GM Racing Daytona Test January 15, 2003 Interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Part 1 of 2 DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: HOW IS THE TEST GOING? "Right now, we've got one car that's real good. The chassis is kind of...
January 15, 2003
Interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Part 1 of 2
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
HOW IS THE TEST GOING? "Right now, we've got one car that's real good. The chassis is kind of like some of our old stuff we've run n the past. The motor combination is kind of like some of our older stuff and it's working just like it always has. With the other car, we've got some vibrations we can't seem to work out of the motor. But it's good to know what the vibrations are. Sometimes you can't find them and can't work them out. Steve (Park) had two cars down here last week and had the same problem. One car was good and it was the older combination of motor in the car and the newer combination with the new motor and new car and he was having some trouble with vibrations in it too. So we're trying to work it out and maybe be able to run it and race it. If not, what we've had in the past is working out. It's really good."
ON THE CHANGES TO THE TEAM FOR '03: "I didn't expect as many changes. I've got a new bus driver and a new truck driver. I've got two new tire changers and one new tire carrier. There have been a few odds and ends where people have been moved to certain positions and whatnot. We built that Busch team and all those guys are brand new. It's been a lot of fun getting to know these people and trying to see if you've improved the situation or the position and how good the personalities are and if they are going to improve the team.
"I feel like the changes we've made weren't really wholesale changes or big, big changes. We didn't just chop off a limb or two and then try to set it back on its place. There were good reasons for the things we did. The morale just around the truck is different here at the track. The mentality and the feeling you get when you walk in the shop is a lot better. And, it's really amazing to me sometimes how just one person can affect so many. You are reminded of that every once in a while. The guys we've got are really pumped up and real enthusiastic about being with the team. That's what we need and that's what makes you feel good when you're a driver.
"The people that we had in those positions before had kind of lost the spark we needed or the enthusiasm toward the team. And I can understand that. We had some rough times and some tough times. Some people deal with it differently. I wish everybody that was with us last year that's not with us now the very best. I'm looking forward to this year. I think we've made some good changes."
HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU DRIVE THROUGH THE TUNNEL AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY? "I don't exactly remember the first time I came here, but the first time I can recall was when Greg Sacks won. I watched it in that little scoring stand down there in turn one. That's where all the kids and wives went. The first time you came in here, you didn't see it all. Every time you come in here you see something different - just because this place is so big. It's a good feeling. When you come in here, you can't get here fast enough. And then when you leave, you drive out real slow - getting every little last bit you can because it's going to be too long before you come back. I love it. This place is a great race track with a lot of history. It has such an impact on the sport. There are other tracks on the circuit that are important to NASCAR and that are cornerstones and the foundation. But this place here is a pillar. This place really represents everything that I like about the sport. I really like coming here."
WITH SMALLER SPOILERS AND SOFTER TIRES, HAS THE DRIVER LOST THE ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? "When I first raced in the Busch Series, your car would get a little tighter when you ran behind people. But you didn't have what you have here in the Winston Cup Series. When I went to Japan, they had just added an inch to the spoilers and didn't do anything to the noses of the cars. It was some kind of a test run for the following year. It was unbelievable. When you got up behind somebody you just had no grip at all. Even if your car was quicker than the car in front of you, if he was good enough, there was no opportunity to pass him. You just couldn't get to him. The spoiler knocked such a big hole in the air that you don't have anything to assist you once you get to him. You can run him down, but you can't pass him.
"And that's the problem. When we go to Charlotte (for example), we run really good there. We always have a fast car. But if I have a bad pit stop and come out 17th, I normally end up riding around there for a while before the tires get wore out and the set-up part starts to come into play. But when everybody is on new tires, it's impossible to pass because you've got no air on your car. I'm not sure what the answer is. I've only been at it for a few years.
"We had a smaller spoiler and a softer tire before we had the aero push, but there was a reason to go to the harder tire. The tires were blistering at certain tracks and there are reasons why we're where we are now. We don't want to do the whole cycle all over again.
"I do agree that taking some spoiler off will give the guy behind you a little more air on the nose -- add a little more valiance or allow little wider fender width or something like that across the front of the car. But the tire thing - that's a touchy situation. You've got to be careful that you don't get too soft. I agree that at some places the tire is really hard to deal with. I guess the engineers and experts can handle that."
DO YOU STILL THINK ABOUT DRIVING FOR OTHER TEAMS, OR ARE YOU HAPPY WHERE YOU ARE? "I don't think you ever work your way through that. I don't think there are many people that are in the situation that I'm in - driving for your dad. I think Kyle Petty probably has dealt with some of the things that I've faced or thought about. I've always wondered......
"When I drove Richard's Busch car here is was so cool. We won the race. If we hadn't won the race, I don't know if it would've been quite as cool. It was neat to see him get excited about it and him been a car owner. I felt like I was a real asset to the team. In the situation that I'm in now, you've got to understand, that no matter how you put it or no matter how long I'm there, I'm always going to be the son of the man who started the business and who envisioned it all. So I miss out on some things, but there are advantages to it. I'm just always going to wonder what it would be like to drive for somebody else. That's not saying that I think the grass is greener on that side of the fence, I'm just always going to have that in the back of my mind. But I like where I'm at.
"Teresa (Earnhardt) has a lot of responsibility. She's going to have to make a lot of big decisions here in the future. I want to help her as much as I can - as much as she'll let me. Hopefully she makes the right decisions and we prosper and we're successful. You just have to wait and see how things work out. We made a lot of changes over the winter that made me confident that everybody is on the same page. I felt like maybe I didn't know whether everybody was as dedicated as I felt they needed to be. I didn't know if Teresa was really sure about what she was getting herself into because there's a lot of responsibilities being a car owner with the sponsors and everything. And she didn't really have the type of relationships that she needed to have with some of the sponsors. I think she's working on that. There's just a lot of things that need to be better to where I feel more comfortable racing. I'm 28 years old and I've got to put myself in positions to win championships. That's what I want to do is to win championships. I don't want to have to compromise too much to do that. I don't want to feel like I'm compromising. I've never held Tony Jr. or Tony Sr. back. If I felt like I was, I'd make a decision to do something different. I don't want to feel like anybody's holding me back."