Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the Ginn Racing/DEI merger, racing at Indianapolis, Mark Martin, Aric Almirola, JR Motorsports, new teammates, having Andy Pilgrim race for him and...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the Ginn Racing/DEI merger, racing at Indianapolis, Mark Martin, Aric Almirola, JR Motorsports, new teammates, having Andy Pilgrim race for him and the new race car.
ON THE DEI/GINN RACING MERGER: "I'm happy for DEI. It looks like they're kind of going in a new direction which is good. The chance to be teammates with Mark is going to be cool. It's something I can always say happened and I think we'll enjoy and get to know each other a little bit better. I know that Mark will appreciate it too because he's that kind of guy. It's going to be a lot of fun working with him for the rest of the season and he can probably help me figure out what we need to do to get to Victory Lane and try to stay there."
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN THIS RACE? "That's probably right behind the Daytona 500. It's a pretty important race of the season."
WHAT KIND OF THINGS CAN MARK MARTIN TEACH YOU? "I don't know. What did he say?"
THAT HE CAN'T WAIT TO WORK WITH YOU. "I've always liked Mark. He taught me and he taught Matt Kenseth and a lot of guys that raced against him in the Busch Series so much about racing and etiquette and patience and how much there is out there in your race car. I've seen him do things in a race car that I just couldn't believe. Those are the things that you have to see with your own eyes to understand. He would go down in the corner at Charlotte in the Busch car in '98 or '99 and just do a lot of things that I didn't know were possible. You just don't know the limits when you're at that age and when you're where I was experience-wise, he was out there teaching me and Matt and a couple of other guys how to get it done and how to do it right. So we built up a pretty good respect for each other since then. He's always spoken well to me personally and about me within the media. We just have a pretty good respect for each other and I think we have a good friendship. When you talk about friendships with drivers it's no t so much about hanging out, it's just the dependability. If you ever called him or needed anything you'd expect him to be there. I'm glad and another thing for Martin (Truex, Jr.), I know Mark hasn't expressed any interest in running full time or doesn't really clarify his plans for the next two to three years. But it's good for Martin too because Martin was really worried about what kind of teammate he was going to have come in there and Martin expressed to me that he wanted out of the three, now four teams that there would be a veteran there that he could go to. Mark's super for that. Martin's going to have so much more at his disposal now and for the rest of the season to. So we both got great shots at making the Chase and even better now that we have a teammate in Mark Martin."
WITH THE ASSETS THAT DEI HAS NOW GAINED, WOULD YOU HAVE STILL LEFT IF YOU HAD KNOWN WHAT WAS TO COME? "I don't think that my decision would have been any different. We all forget, you know. I didn't leave because we didn't have a seven-post. I didn't leave because we didn't have 25 CNC machines. It didn't have anything to do with whether we were a three, two or four-car operation. There were things about the team that. in racing, you always have to progress. You can't never sit still and everybody at DEI knows that. That was just something I wanted to aid in and be a bigger part of but the things that are happening now are great for the company. I believe they're going to be good things for the company. I don't think it's a bad move but it wouldn't have changed my opinion, I don't believe."
DO YOU THINK YOUR LEADERSHIP ROLE WOULD BE LESS INVOLVED WITH ALL THE NEW PEOPLE COMING IN? "No, I don't think so. I don't think they're bringing in any key high-rolling guys. They're going to have a lot of employees. The hard part about it is they've got 700 employees now and they've got to get down to about 400. In Mooresville, 300 people are going to be losing their jobs and that's the tough part about it."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TERESA GAVE UP HER STAKE OF OWNERSHIP? "I don't know even know anything about that. I don't know what she did or what the percentage was. I don't know anything about how much the check they wrote was for or anything. I don't think anybody will ever know."
RICHARD CHILDRESS SAID THAT HE THINKS YOU'LL END UP BACK THERE ON DAY. IS THAT REALISTIC? "I think that working with Rick (Hendrick) is going to be a lot of fun. I think that we have anticipations of things that we want to accomplish and do. That will be a good relationship and that will be a chapter or two that we'll write together and then I'll decide whether I want to go back or do something else. I that decision is ultimately mine. You never know. Max (Siegel) and I have stayed in heavy communication with each other and that's sort of a bridge that we haven't burned. Neither one of us. I still haven't talked to Teresa but the fact that I'm in contact with Max I think means that we're keeping the relationship open in case, say ten years from now, I might want to come back and drive and/or work there, some way, some how. But that's just such a long ways down the road. There's so many things that can change. The sport could be in a whole different place. Who knows what we'll be doing then."
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE'S SUCH A PUSH FOR FOUR-CAR TEAMS? "I think that the big push in the DEI deal was to get the No. 15 in the race, not only here but for the rest of the season. So DEI makes a play to get the No. 15 a guaranteed spot plus they get another car that's guaranteed in, that's just a bonus (the No. 01 car). I think that that's what it was all about. Because if they don't get that No. 15 in the races they lose Menard's to something else next year. Those are the questions you've got to worry about. Plus they're trying to get sponsorships and stuff lined up next year for cars. They've got to be at the racetrack doing things right and showing up and performing well. So I think it was a smart business decision on their part just to solidify the future of that company. I don't feel that you need four teams. If you've got two or three teams that's good, you can do well with that. But four teams is really, really tough. I think that's very hard to do and I think it's only for a select few owners in the sport. It's going to ta ke guys like (Roger) Staubach and (Troy) Aikman, it's going to take them a while to get to where they should go to four teams. Now whether they go to four teams in three years, that's their decision. But they're doing it the correct way, by the way they came into the sport and eased their way in. They've had mild success and they are starting to put more pieces into the puzzle as they get more successful. I think that's the way to do it without really falling on your face. So I think it's still an opportunity for guys to come in as owners but that's getting harder and harder because the chips are stacked against you with the other owners having such power in the sport and such a presence. They already have such a presence with all their teams and there's so much competition going their way it should be tough for guys to come in. Again, the Staubach and Aikman deal is the perfect example. They have really had to bust their butts to show some signs of competition and running t owards the front every once in a while. That's got to be very difficult."
DID YOU EVER TALK TO YOUR DAD ABOUT RACING AT INDY? "No."
DO YOU LIKE COMING HERE? "Yeah. It's fun. I remember when they first started talking about the cars coming here and testing. I was interested to see what a stock car looked like on the race track. You've seen open-wheel here so many years on television and it's really unique to see the cars on the race track and go driving through the garage. It's just like a strange visual but it's been fun. I enjoy racing here. It's a very historic track and a very big deal to win here."
DO YOU THINK THE WINNER HERE ON SUNDAY MAY BE A FAVORITE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think the guys that win here are the big teams. The heavy hitters in the sport. It's sort of like a Daytona 500 in a way except you don't see any fluke winners here. You don't see guys luck out. You always see the dominant teams, the No. 24, the top car at RCR, those guys have won this race. It's just that hard of a race to win and it's so hard to put it all together. Obviously it takes a real, real good race car. Those are the teams that were producing them over the years."
HOW MUCH DOES THE DIFFICULTY OF THE RACE TRACK PLAY INTO ALL THAT? "It's actually not that difficult. It's just hard to get the car to go around it as fast as you want to beat the other guys. That's the hard part. That's sort of the way it is everywhere but more so here. It's just a hard track to get the car to handle right. The corners are different, like Turn One is really, really tight. Turn Two you run wide-open because you're coming out of there with less speed. You go into One, you're going so fast the car. the way that wind blows and how the grandstands are built and how it controls how the wind blows around the race track changes how each corner drives. It's just a wicked little deal you're in there. But the actual track itself is not that difficult. It's pretty self-explanatory. You just have to figure out what the wind is doing and how to get your car to go around there better. We don't really work on 90 degree corners at any other point in the year except for road-course racing. So that's the only thing I can compare it to."
WILL ARIC ALMIROLA BE IN THE TEAM MEETINGS AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HIM BEING ON YOUR TEAM? "Aric is a good guy. I've been friends with him for a long time. Back when he was running late models he would come by our shop and he was friends with McFarlane and them guys. He'd come around. He's a good guy. I've been watching and I'm happy for him to be in the situation he's in. I know that Gibbs was sort of limited in their possibilities of giving him a lot of action and getting him on the race track so I know he's happy to be knowing what he's going to be doing. I look forward to talking to him. I haven't talked to Mark. I look forward to talking with those guys and really sort of getting to work."
DID YOU SAY EARLIER YOU HAVEN'T TALKED TO TERESA SINCE YOUR ANNOUNCMENT? "Yeah."
WHAT WOULD YOUR DAD THINK ABOUT THE TEAMS COMING TOGETHER? "I guess that it's something he'd probably be positive about because it's a good move. I think it's a good move. I think he would be for it."
YOU'RE TWO RACES INTO A THREE-RACE DEAL WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI. HOW'S HE DONE? "I think he's done real good and the team's real happy with him. They still want to get a better finish but I'm looking to try to get him nailed down to paper for the rest of the season and hopefully he'll show us a couple signs of some things that will give us good reason to work with him next year. I think he's a great kid and he's got a great attitude. I think he has some talent. I think that there's some areas within my program that I need to improve to give him a better opportunity. If we can both do ourselves that favor in the next three or four weeks as far as me giving him a better opportunity to get good finishes and him putting them together when we do, we should have a good relationship. We're going to run Andy Pilgrim in the next two road-course races and I'm pretty excited about that. For Kesolowski, I know he'd probably like to run the road courses but I've always wanted to do this with Andy and I had a window of opportunity to do it. Whoever we run next year we 're going the full season, at least in preparation."
CAN YOU GIVE US UPDATES ON SPONSOR PROGRESS? "Not really. We're always making progress."
HAVE YOUR NEW TEAMMATES WELCOMED YOU TO THE TEAM? "Yeah. They've said that and done those things but we've got the rest of the year to run and there's a lot of focus on what's going on now and what your job is now and what you're doing the rest of the year. You can't turn your back on this season. You've got to work hard."
HOW MUCH DOES THE NO. 8 MEAN TO YOU? "I'd like to take it and use it the rest of my career. I'll give it back when I retire but I'd just like to run the No. 8 the rest of my career. But if we don't run the No. 8 then we've got some other options that I like a lot. So I won't be as tore up as much of my fans will."
WHAT IS THE STRATEGY FOR TODAY? "Today's strategy is to get in the car and see how fast it goes and how it handles and work on the race setup a little bit. We'll run some qualifying runs there during the practice. Hopefully the car is good. You've just got to hope for the best and prepare for the worst every week."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE INDIANAPOLIS HAS ACCEPTED NASCAR? "It's been accepted, I think. The fans have really accepted us and our series here. They turn out to the race and I think that when we first came here. I still feel like this is always going to be an open-wheel race track and the history, there's no denying the history of this race track and where it came from, all the way back to the 1900s. I've read the books and understand the impact of open-wheel here and we're just a chip in the block of history. So we have to be mindful and respectful of that because a lot of guys have made their careers here and it's just fun to be here and fun to have an opportunity to race around this race track."
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF NOW TORN BETWEEN TWO TEAMS? "Not really, because it's easy for me to focus on what I'm doing now. I don't have to put a lot of focus or attention towards the future until this year is over with. I think everybody would respect that. Rick Hendrick will understand that and know that I will want to do the best I can in the Bud car. So I'm trying to do what I think is respectful and right and working really hard the rest of the season."
DO YOU HAVE THREE NEW ALLIES OUT THERE NOW? "No, not until the season is over with" (laughs).
HOW MUCH HAS JEREMY MCGRATH DONE FOR YOU THIS YEAR? "He's ran a few. He does alright. He's just having some fun."
WILL HE DO ANY MORE THIS YEAR? "It's up to him. He does whatever he wants. I've got a car sitting there and it's however many races he wants to run it. It's really kind of a real casual deal. I've known him for several years; he called me up and said he wanted to try some stock-car racing and just wanted to do it under the radar a little bit and see what he thought about it. He'd never done it before and I had a car that had been just sitting there, we weren't using it, and I said sure, come down here and drive it as much as you want. So he comes down every other weekend, maybe once a month. He's going to be there this weekend."
HOW DID THE TEST WITH ANDY PILGRIM GO? "I just called him and said 'how fast are you going'. I don't really monitor it too much. I trust Andy and know that he's not going to do anything ridiculous and he's not only talented, he's got it figured out as far as equipment and how to take care of it. I knew they would go down there and do decent and they ran really good. I didn't have many doubts that he wouldn't. It's just like Ron and them guys hopping in these cars and going right to work. That's what I expected and that's what I got."
DID THE BREAK HELP YOU RECHARGE? "Yeah, I think so. The off-week was good. I don't really count the weekends. I know what my job is and I just show up and do it. It's not that hard anymore. It used to be really hard but it's not that hard on me anymore."
WHEN DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MERGER AND WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO IT? "I can't remember when I heard it. Sometime in the last week. I was pretty excited to be working with Mark and anxious to hear his thoughts on the whole deal. I was obviously interested in knowing what employees they were going to keep and who they wouldn't. I know some guys over there so it would be interesting to see who's got a job and who don't. We'll never know really how the deal is put together but that would be interesting to know too."
HAS YOUR ROUTINE CHANGED? "No, I don't know why it would. I don't see why it would other than I have another teammate to go to. I'll probably have to keep reminding myself of that over the weekend and maybe the next week until you get used to be able to change. To change right now is going to take a little bit to get used to but it will be good. It will be really good."
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW CAR? "They're two totally different cars. Comparing them is really hard because they're so different. But they both have their good things and bad things. I like the new car because I like the room inside. The car that we drive here this weekend, I don't like how compact the compartment is. I think most of the drivers have gotten used to the new car and the room in it. So when we get in these cars we feel like we're in a capsule. Little things like that. The new car will be fine, I think."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SIT AND TALK WITH MARK MARTIN? "Yeah. We'll have plenty of time to get to know each other better. We know each other pretty good now but the teammate thing is unique. It's a unique situation and he make the most of everything and really tries to enjoy what he can about his situations, whatever they may be and I like that about him. He'll be pleasant to have on the team and will be fun to be around."
-credit: gm racing