT HE’S NOTICED YOU ARE VERY ENGAGED AND SENT HIM EMAILS AND YOU’RE REALLY COMMITTED. IS THIS HOW YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE PAST OR ARE YOU APPROACHING THIS YEAR A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY? “It’s always the way I’ve sort of worked. I think I got better at being plugged in. I got better at my communication when I first started working with Hendrick because how they do things is different than what I’ve done in the past at DEI. The team meetings after the practices, the team meetings during the week prior to the races, and the communication between the driver and the crew chief being more on a daily basis. All those things are opportunities for an idea to pop up or for you to just be continuously giving the crew chief and the team your information and your thoughts and vice-versa. We never really did much of that at DEI. We just kind of showed up and went to the track and if Pops needed to know something he’d call me and ask me or whatever, you know? We just didn’t do those things, which a lot of teams didn’t at the time. But at Hendrick, they just do it differently. So I think I’ve gotten better at utilizing their approach and utilizing their ideas on what communication is. And that’s helped me a lot.”
-source: team chevy