BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS ON BEING IN THE CHASE "For our team, it's pretty good. We're really happy to be in it. We worked really hard to make sure we made it this year. It's a relief and ...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS
ON BEING IN THE CHASE "For our team, it's pretty good. We're really happy to be in it. We worked really hard to make sure we made it this year. It's a relief and a compliment, that we did make it. We're glad to be a part of it. It's exciting obviously to be in the mix and to be one of the names in the hat. So we're trying to take advantage of it and make the best of it."
DO YOU FEEL YOU ALMOST OWE IT TO YOUR FANS TO BE IN THE CHASE? "You work hard for your fans and try to give your fans something to be happy about. I know how I feel when I win. I know how I feel when the Redskins win. So you definitely try to give your fans what they deserve and what they come to see."
ON THE NEW PAVING AT TALLADEGA "Oh, it's really smooth. They did a great job on the asphalt. The track's in great shape. The soft walls are all over the place. It looks like the old guardrail at Atlanta. I was driving that car around the high groove and all of a sudden the walls jumped out and slapped the side of the car."
IS YOUR RACING STRATEGY DIFFERENT WHEN YOU'RE IN THE CHASE? "Well, you race hard. That's the way you do it all year long. Every position, every lap, and every little run. Everything matters. That's a cliche to say it's 110 percent, but that's what it is. You run hard every lap from the first race to the last race."
THERE IS NO ROOM FOR ERROR AND THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF PRESSURE WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT "You just try to do your best. I find satisfaction in the effort that I put in and that my team puts in. That's what makes me happy when that effort is good and strong. I don't so much mind satisfaction in results and figures and stats. It's all about the efforts that you put forth. And that's how you can go home and be proud of yourself."
ON PAUL MENARD "He's done a great job with his Busch program. They've had to switch a little bit of people around. I think Tony Sr. will be able to help Paul. I'm anticipating his initiation into the Cup Series next year. Hopefully that all works out and we'll have one heck of a teammate."
WITH ALL THE DRIVERS HAVE SUCH MOMENTUM, LIKE KENSETH, BURTON, GORDON, AND ALL, DOES THIS MAKE THE CHASE PARTICULARLY TOUGH THIS YEAR? "Yeah, it gets harder every year. Every year it's more competitive. You have to work really hard to continue to progress like the rest of these teams."
CAN YOU GET SOME MOMENTUM TO RUN WITH THEM? "We have a great opportunity this weekend to make some gains - not on all of 'em, but on a few - catch a couple of guys sleeping; catch a couple of guys having bad fortune, and we'll be right back in it. We have to make some gains this weekend though. We can't continue to be sub-par and expect to have a chance at all."
SINCE YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS, HAVE YOU BEGUN TO FEEL EXTRA EXPECTATIONS FROM YOUR FAN BASE? "Not really. I do what I can do and that's all I can do. I race hard and I work hard. And I put forth the best effort I can give these guys. The older and more mature I get, the better I realize my potential and what I'm capable of and what these guys expect of me. The expectations of my crew, and my crew chief, and my team are the only expectations that are in my concern. I do the best I can to make the fans and the race team happy. But the concerns I carry the most and ponder the most and the expectations that I try to reach, are the ones for my team."
DO YOU HAVE A DECENT SHOT OF WINNING THIS THING? "Absolutely. I feel very confident and we've got a chance right now. We haven't done ourselves any favors these first two races, but we've had good cars in both them races and squandered them with set-up changes and what not and just squandered some good finishes we could have had and we've got potential to win championships the way we've been running."
DEI SAID THEY TOTALLY SUPPORT YOU IN THE CHASE "Yeah, we have a great team and I can't say enough about how good I feel about the people around me over there in that race car. I've got so much confidence in each one and the reason why I say that is because it wasn't always that way. We didn't always have chemistry. It wasn't really a question of confidence; it was more a question of chemistry. But we really have come along this year and it's really a great team. We have a lot to be thankful for and we're very fortunate to have the comradely that we have and we should have a lot of success."
WHAT WERE YOU DRIVING WHEN YOU SCRAPED THE WALL IN TALLADEGA? "A Monte Carlo SS. Well, I was dragging the mirror all the way around just to let them know how close we was. I gave about 15 rides. The soft wall is like this (curved) all the way around. It's not straight. I was driving along and it jumped out and slapped the side of the car and knocked the mirror off."
HOW IMPORTANT WERE THE LAST 10 RACES OF LAST YEAR TO GET READY FOR THIS YEAR? "Very important at the time. I don't know how important it is today. I just wanted to get back to work with Tony Jr. The reason is, is that I needed to see how he was and he could see how I was and we could get going without any question marks. That would have been a long winter if we hadn't have worked together knowing we were going to work together in this season wondering how it would be and how we were going to run. So we got to run 10 races to see. We've still got it. It's very important as far as confidence goes."
WHAT'S THE RACING GOING TO BE LIKE AT TALLADEGA? "We'll probably all be on the bottom. It's a new track, so running on the bottom is going to be a given. That's where the grip is."
YOU ALWAYS SEEM TO LIKE RUNNING AT THE TOP THERE. IS THAT GOING TO BE A DISRUPTION? "You've got to wait for the track to age. Three, four, or five years from now, we'll be moving around a little bit more. You've got to understand that any time you pave a race track, the bottom is going to be the preferred line no matter what."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THAT? "That's just the way it is. That's life. It ain't a question of being happy or not. It's just what's going to happen. You just go there and do the best you can with that."
DO YOU FEEL MORE CONFIDENT THESE DAYS? "Working with Steve Hmiel helped me find more out of myself as a driver. He gave me a lot of confidence in myself. He just showed me really how to react and how to act around this sport and to be productive the mentality that you have to have inside the race car and what not. He just gave me a lot of confidence. I was telling them that there is always more ability than you give yourself credit for. I'm not asking them to do anything better. We're working really hard and they're doing a great job. You underestimate yourself. Everybody does."
-credit: gm racing