Continued from part 1 (AS A COMPETITOR THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO GET OUT OF THE CAR AND TURN THE WHEEL OVER TO A RELIEF DRIVER AND WATCH FROM THE SIDELINES?) "Well, I really wasn't in a lot of pain. I really...
Continued from part 1
(AS A COMPETITOR THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO GET OUT OF THE CAR AND TURN THE WHEEL OVER TO A RELIEF DRIVER AND WATCH FROM THE SIDELINES?) "Well, I really wasn't in a lot of pain. I really wasn't bothered that bad by the injuries. The car was terrible. We had a relief driver. I had burns on my legs that I didn't want to bother - say I went three-quarters into the race and they started bothering me - who knows? Let's put it that way. But I doubt it. I really seriously thought I could have ran that race. But I didn't have to. And we had John (Andretti) sitting there. Personally, I wanted to see what John thought about the race car. I wasn't too happy about it. We kind of mixed the drivers around there and had about the same results."
(ON GOOD RESULTS DURING THE SPRING AND THEN GOING INTO A SLUMP WHEN HE GOT HURT) "I don't think our slump started two weeks ago. It's been longer than that. It's been eight or 10 weeks ago for us. I can't pinpoint it. That's the frustration about. You can't say all right, we're setting the cars up differently. Tony Sr. looks through every set-up and tries to find a pattern and maybe a change or a place where we may have gotten off the path a little bit. We were running good at the start of the year. The first seven races, we were really fast and we were winning races. And then we had a span up until the middle of the season where we weren't the best car but we somehow managed to get a top 10 finish out of a 15th place car. And now we've got a 20th place car and it's difficult to get a top 10 finish with a 20th or 25th place race car. So, we fell off - not all at once - but I think from the start of the year until now it's been a slow progression to our demise. But we'll just have to figure it out. All you can do is try to figure it out. There are other guys in the garage who are trying to figure it out. Sometimes you just wish everybody would just look the other way and wait for you to figure it out, but that's not going to happen. We just want to get it right. If we do, we do. If we don't, this ain't our farewell tour. We'll be back next year and try again."
(WHAT IS THE GAMEPLAN FOR THIS WEEKEND?) "I feel real good. I had those two nurses show up for a couple of hours this week. I feel like that day I skipped three days of healing just being around them and having them do some things. They had this stuff called Xeroform (Petrolatum Gauze), which is like a yellow tissue they put on the burns the first day I was in the hospital. They expected those to form scabs and skin and a combination of stuff to accelerate the healing but it didn't. And it kind of all bunched up and moved around and my hairs grew up through it and it was really a big pain.
"So they came over there and put me in the tub for a couple of hours and let that stuff soak real good and they pulled it right off. It didn't even hurt. So we're trying new dressings and stuff instead of the old style. And that's some stuff that Tony Stewart, when he got burned real badly one time, said it was awesome. We wrote (the name of it) down and we go home and two days later the nurse brings it to me. I feel pretty good about what we're doing now. It just depends on how you wrap the leg really, on how good it feels and how good you can walk. Sometimes you wrap it right and sometimes you wrap it wrong. It's hard to tell. There's one spot where it's really tender right close to the bend, so when you bend you knee it's like pulling that all the time. That's really the only part that hurts. If I get it wrapped just right, I can ease that a little bit. Later, when it dries up a little bit, it starts to hut a little bit. Right now, it's probably the worst time. About three hours from now, it'll be about the best it's been."
(DO YOU PLAN TO STAY IN THE CAR FOR THE WHOLE RACE?) "When I sit in the car, I get way off of it. It feels better. Plus, we have a brand new car that I want to be in and I want to know what's going on - regardless of whether the sway bar falls of it or whatever - I want to stick it out this weekend. So it's not that I'm disappointed or expecting anything more, but to continue to use relief drivers isn't a progression. John (Andretti) did a great job. Martin (Truex, Jr.) did an awesome job. I really felt worse about putting those guys in the cars then getting out of them. I kind of threw John to the wolves. He didn't even have a lap all weekend. To climb into that car without a hesitation at all - I was more impressed with that than anything I'd seen in a while. It took a lot of guys for him to do that. For Martin to be there under that pressure of wearing that Bud uniform and everybody on his back says a lot about him. I was dragging with that. But I'm ready to get going. I'm ready to be driving the car all the time. I want to get back on the path again."
(WILL YOU HAVE A RELIEF DRIVER STANDING BY?) "In an emergency situation, I think we can find somebody, I'm sure."
(WITH THE POINT SYSTEM, YOU COULD HAVE MISSED NEW HAMPSHIRE. WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR GETTING IN THE CAR THEN?) "I didn't want to have to miss it. We talked about it. I don't think I'd be any better now if I had (sat out the race). So what's the point? I could climb in the car and start the motor and run a few laps.
"I could even compete with some of those guys and wait for the caution. If I could gain only 80 points or whatever, I wanted it. So the points were the motivation for me. I don't know if I could have sat at home."
(BECAUSE OF ALL THIS, HAS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON A CHAMPIONSHIP CHANGED?) "I wouldn't say it was a different way. My priorities have never changed. I would never put personal goals or personal achievements above friendships and relationships I have with certain people or above my own well being. So to get my leg better is what matters to me right now. I can try my best once that's done. I'm giving it everything I've got. To get in the car I felt like was a good show to my team that I was dedicated to our cause. I didn't want the guys to feel like I stepped out and wherever we ended up was where we ended up. I don't think my determination is in question. I think my priorities are where they're supposed to be. It's to get myself better, and that I don't foul up a relationship with a cousin that I've had forever and that Tony Jr. and Tony Sr., an uncle I've had forever, over disagreements and poor runs and finishes and a loss of a championship. I still feel like we've got a shot at it. We're not a championship winning team right now and I think everybody knows that. Jimmie (Johnson) and those guys are dominating. They're on their way - unless we can stop them or anybody else - to winning that championship. We've saved a lot of tests. We're going to be testing more. We're going to Michigan right after this to go testing for two days. That's all we can do it work and try to get it right. But I'm not here to amuse everybody. I want to win a race. I've felt a lot of pressure to do a lot more than I could. When I got hurt, felt a lot of pressure from some people and that kind of disappointed me a little bit (when they'd ask) why can't you do this or why can't you do that when I was obviously in a lot of comfort. If I didn't trust anybody before, it's really tough now because you can kind of narrow it down to who is right for you and who's not. People are trying to achieve things just for themselves at my expense --- even though your legs are burned up. There are just a few things that upset me. I got hurt. It's really simple. My leg is still not done bleeding and being gross. But when it gets better I won't have to worry about it anymore and I'll be 100 percent. But I've got to go get it re-wrapped in a minute and deal with that. That's not a lot of fun. But I've got to do it every day. I wish I didn't, but until I get better that's number one for me."
(PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WHISPERING ABOUT WHAT PLANES YOU ARE FLYING ON AND SAYING THINGS ABOUT TERESA EARNHARDT. CAN YOU CLARIFY THAT?)
"That's all totally crap. I really hate that that happened. We tried to back off a little bit about doing interviews because we felt like we were really over saturating the market. I was on way too many covers and in way too many articles. There was nothing new to talk about me. We just kind of were using everything up. I thought maybe if we backed off a little bit and cooled off and took a break from doing interviews that we wouldn't wear everybody out about Dale Jr. The last thing I want is for everybody to be sick of my name and my face. So I hadn't addressed the media too much. There was speculation about my injuries and everything and one of the things was the airplane thing. One of the things that's amazing to me was everybody stepping up when I got hurt. People offered airplane rides, jet rides, and said I could leave later or earlier. I rode with Matt (Kenseth) to Pocono and Richard Childress offered. I rode with Tony Stewart home (from Pocono) last weekend. Everybody was just really being great about everything and that's just one of those things that you don't really know what to expect. What started that, I believe, was that I was supposed to fly with the team to New Hampshire. I got called into see Dr. Petty and the neurology deal. So we missed that plane and I had to find a way to get there. Everybody thought that for some reason that my stepmother didn't want my mother flying on the company plane. Teresa (Earnhardt) totally wouldn't be like that. She knows that I needed my mom to help me with my wraps and stuff. That kind of bummed me out that people would say those things. But I hope I cleared it up. That wasn't the case."
(WITH THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINNING IN SEPTEMBER, DO YOU FEEL KIND OF GLAD ALL THIS HAPPENED WHEN IT DID?) "Yeah, I felt really lucky that I the situation is that I can kind of let a few points go askew and still be able to have a chance at it."
(ON DALE EARNHARDT SR. BEING INJURED AND GOING TO WATKINS GLEN) "I recall that situation where he had that sternum injured. But you know, I didn't have any problem getting out of the car at New Hampshire because I didn't feel good and I hurt a lot. I had a problem getting out last week because personally I got out for different reasons. I didn't get out because I couldn't keep going. I got out because I could. Things just weren't going right for us all weekend. The car was terrible. It was out of control. Parts were falling off it. And so whether that was a wake-up call or another kick in the groin to us, we need to get better. It's bad enough to be injured - much less be out there in a car that's that damn far off. That's just terrible."