IMS Brickyard - Earnhardt Jr press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 GREEN: Next question. Q: Dale, as someone who owns a team on the Nationwide Series, you're a car owner as well as a driver, how concerning is it when you see the problems that are going on with the American auto ...

Continued from part 1

GREEN: Next question.

Q: Dale, as someone who owns a team on the Nationwide Series, you're a car owner as well as a driver, how concerning is it when you see the problems that are going on with the American auto industry right now, particularly with the recent bankruptcy filing with GM?

EARNHARDT: I'm very concerned about the automotive industry. You know, it's a -- it's got to be a daunting task to try to recover from where they are. So we have to understand that things will probably not likely be like they were in our lifetime. And even if we get back to good, good still won't be like it was. Hopefully, you know, nothing is really ever like that again, be a little smarter next trip.

But I think that as -- you know, the only thing that we can do in our best position -- the best position for us is to try to -- I mean, everyone who's successful, in my opinion, is successful because they have a vision. They have foresight; they have understanding of how things are going to change and go. And so what you have to do is try to determine -- you have to determine what the budget is going to be in five years. You have to determine how much, you know, how much payroll you're going to be able to have in five years. And you have to work in that direction. These things aren't shut on and off each year. You don't go from -- I will spend 8 million to 10 million next year; you don't just move these things around. You have to have a plan, and they sort of progress, you know. The people that don't do this correctly are the ones that struggle or fail.

So it seems like the entire sport is going through a massive resetting of itself, from the salaries, to everyone in the sport, drivers, all the way down to the lowliest fabricator or whatever. So everything in the sport is sort of going to have to change with the economy. Obviously, with the manufacturer support changing, how I do business in the Nationwide Series will change. How everybody does business in the series will change. So you just have to be willing and ready to accept it, mold with it, take the lumps and make the best of the situation. Some people will find ways to do that. I keep going back to looking at other teams. There are teams in the sport now that have been in the sport for five, 10 years that have raced under these situations for years, you know. There's guys that have never had factory support, never probably even met a suit from any of these manufacturers, you know, that are there every week, and some of them doing pretty good.

So, you know, it doesn't sound very good when anybody from a mega-team or a good team complains at all about, man, I'm short on the dollar or, well, I can't run fast as I did because I don't have manufacturer support. I mean, there's guys around you that have been doing it for years. You just have to buck up, try to do the best you can.

GREEN: Dale, earlier you referenced the early tire test I think around 1992 when they had the test here. What are your memories of the 1994 race, the first race? Were you here? Do you have any memories of that?

EARNHARDT: Well, I wasn't here, unfortunately, but I remember a lot about the test, I don't remember much about the first race. I remember bits and pieces of all them races, probably about as good as everybody else in here remembers it.

But, yeah -- the very first start, was Rick Mast on the pole?

GREEN: Yes.

EARNHARDT: I remember that. I have like a, you know, image of that in my mind. I can't imagine, you know, what all them drivers in that field were thinking at that moment. They've been here practicing, obviously, but still, they were starting the very first race at Indianapolis in a stock car. So it must have been pretty neat at that race on the grid prior to the guys getting in their cars. I can imagine what everybody, you know, must have felt like that day. You know, I know when I come here, and we have the cars out on the racetrack and that's where the grid is, which is unique, and I like. The fans are really close. It's totally different atmosphere than -- it's a totally different atmosphere for me than it is for any other race due to that fact, just having the grid out on the racetrack. It is Indy; it's just there's a lot of people down there and walking in and around those cars. You can hardly see the race cars for all the people. So it's a big deal, you know. Typically pretty warm and, you know, it's a tough, grueling race and it should be, has that right to be. But it means a lot. It's pretty neat.

I think it's served our sport well, it's served NASCAR well, and hopefully the Speedway feels the same way.

GREEN: Next question? Steve.

Q: Dale, because of your huge fan base, some people are attributing the decline in TV ratings this year to some of the problems you're having on the track this year. Is there any validity to that at all? If there is, is that an unfair burden to put on you?

EARNHARDT: Well, I think that -- I'm not sure if that can be possible or not. But I mean, if it is, it shouldn't be. That shouldn't be why -- you know, the sport shouldn't rest on one man's shoulders. You know, I say that, but at times it has, you know, in years past. I don't think, I don't feel like personally it rests on my shoulders. I'm sorry I haven't run better this year. I want to run better. We're trying to run better. If it's hurting the sport, you know, that's not what I want to do, not my intent.

But I have my opinions about why we struggle when we struggle. Not me as a team, but the sport. The sport struggles, the sport doesn't make -- every decision is not made as the greatest decision. Nobody is perfect. You know, I have my opinions on where we could do better. But, you know, there's a time and a place, so... (Laughter)

GREEN: Next question. Because I don't think this is the place and time. (Laughter)

Q: Dale, watching the finish of that race last Saturday night, do you foresee a change in the restrictor plate, is there a push for that or anything or are we going to continue to have those wrecks all the time?

EARNHARDT: Well, I think you'll continue to have the wrecks. Restrictor plates, obviously, everybody here understands that restrictor plates put us in big packs. They make the gap between the best car in the field and the worst car in the field much smaller. And now the COT has even done more of that. The COT has really got everybody in a box. And so we're all basically out there competing in the same thing.

I can't do anything or I can't be any more creative than the next guy. We basically are all going to run the same lap time. So we're going to race on top of each other, you know. We're going to race on top. When we're on top of each other, we're going to run into each other more often; and you're going to see a lot more wrecks like that. I don't like wrecking. I had a pretty good car in the (Daytona) 500, I had a pretty good car in the (Coke Zero) 400 this year, I had good cars at Talladega the last couple years, but I've wrecked them, just about all of them. You know, it's frustrating, you know.

So I wish there was a way to make it, make the racing to where if I have a really, really good car, I can get away from this guy in this car that's not so good. If my car is driving good, I can go ahead of the guy who's car ain't driving good. I'm not stuck behind him or watching him cause a crash in front of me. So, you know, the racing is exciting. Crashes are exciting. Crashes are intriguing, whether anybody wants to admit it or not. You know, 50 lead changes and all those things are great. I don't see it changing. I don't see NASCAR changing anything. They will build the fence higher and stronger before they do anything to keep us from running into each other.

So I think that they made the cars safer because they knew we were going to keep crashing. So I don't think they'll change it. I mean, that's just -- not a lot of people -- not the right people ain't complaining about the racing, and that's the fans. You know, they think the racing is good, and however they want it is however we need to give it to them.

Q: Could you talk about the double-file restart last week was the first time on a superspeedway?

EARNHARDT: Yeah, I liked it. I've had no problem with the double-file restarts. The only problem I had with it is the outside seems to be the way to go everywhere. If you're on the inside you're going to lose two or three spots every time unless you drive like a complete jerk. So that's going to become a constant habit of everybody being on the inside is you're going to start roughing people up, and maybe that's not all bad. But I like the double-file restarts.

I'm all for -- that brings a lot of excitement into the races. Otherwise, it wouldn't be there. I'm all for that kind of stuff. I'm all for making the races exciting and fun to watch in that way, in that aspect. So I like it. I think it's good. When you're a lap down, you don't want to be up there in the way. You've got to be because you've got to race these other guys that are a lap down, but you would much prefer not to be messing with anybody on the lead lap, and vice versa. When you're on the lead lap, the lapped cars are a nuisance, and no matter how hard they try to get out of the way, they're never out of the way enough. So I think it's good, it's good for everybody.

GREEN: We have time for about three more questions. Next question? Over here in the middle.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about the Alabama Motorsports Park project?

EARNHARDT: Sure. What do you want to know about it? (Laughter)

Q: Where that is at?

EARNHARDT: Well, it's still on paper yet. I don't think they've hit earth yet. I guess they're still trying to pull together investments and investors, and that has obviously slowed down for everybody. So it's still on a rail, just taking a little longer to get there, I guess.

GREEN: Next question. Anyone?

I appreciate that. Dale, any more closing comments before you come back in a couple weeks to race?

EARNHARDT: I'm looking forward to coming back. Thanks for today, and thanks to the guys who brought the two-seater and all you guys from the Guard. It's fun doing the Winner Circle appearances and getting to talk to some new press. We see the same guys at the racetrack every week, so it's cool to get out and meet some new people and see some old people, too. Appreciate it.

-credit: ims

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rick Mast