DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Las Vegas, mistakes on pit road by drivers, who motivates the team, what it will take to rebound...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Las Vegas, mistakes on pit road by drivers, who motivates the team, what it will take to rebound after the first two races and other topics.
TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS GOING IN TO LAS VEGAS: "I am looking forward to it. They did a pretty good job when they changed this race track. It has a lot of bumps now, but it is still a pretty good race track. Reminds me a lot of mid-90s Charlotte. It is getting bumpy out there but it is pretty fun. They did a good job massaging the tire a little bit and changing some of the characteristics of the tire during the test. It seemed pretty comfortable and they gave us a little more grip. We can drive the cars a little bit more and feel what the car is doing. Looks like it is going to be a pretty good weekend for everybody."
HOW MUCH DO YOU APPRECIATE THE FANS FIGURING OUT A WAY IN THEIR OWN BUDGETS WITH TIMES AS THEY ARE TO GET TO THE RACES? "Obviously, we appreciate it a lot for anybody that comes out and watches either in person or on the TV. There are all kinds of ways to support this sport and show your support of individual drivers in the series itself. You got a lot of fans out here today which surprises me that you see them. It doesn't really look any different than any other typical weekend from last year on a Friday. Now on Sunday, you obviously see a little bit of difference. We have a lot of people in the stands today for qualifying this afternoon. This is a good market and I feel like we can be successful here. Not only for the people that are local, but having a race in a town like Vegas brings out a lot of people from outside too. It makes for a great trip. You know, you come in to Vegas for three or four days and you see a race too. That is something that Fontana and a couple other tracks on the circuit don't have that kind of a niche to it. I don't think Vegas is going to have too hard of a time selling tickets. I think this place is pretty popular."
WHO GIVES THE PEP TALKS TO YOUR TEAM TO HELP YOU SHAKE OFF A COUPLE OF BAD RACES TO START THE SEASON? "Rick (Hendrick, team owner), I guess. He would be the best one at it. He is really good at giving you motivation, saying the right things. Kinda pointin' your head in the right direction. I mean, you know, you have to look at the way the season started for us and you try to find a silver lining in everything. We can't really control how things went last weekend; we had a pretty good run going. I felt like we were maybe get us a top-10 finish we drove from the back. It was pretty hard, it was really competitive. You had to drive so hard just to gain a foot on a guy. As you got closer to the front, that challenge became tougher. It was really really hard. We were making ground. Had been all night. You come here and hopefully open up with some good runs and hopefully the car feels good and gives you a little bit of your confidence back that you lost from the week before. You talk to your teammates; you talk to anybody who can give you any kind of positive feedback or positive criticism, anything to boost your confidence. But Rick is the best one at givin' those speeches. Tony, Jr. (Eury, crew chief) always gives I believe a race day speech. They get together and talk about the race and characteristics of the race track itself for that day. He is pretty good at motivating, not as good as ole Pops (Tony Eury, Sr.) was but, Tony, Jr. has to get old and ornery like Pops was then we'll we will have basically the same package in him one day that we have in Tony, Sr. Tony Sr. is really impressive. Two races, it is tough when you get in a hole like we are, ain't no doubt about it man. It is tough to try to...all you can do is go back to the race track and hope that something good happens. Hope that you can regain some ground; it is going to take a lot of races. You are going to have to string a lot of runs together to come out of the hole we are in but we have done it before and it is very frustrating. It is more common for us to start the season off like this and it is very frustrating. We could have just as easily had two good runs. Either we beat ourselves or something bites us. Hopefully we'll be able to do just that, to turn it around and get some runs together in the next 10 weeks that will put us back up in the top-15 if not in the top-12. I know damn good and well where I am sittin' right now."
WHAT WAS THE ISSUE YOU HAD WITH THE CAR EARLIER IN PRACTICE TODAY? "I think the car is fine, talking about the Nationwide car. We had a fan blade break off and go in to the oil cooler and knocked a hole in the oil cooler and it pumped all the oil out of it. We think the motor is all right. It had plenty of oil pressure last time I looked at it while it was running, right before I shut it off. I apologized to the race track and NASCAR because I didn't get it down off the race track, but I should have done a better job of getting off the race track and not dirty up turns one and two like we did. There was a lot going on. We got it fixed and the car is runnin' pretty good right now."
ARE YOU AND TONY, JR JUST WORKING REALLY HARD BECAUSE YOU WANT IT SO MUCH AND ONCE YOU SETTLE IN, IT WILL BE EASIER? "I think that I try very hard and I know that Tony, Jr. puts a lot of pressure on hisself. When you put pressure on yourself, you tend to do a little too much or over do it. They guys that are really really good can handle that pressure, we just have to figure out some way to manage the pressure and manage the expectations and go out there and get results. Sometimes we can do it and sometimes we are not able to do it. It has been a busy couple of weeks. I know that there is a lot of people tuning in to what we are doing and watching what we are doin'. But I feel pretty good and pretty comfortable. I just need a little luck too. You know, I ain't had all bad luck. I ain't sayin' I haven't created some bad luck, but there is just like this morning, to get in that Nationwide car this morning and have that fan blade break off and go through the oil cooler. It just seems like I ain't livin' right. Just hopefully I can get things turned around and get my karma going in the right direction."
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE CRITICISM OF TONY, JR.? "Well heck, I been getting' most of it here lately so I told him after Daytona I done him a big ole favor. Which is actually pretty good. Because when he's not getting so much criticism, he's not under so much pressure and I get what I hope is a better race car. Maybe I should just keep doin' things to get all the criticism and give him a break which is fine with me."
WHAT CAUSES THE MISTAKES, EVEN BY VETERAN DRIVERS, ON PIT ROAD? "There was somebody else? (GREG BIFFLE) "You wouldn't have known it. (LAUGHS) I am just pickin' I knew about it, I knew about Greg, I was just messin with y'all. I would say that what I did when I missed my pit box, man, I was just not paying attention. We had been running and just took the lead right before that caution come out and then the No. 14 took it back and we was just havin' some fun and was happy with my car and just wasn't payin' attention. Sometimes, this is a job. When you are workin' this job, you have to have a lot of concentration, just like somebody with a lot of responsibility. But it is a fun job. We say all the time we can't believe we get paid to do it. Sometimes you just get to havin' too much fun and you just get to where the concentration level drops because how much you have relaxed from how much you are enjoying yourself. Now the other penalty where were were sort of one inch on the line there, I just tried to do a better job of getting pointed out for the guy that was comin' in. The No. 78 was pitted in front of me at Daytona and I just didn't want to get boxed in. I kinda just pulled out too far, that was just a mistake, you know. I think the mistakes are mistakes. I don't think that it is because, I don't think it really correlates with what is happin' on the track and how difficult it is and challenging it is and how close and equal the cars are because they are really, really equal. Like at Fontana, like you drove 10 laps to gain a car length on a guy that was just six car lengths in front of you. Then you screwed up the next lap up and lost all that car length if not more back. You just had to run 20 laps perfectly together to gain on a guy like you wanted to, I can't remember it ever being like that before. The cars are really really close and you gotta take advantage of whatever you can. The rules on pit road, some are very cut and dried, some are very harsh. Some are very lenient. There is a tolerance of five mph for the speed, then there is a lap penalty for being an inch on the little line. So there is all kinds of little things going on pit road and you just gotta try and take advantage of wherever there is a window and sometimes you are going to make a mistake doin' it. I never really challenged the pit road speed, I was so scared getting caught speeding cause there is nobody you can blame but yourself, you can't throw that off on nobody. Over the last five years, my team, and everybody around me has pushed me more to concentrate on tryin' maximize my opportunity with pit road speed. You look at how to get on pit road faster. How to exit pit road faster. There is all kinds of little things that you are tryin' to do now that you weren't as serious a couple of years ago. Now every little bit, every opportunity to gain or maximize your opportunity tryin' to get on pit road fast enough and then get off pit road fast enough, be right on that speed limit window there all the way down pit road, tryin' to get in your box as fast as you can. You are tryin' to do all these things now because they make such a big difference on pit road and how it relates to the race track."
ACCEPTING WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BEST MENTOR TO HELP YOU COPE WITH HAVING A BAD DAY? "I don't know. Daddy told me one time, when I was a rookie in the Cup series, I took a provisional at Rockingham, I felt like such a...I felt terrible. I felt low cause I was just embarrassed you know because I could drive and I just don't understand how things could be so bad that I can't out qualify a good handful of guys. I told him it was like the worst day ever in motorsports for me. I was only a rookie. He said your best day will be tomorrow. He said you are going to have bad days and the next day will be better, you are just goin' to have 'em. I don't think I am any better at dealing with it today than I was then because there are other people in your life that are the opposite. They don't put up with bad days. Like Tony, Sr. When he had a bad day, he took off runnin' in the other direction. You have a lot of different people giving you a lot of different impressions on how to deal with stuff like that. I think that when you feel like you are right, even when you know you might be wrong, you try to stand up for what you believe in, you know. But I always try to be honest and I have never really tried to intentionally lie to somebody, especially when it comes to the media. But I have never said I was always right about everything."
-credit: gm racing