ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD SATELLITE PRESS CONFERENCE Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway DALE EARNHARDT JR. Q: What's your level of optimism heading into the ...
ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD SATELLITE PRESS CONFERENCE
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne
Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Q: What's your level of optimism heading into the Chase?
EARNHARDT: It's 100 (percent), I guess. I'm pretty excited about our chances. We've been really strong the last several races going into the Chase, so we should be just fine.
Q: When you were here in Indy in early August, I sensed some frustration in the sense that you had a good finish, but you never really got a handle on the race car. You mentioned it's going well now. What has turned the tide for you and your team?
EARNHARDT: Nothing's really changed. We could go to Indy tomorrow and run the same. That's just the way we ran there, and that's the way to car handles at that racetrack. We've run good at Michigan and California, and those tracks we needed to get better at, and we have.
Q: Is there enough diversity at the final 10 tracks, would you like to see more of something other than the 1.5-mile tracks, or is that what everyone likes?
EARNHARDT: I think that there should be more short tracks, period, on the circuit. But as far as tracks we have, everybody's going to have a different opinion, and I think where it is, is just fine.
Q: As far as the competition in the Chase, are you worried at all about different guys that aren't in the Chase, since they have different goals than the guys in the top 10?
EARNHARDT: No, because I was in that position last year, and I sort of know what their thinking's going to be. The races really end up feeling, acting and being the same as any other race throughout the year.
Q: There are some open-wheel guys coming into Cup -- Montoya we know of and others are talking about it. How difficult is it going to be somebody, first year, to compete at the Cup level?
EARNHARDT: It's going to be really, really hard. The last 15 years, the road course guys that have come to race ovals have had quite a challenge with it, a lot of difficulty with it. I think it would be very difficult for Montoya and a couple of those guys. But it is achievable. They're talented drivers, and if anybody can do it, this group can do it.
Q: It would be hard to argue that anybody has more fans, across the country from track to track, than you. Could you describe what it would mean to you and your fan base to win a championship, to follow what your father did?
EARNHARDT: Well, that's what I'm out for the rest of my career. That's really the one thing that means to most to me right now, is winning the championship. If that's all I did, then it would be enough. To win races is great, to be successful is great, (but) when it comes down to it at the end of my career, I'm going to have to have that championship to consider myself as one of the better drivers. In the end, I want people to consider me one of the great drivers, and I'm going to need that championship to be able to do that.
Q: In other sports we hear about "playoff intensity." Do you sense that in these final 10 races, that somehow it's more intense than the first 26?
EARNHARDT: Absolutely, it definitely is. It has that playoff feel. Especially when you're coming out here and doing this all day long (media interviews), you get an idea how big a deal it is to the sport. They really are trying hard to promote it, (and the) drivers see that, especially the guys that haven't been in it before, or haven't been in the sport long. They're sort of "oohing" and "aahing" all day long. We'll get down to basics and start racing again this weekend, start practicing and driving the cars, and it will all come back down to earth. Hopefully we'll have a good idea of what we'll need to accomplish each week, keep our head on straight, not mess up and cause us to lose a lot of points.
Q: In other sports scouting is a huge part of it, "What is the other team going to do?" How much in this playoff system do you keep track -- not only during the race, but maybe going into a track -- of the other nine guys? That one guy runs well here or struggles there?
EARNHARDT: I think a lot, you obviously know who won at each track the last time you were there, who was strong. You'll watch them in practice, (and) try to see if you can find something they're doing to see if you can use it on your car.
Q: I'm curious about whether you guys would ever consider driving an Indy car. Is it possible in this day and age?
EARNHARDT: I wouldn't consider it, but I think there's some drivers who would. As far as racing in IRL, never full-time, though. Once a NASCAR driver, stock car driver, always a stock car driver, I believe. The sport's so big, and there's so much recognition to it. And there's so much to achieve and it's such a draw, that's the draw for the drivers. I think some would like to drive Indy cars just to have they have, and get that experience. But I'd probably pass on that opportunity if it came to me.
Q: Why is that? Because it's too difficult logistically?
EARNHARDT: Probably. Yeah, it's too much travel back and forth. If I went and did it, there would be a big crowd there, hassling and carrying on with everybody, making a big deal out of it. I wouldn't be able to go and do it under the radar and enjoy it. There would be pressure to have to run good and pressure to put down some kind of lap times. It would be compared to everything else that's been run there, and it wouldn't be fun. So, I'd have to avoid that situation (laughs).
Q: Are the two disciplines that far apart? We've talked quite a bit about Montoya, Hornish, Allmendinger and some other guys trying to make the transition from IndyCar to stock cars. Are the disciplines so far apart that it's very hard to make the move in either direction?
EARNHARDT: Yeah, there's something about -- I don't know why it's difficult, (but) it's difficult for some reason. A road course guy comes in our sport, he has trouble going around an oval. He has trouble trying to negotiate Turns 3 and 4 at any given track. I don't know why he can't map that corner out in his mind like he does each corner at a road course. I don't know why that is or what that is, I guess the techniques you use on a road course are so different as far as braking and how you arc and turn into a corner, what corner of the car you're feeling, concentrating your mind on the most. I think that there's a lot of talented road course drivers that can get in there and drive ovals, and over time become very good and very successful. I don't think it's impossible at all, but there is a tough learning curve once you've done one thing for so long and go to do something else. It's kind of tough.