IMS Brickyard - Earnhardt Jr press conference, part 1

Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Press Conference Transcript Thursday, July 9, 2009 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. RON GREEN: Good morning. My name is Ron Green. I'm the director of public relations for the Indianapolis Motor ...

Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Press Conference Transcript
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

RON GREEN: Good morning. My name is Ron Green. I'm the director of public relations for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I want to welcome everyone here, especially our guests from the National Guard. We are also streaming this press conference live, and it will be seen around the world.

We also want to welcome our special guest today, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale, Welcome.


GREEN: We had another press conference in here yesterday with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. I said it wasn't an ordinary day at the Speedway, for several reasons. Usually the Speedway this time of year is pretty quiet getting ready for the race. Yesterday we had one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in Indiana, the Indiana Open, going on, which is actually going on again today at the Brickyard Crossing. We have hundreds of fans getting behind-the-scenes tours presented by our Hall of Fame Museum, so we had fans all over the grounds getting a behind-the-scenes look of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And then we have a couple hundred kids racing from all over the country at the USAC Quarter Midget Nationals over in what is normally the driver motorcoach lot.

Then we had on top of all that, as I said, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart. We also had a surprise visit by Al Unser Jr. and A.J. Foyt. So we had a lot of activities on the grounds yesterday, and believe it or not, same thing today.

All of those same tournaments, and we also are fortunate to have NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. Obviously, we're here to talk about the Allstate 400, but we'll talk about a few other things, as well.

Dale, first of all, I appreciate you stopping on your way up to Chicagoland here and doing this for us. We really appreciate that.

EARNHARDT: Well, I appreciate it. I want to thank all the National Guard people that are here today, and obviously the Guard has had a big influence on me being here today, and I want to thank them and our sponsors, Amp Energy, also. They've been really supportive this year, and it's been great working with them. Met a lot of great servicemen and women through the Guard this year. And look forward to the rest of the season.

We are practicing in Chicago later this afternoon, but we were supposed to come out here and drive, I think it's a 1941 --

GREEN: 1941 IndyCar.

EARNHARDT: That was going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully that offer is still open. (Laughter)

Dan Wheldon was here with his National Guard IndyCar, the two-seater. He was going to give me a lap or four in that thing, and that was going to be pretty exciting. But we'll have to do that another day, as well, I guess.

But I'm sure when we come back for the 400, the weather will be a lot nicer, and obviously we made a lot of changes in the tire that we had a problem with last year. They've had what I've heard up to four or five tests here, and I've heard nothing but good things, so I'm certain that they've got the tire issues cured coming into this next event. I'm looking forward to it, too. Working with a new crew chief over the last couple weeks, and we're seeing some improvement and looking forward to every race that I run the rest of the year, in that regard. Getting more and more time with Lance (McGrew), and the team and improving more and more.

GREEN: July 26 will be the 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Dale has nine starts in the 400 beginning in 2000, best start as third in 2002 and his best finish was sixth in 2006. He's led the race on four occasions. Dale, I have one question for you, and then we'll open it up to the media.

When you look at the list of winners of the 400, Gordon, Stewart, Johnson, Elliott, Rudd, Labonte and, of course, your father, Dale Earnhardt, some of the best of the best that's ever driven in the sport. What would it mean to you to have an Allstate 400 at the Brickyard championship?

EARNHARDT: Well, winning this race is amazing. Any kind of a -- it's really, really hard to put it into words, and I try my best every time I get asked that. Everybody wants to know what winning this race is like because obviously this event competes with just a very small amount of other events to be the most prestigious race in our series throughout the season. And it's arguably, depending on who you ask, obviously, the biggest race of the year.

So it's really hard to put it into words what it would feel like. I think about when somebody asks me what it would feel like to win here, I think about the open-wheel history of this track, and I think about the drivers that were here, drivers like Andretti and Foyt and the guys even before them. I think about the history of this track and how it's survived the war and closed down and opened back up and everything that it's been through. And I remember when we first, when they first brought stock cars here to practice, it was a realization for a lot of people, including myself, being an aspiring driver at the time, that I may have a chance one day to race at Indianapolis that I otherwise didn't think that I would have unless I was to go in the open-wheel series.

So it's an honor to run here, it's an honor to be here at this place. And to win at this racetrack, regardless of the series, I think is great for any driver's resume. Not only in, you know, in North America but the world. This place is second to none when it comes to history; and when you think about motorsports, you think about Indy.

GREEN: We're going to open it up for questions. Just three notes here first. One, this is being streamed live, and we're also doing a transcript of this, so we need to ask your question in a microphone. I'll work this side of the room, we have Jana on that side of the room with a microphone, so just raise your hand when you're ready to ask a question.

If you already haven't heard, all the on-track activity, as Dale mentioned, is canceled unfortunately. But we'll take you up on that offer and get you back up here to drive that 1941 car.

Also, Dale was actually running early today, so we knew he was a history buff and we were able to get him in the basement of the Hall of Fame Museum for about 20 minutes, and I think you're wanting to come back and see a little bit more, aren't you?

EARNHARDT: Yeah, I filled up my phone with all kinds of video. (Laughter)

GREEN: Over here, Steve.

Q: Dale, you seemed to take quite an interest when Dan showed you the two-seater. Any thoughts you would like to drive IndyCars?

EARNHARDT: I'm intrigued how the IndyCar drives, what driving an IndyCar feels like. I would love to drive one, to go to a track and put some laps in. Any time you get around, you know -- today we did go to the Museum and did go down in the basement. I stood next to a Formula One car for the first time. I had never been in the same room with a Formula One car, and if you're a race car driver, that's kind of like being in the same room with a national swimsuit model or something. (Laughter)

So I was pretty much in awe just to be next to a vehicle like that. And all the other cars that were in there, Smokey Yunick's little sidepod car, all kinds of neat little things that have happened at this racetrack and have been brought to this racetrack. There's a -- what year model were those limousines or the Iraqi king's car? It was like a '38 or something?

GREEN: Late '30s.

EARNHARDT: Some wild stuff in there that you would never see. You can look at a picture of it on the Internet, but standing next to something like that is so impressive. It's really hard to understand how to appreciate -- how not to appreciate something like that.

But anyways, where I was going with this? But when I was standing out there with Dan, you know, anytime you're around a race car and there's a driver that has drove that car, you've got to ask him what it drives like, what it feels like, what it does, how it works. And, you know, in the first seconds we had out there, I picked his brain as hard as I could. That's all me and Dan would probably do if we had our choice today, was just sit around and talk about it. But, you know, it definitely interests me. Obviously, I wouldn't want to run the race in the same day as a 600 like some guys had in the past, but should the schedules work out one day, I think you'd find a lot of guys that were interested in coming out here and running the Indy 500, for sure.

GREEN: Next question. Dick.

Q: Dale, you said you have a new mechanic you're working with. How long does it take a driver and a mechanic to kind of meld together and get a feel? You seem to have a real good feel already with the new guy.

EARNHARDT: Well, I mean, it just depends. I think it can happen all kinds of ways. It just depends on the personalities, whether the driver or the mechanic is open-minded and willing to work with new people. Some people, it takes a long time to earn their trust, and some people are ready and willing to work together right away.

Lance came in, he was really, for the lack of a better word, kind, easy to talk to. From the first -- we had worked together before but not -- I drove a car that he fixed up and set up at Lowe's last year in the Nationwide Series and we ran the whole race together, and I can't remember saying two words to him all weekend, even during the race. So we really didn't know -- we knew each other but not a lot about each other. So I don't know, he was just real easygoing, and he's confident. In all the races that I've worked with him up to this point, he has made my car better during the race with adjustments at some point if not continuously throughout the race. And he makes good calls during practice to make the car better. I feel like I have a shorter gap between the information that my teammates have to what I have. You know, it just seems like I'm in no way -- I would no way categorize my attitude as satisfied, but it seems like that we're going in the right direction and we're making gains. But it takes some people two days; it takes other people a year to sort that relationship out. It has a lot to do with really how dynamic the personalities are.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Al Unser Jr. , Dan Wheldon , A.J. Foyt