Loudon: DEI Friday morning press conference

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Richie Gilmore (DEI President) Loudon, New Hampshire Friday, July 23, 2004 Q: On what it will be like to get in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet: Martin Truex: "We'll I'm not sure. Hopefully we'll get a...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Richie Gilmore (DEI President)
Loudon, New Hampshire
Friday, July 23, 2004

Q: On what it will be like to get in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet:

Martin Truex: "We'll I'm not sure. Hopefully we'll get a caution and be able to do it without losing a lap or anything like that. We'll just have to see what happens. I don't think it's going to be all that hard. It's just going to take a little bit of time."

Q: On the plan for Sunday's race:

Richie Gilmore: "I think right now we're going to see how Dale feels tomorrow running a few laps in practice. Physically, the doctors said he's in great shape. The thing we're going to worry about is the heat. We're going to have some cool temperatures here on Sunday, they say, sitting around 70 degrees, so that will help. I think we'll know a lot after tomorrow how he feels in a race car, and go from there."

Q: On qualifying:

Gilmore: "Right now we want to get as good a qualifying position as possible. We figure more time today with the team and Martin together, that will give him more time for Sunday and get the car qualified out front and get a good pit spot. Picking a pit, and we're going to pick our pit stall will help us make the driver change."

Q: On the possibility of Dale Earnhardt Jr. sitting out the race:

Gilmore: "Yeah, we've discussed it and it's been 100 percent Dale's choice to make and he fells he can do it, and it's been his decision."

Q: On his current condition:

Dale Earnhart Jr: "Burning ain't comfortable no matter where it's at. The ones on my legs . . . I really haven't been bothered too bad by the burns. It's just that the muscles have been aching and carrying on. I really ain't never been in a situation or known what to expect under these conditions. It's something new every day, with the pain. That kind of why we got to do the wait and see how it goes and that's why we haven't made any decisions or sent too much information out from our inner circle, because we really just have to wait and see how this plays itself out.

Every day I feel a lot better. I feel pretty capable of being able to qualify the car today if that was absolutely the rule. But since we aren't totally required to do that, I think Martin having time with the team this weekend will give him a better opportunity and get a good a finish as we can on Sunday.

But with the burns, I got my mother with me, she's been with me at the doctor, Steve Crisp, a bunch of good people have been helping me. All the doctors in Sacramento at the burn center there, the doctors at the burn center in Raleigh have given me all the advice they can give me and I've been taking care of myself at home and changing the dressings as much as I can and keeping my face clean as much as I can.

I was on some painkillers earlier in the week. To be able to race this weekend, and know I won't be affected by any of that stuff, I had to get off them early in the middle of the week. It's the price you pay. It's difficult to get a little sleep at night. It's worth it."

Q: On the incident in last Sunday's American Le Mans Series race:

Earnhardt: "The wreck was fiery and hot and the pain was intense. I went to the infield care center. I remember everything about the wreck. I remember sliding, hitting, bursting into flames, climbing out, crawling away, getting up, getting put on a stretcher, going to the infield care center, getting morphine, and that was it. If you want detail to detail, I can maybe give you that somewhere down the road. It was quite an experience and not one I want to go through again. Unfortunately, accidents happen, I think everybody in this room is well aware of that.

I don't know if I'd change anything about it because I made a lot of friends. I found out I had some people who were closer friends than I even anticipated and I found out that I even had a few enemies too.

It's been a good week aside from the injuries and everything. I've had a lot of good well wishes from a lot of people that have made a big difference. A lot of my fans have been real supportive. I was in the hospital in Sacramento kind of undisclosed for about 24 hours, received a lot of cards and stuff. The doctors and everybody were great. If the opportunity presented itself tomorrow, if they parked that C-5 out the door right there, I'd get right back in it. It's one of the funnest cars to driver, the company and the people are great, they're a family, they treated me like family with my dad in 2001, they treated me like family this past weekend. All the drivers were very supportive after the crash. The entire thing, it just amazed me, even before, but even after the crash it was more evident why I'm with them when I get an opportunity to get with them.

It's what I love to do, I love to drive, I love to race and I take the risk every time I get in the car no matter what car it is."

Q: On if NASCAR should have a substitute driver provision:

Earnhardt: "I don't think so. I don't know. It'd be good to not have to do anything this weekend and just heal up and not worry about it. But that ain't fair to the guys who are well capable of being able to run all 500 miles. I don't know, it's not my position to spout out scenarios and hypotheses and stuff like that. We're just doing what we can within the guidelines that we have in NASCAR with the driver starting. What we're going to do this weekend has been done a million times within the sport. If NASCAR, if there were rules in place, we would reform to those. Like I said, I could get in the car and I've been cleared injury-wise, burn-wise, head wise, everything, from one end to the other to get in the car and I could be very capable of getting in there and getting a good qualifying run.

It's painful to walk around. Actually the most comfortable position for me was sitting in the race car. To be able to give Martin more time I think is a better opportunity for us to get the better finish. How can we get the most points with the situation that we're in, how can we get the most points? I think that's probably the route to take to get them. It think what we have within this system is good, but NASCAR is probably in a state of change, so there may be something different down the road."

Q: On the fire system in the American Le Mans Series car:

"It did have a system. I couldn't see it when the car caught fire. As a lot of you might have seen, all I saw was fire, so I didn't even see where to get out. I just got out somehow. There was fire within the helmet and all around the visor, so there wasn't really any time, there wasn't a thought to pull any type of lever or any type of thing to get anything like that going. I was just trying to find out how to get to where the fire wasn't.

Q: On how he learned about safety from this:

Earnhardt: "One of the things that I didn't want to do was come away from this and become some sort of preacher on a soapbox about safety and this and that and the other. I know within my experiences, people that want to listen, I can tell them what I've been through and what I would do and what I'm going to do.

I never wore fire-retardant underwear underneath my driver's uniform. I'd done it on occasion here and there in my career but it wasn't something I practiced religiously. That weekend I took Steve Crisp with me, he brought along my suit and everything and had all that prepared and there happened to be some underwear in the bag, and I didn't have a t-shirt to wear underneath my uniform like I usually do, I just usually only wore a t-shirt. I put that on my upper body but I just wore my boxers, so my legs got burned and nothing else did except I got a little black spot on my neck. It shows me I need to be wearing everything I can wear and utilize as much precaution as possible. My opinion was, "That'll never happen to me" or "I'll never be in that situation." But you never can tell and you never know. Even though you think you're good enough or smart enough or you're not putting yourself in that position, you'll get there one day somehow, maybe not by your own doing but by somebody else's whatever. But I'm going to wear the underwear because it made a big difference and maybe try to look for some ways to combat allowing the fire to get up inside the full face helmet.

I felt pretty resilient to get back into my Cup car and get back to going. I don't have any problems with it. I don't know how to explain it other than, like I said, I like the Corvette, I enjoy racing it, it's a lot of fun to drive. It's a great race car. I hate to be the guy that backed it into the wall and burned it to the ground. They told me, and they told me a hundred times, any time I want I got an open invitation to get over there and drive with them. It's a great opportunity. It's an endurance car and I don't know a lot of guys in this garage that can say they've driven those type of cars, and that's a three times LeMans winner. It's fun to be in the car, it's fun to be around those people. They have a great a passion for racing. I get over and do that because it's kind of what I miss out of the reason I started racing. I'd do it next weekend if we had a weekend off.

It's not changed me as far as my drive and determination. It's changed me in maybe the way I, the precautions, take measures to prepare myself and protect myself and maybe the people I care about."

Q: On helping Martin Truex Jr. this weekend and the difficulty of not racing the entire race:

Earnhardt: "I don't really think Martin's going to need my help as far as spotting goes. I'll put on a radio and I'll be the last thing on his mind, probably. Tony and them guys, they worked with a rookie in the past and steered him OK, so I think that he's in great hands. He's going to have all the help he can handle with Tony and them guys. They're going to really be helping him out. I'm just excited to see what he can do in a real good race car, because I told him it's going to be the best car he's ever drove.

I'm just disappointed really because we've run so good here in the past and I was looking forward to coming here. I just really felt like we were closing in on getting a win here. We've got top fives and we led a lot of laps in the last couple races we've been here. It's going to be hard getting out of the car. "

Q: On what he'll do when he gets out of the car on Sunday:

Earnhardt: "I don't know what I'll do when I get out. I'll just kind of watch the race, I reckon. I've never been in that situation before. I'll sit on the pit box, with the crew, wherever there's room, put on some sunscreen and tune in."

Q: On the type of seat he used in the American Le Mans Series race:

Earnhardt: "I believe the seat was carbon fiber, I never really looked at it. I think it was. I had an insert tin there. It was really cool because normally the drivers have to pull and change and tighten belts and stuff when they make a driver's change. I just yanked my insert out and then Boris (Said) fit right in there. He didn't even have to change the belts. I had an insert in there, the seat was comfortable, the car was great. It was like an 18 G impact, and those cars are fast and quick through the corners. You take five G's in the corner. I didn't even really think the hit was that hard. I knew it was hard enough to tear that car up because it was mainly carbon fiber and knock us out of being able to start the race, I knew we'd have to withdraw. But I didn't think the hit was hard at all.

I won't be changing the seats in my Cup car. We've been working real hard to get the seats in my Cup car good and I like them the way they are. We're always trying to make them better. So I feel like it's apples and oranges really between the two."


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Series NASCAR Cup