DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the California race track, NASCAR penalties issued for Carl Edward and Kyle Busch, the new Budweiser Shootout format, heading into the Chase, his NNS team,...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the California race track, NASCAR penalties issued for Carl Edward and Kyle Busch, the new Budweiser Shootout format, heading into the Chase, his NNS team, magazine interviews, rivalry in the sport, and more.
HOW PHYSICALLY DEMANDING IS THIS RACE TRACK GIVEN THE LENGTH OF 500 MILES AND THE HEAT? "It's not too bad. It's like any other 1.5-mile track. It's about the same."
LOOKING AT THE WALTRIP INCIDENT LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL, HOW MUCH DOES A DRIVER TRUST HIS SPOTTER? "He trusts him a lot. He trusts him to be right."
IS THAT A RELATIONSHIP THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK ON? "You just find somebody that you like talking to and that you get along with. I've got a buddy of mine who is my spotter. He's pretty good. He's raced before. People that have raced before are good spotters because they know what you want to hear."
WHAT'S YOUR FEELING ON NASCAR GIVING KYLE BUSCH AND CARL EDWARDS SIX WEEKS PROBATION? "Yeah, I thought that was a little tough. Thought the penalties were kind of strong. It was exciting but I don't think they deserved to be put on probation."
YOU'VE ALWAYS DONE WELL AT RICHMOND AND CALIFORNIA. IS THIS WHERE YOU CAN GET SOME MOMENTUM GOING BEFORE THE CHASE STARTS? "Well, I'd just like to get some good runs in and get back to running in the top five. We've been struggling a little bit."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT THAT THEY RELEASED THIS WEEK? "I don't know what the extra five laps are for. What the heck? They don't get it, you know what I mean? They've messed up the Winston and the All-Star race and they're messing up the Shootout. They ought to line us up and make us run 10 laps. They want us to run around there for 25 laps first, like a 25-lap segment, that would be cool. But 10 laps to go, all or nothing. That's what the fans want. That's what the drivers want. That last segment being 50 laps, I mean we're all just going to sit there for 30 (laps). I just don't get it. They don't get it. I don't understand. I don't know what the focus group is they're talking to, to get these kind of formats. It's frustrating because I want to like those races. I don't want to dread them and right now I'm dreading running them because the formats aren't fun."
ARE YOU OKAY WITH THEM SWITCHING IT FROM POLE-SITTERS? "Oh, yeah; they can pick them however they want. It doesn't matter to me. I just hate the format. It's not exciting. It's not fun. It's 50 laps at the end, right? That's too long. What for? This is a Shootout. We're going to stroke the first 30 laps. I don't know; there's got to be a reason."
WITH WHAT YOU'VE DONE THIS SEASON, DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE AS GOOD A CHANCE AS ANYONE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIPS WHEN THE CHASE STARTS? "Yeah, those are good tracks for me in the Chase. We've got to get our head on our shoulders. We've been messing up a little bit and struggling with the car. But we've been trying some stuff too. We're not really running what we ran at the start of the year and maybe we kind of need to learn a lesson and move on. But with these cars, you've got to move out of the box and see what the tricks are. The No. 99 is super fast here. He's obviously got a great set up and that's the difference from ours, I'm sure. So we have to figure out what that is. Our old stuff is decent, but we ain't going to outrun him. We've got to work harder. But sometimes when you try to find a trick set-up, you go the wrong way."
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FIRST LAP LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL? "I didn't dwell on it too long. I made a mistake and that was that. That was against the rules and I just didn't know anybody was watching back there (laughter)."
DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE THIS IS AS GOOD A CHANCE AS YOU'VE EVER HAD TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Absolutely. Rick (Hendrick) has given me an incredible opportunity. I think I've got a great team. Every piece of it has just got to work together and working perfectly. We've got to find some harmony and get back to where we were at the beginning of the year."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR FOCUS FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR, HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND ON BRAD KESELOWSKI AND HIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "Oh, quite a bit. He does a good enough job to where you don't have to worry too much. He's pretty solid and seems to have a pretty good idea of how he needs to manage his expectations and he does a good job of staying cool under pressure. So it's not too much of a challenge."
WHAT ABOUT THE TALK THAT HE HAD BEEN OFFERED OTHER CUP RIDES WITH OTHER TEAMS AND TURNED THEM DOWN? "He came and told me he was having a couple of meetings with Roger and he didn't know what to do and he just needed somebody to tell him what was right and I told him I could tell him what I thought, but that Rick would be the best person to talk to. Sometimes, like with me, when you talk to Rick, even if he wants you to work for him, he'll sort of help you and he takes the agenda out of it, do you know what I mean? I knew he would give Brad good advice. I think Brad did the right thing. I think he's got a great opportunity where he's at. He's running great with the Nationwide team. I basically said would you want to trade where you are and opportunities with Rick in the future at the Cup level with where you could be with Roger. Do you want to trade that? Would you trade it? Does that feel comfortable to you? And I guess he made up his mind."
WHAT ABOUT AN OPPORTUNITY WITH YOU AT THE CUP LEVEL SOMEDAY? "If he could get the deal with Rick, he'd have a better chance of running better and I would hope that happens for him. I told him that if I was building a Cup team, that I would tell him to go drive for Roger."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF BEING A TEAM OWNER AND WHAT HAVE THEY TAUGHT YOU? "The challenges are mainly financial. You've got a lot of people that are good people and finding a bankroll and a payroll if they can handle it, and managing that. That's the toughest part. Trying to stay above water, you know. You've got to do it every year. You've got to be back next year. In the Nationwide Series, your sponsors are typically not long term. And so we're actually in a transition mode now trying to work in new deals. And we hope that they happen. If they don't, we can only race what we can afford to race. We won't show up to the race track spending money out of my pocket; and we'll do whatever we can afford to do from our sponsors and that's tough, financially trying to find that kind of money. The economy is going down and the sport is getting more expensive."
ON THE ROLLING STONE STORY FEATURING TONY STEWART, WHAT'S IT LIKE TO WORK OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA? "I haven't read the story. But it's fun. It's something different. And the guy (Toure) who wrote mine, was with me every day for a week. And we got to be really, really good friends and I got to have a lot of trust with him and he was able to write a better story because of that. I haven't read it (Stewart feature) but I'm sure it's a good story. They always do good work. It's fun to try to see them try and cover a NASCAR driver and things that are so out of their realm. Congratulations to Tony. That's a heck of a milestone."
IT'S KIND OF A 'WARTS AND ALL' LOOK AT TONY STEWART. WHEN YOU DID THAT STORY, DID THAT HELP YOU REACH A DIFFERENT SECTION OF YOUR FAN BASE? "More people will recognize you and like you to what you do professionally. They'll remember you're name when they hear it in conversation or whatever. But I think it does a lot for you, I really do."
IS IT WORTH THE TRADEOFF THAT MAYBE A SPONSOR MIGHT NOT LIKE IT SO MUCH? "Well, when you're doing the story, you have to handle that. You have to control what you're allowing the interviewer to know and see. You kind of feel like you're sticking it to the system when you let them all see all and tell all because we kind of get caged I guess, a little bit and put in a box sometimes. So maybe he was just blowing off some steam in an area where he knows he can and probably get away with it. If you are interviewed by Playboy, you're going to talk about your sex life. They're going to ask you about it. You're not going to talk about that in the Boston Globe (laughter), you know what I mean? So maybe he just felt like that's an area where maybe he can blow off a little steam and get out of the box a little bit and have people see a little more of him without suffering too many consequences or too much criticism."
DID YOU GO TO THE (NBC-TV SHOW) OFFICE YESTERDAY? "No, I went to see my buddy, Muscles, and where he works at DirecTV. And man, I had a meeting with him about where the numbers are on the remote (control unit). I think they should change it (laughter). Do ya'll have DirecTV? You know where the numbers are at the bottom of the remote, and you have to hold it kind of funny and it's very uncomfortable and awkward. And when you hold a normal remote, you want the numbers up in the middle. Ya'll got to help me man. Muscles is not hearing me. He thinks I'm joking, but I'm serious. I feel like he needs to offer a remote for those people like me who want the numbers up in the middle. Maybe if you guys (the media) write about it, they'll hear. It's a travesty. It is. You change the channel by the numbers and everybody goes to the numbers. They put them down at the bottom and my thumb can't get down there and I drop the remote a lot. It's terrible."
GOING TO RICHMOND LAST WEEK, DID YOU EVER HAVE TO TALK TO KYLE BUSCH TO DISCUSS THAT? WAS THERE EVER A NEED TO AND WHY NOT? "Oh, I don't know man, we were in a very awkward situation at the start of the year because of the teams that we went to and there was just so much press back and forth about him and me. We just never had the urge to reach out to each other. But more recently, in the last half of the season, I think we've grown. Obviously he's got to be super happy about how things are going for him and I feel pretty good about my situation and I think we've grown to be able to accommodate each other."
IS IT FAIR TO SAY HE'S GOT ONE COMING FROM YOU AT SOME POINT? "Oh, it's fair to say. I've got a list, and it's long (laughter). I've got to get Jason Keller before he retires. Ya'll remember my first race at Myrtle Beach? He come off the wall and spun me out. I was running sixth. Yeah, I mean, it's like Carl (Edwards) said, I think, you know, you ask yourself really, if you're in that situation, what would the guy do if the roles were reversed and that's how you drive people and that's how you race people. So, absolutely."
CARL EDWARDS AND KYLE BUSCH ARE GOING TO BE THE DOMINANT STORY WHEN WE GET TO THE CHASE. WHAT DO THOSE TWO DRIVERS BEING TO THE TABLE, PERSONALITY-WISE? "I think that Carl Edwards is All-American, kind of, and Kyle is definitely more the bad boy. And so there is a contrast in their personalities, although Carl can be aggressive but his image is more All-American. I think it's a good rivalry and I think it's good for the sport and what happened last week is amazing for us to get the coverage we got from it."
IS THAT IMAGE DIFFERENT INSIDE THE SPORT THAN IT IS FOR THE FANS? "That's a good question. I think so. The fans are definitely more enamored in what's happening and what's going on. They are a whole lot more immersed in the drama of it. They really feed off of that, you know. We like it and laugh at it and pick on each other a little bit. But the fans totally eat it up, you know and that's why we need more of it."
-credit: gm racing