DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY SUGAR FREE LIGHTNING/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed the improvement in his team, being in the top-12 and other topics. TALK ABOUT THE SPECIAL...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY SUGAR FREE LIGHTNING/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed the improvement in his team, being in the top-12 and other topics.
TALK ABOUT THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME YOU HAVE ON THE CAR THIS WEEKEND: "I appreciate it. I think it turned out pretty good. It is the Sugar Free Lightning flavor of AMP. I like the lightning. I try to do my best on designing cars. I think this might be the best one we have come out with so far. I am pretty proud of it. I actually really do like the Lightning flavor, that is probably what I drink the most of back home. It is kind of cool to have the Sugar Free here unveiled and on the car for this weekend. I wish this kind of thing more often. Go through all the flavors week after week. It would be kinda cool to have different colored cars every week. Change it up a little bit. It is fun for me to be able to do the one-off stuff like we are doing this weekend. A lot of fun."
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID EARLIER TODAY THAT HE THOUGHT YOU WERE PUSHING YOURSELF HARDER IN AREAS YOU AREN'T COMFORTABLE IN AND THAT IS HELPING YOU. ARE YOU PUSHING YOURSELF, DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY? "I don't feel uncomfortable. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) made a lot of changes in the off season and he made a lot of calls he had to make and knew he had to pull the trigger on a few things. The guys, and myself included, really forgot and erased what happened in the past and tried to start fresh and imagine a better future for ourselves. And imagine ourselves being more competitive. The changes helped a lot, the people that we moved in and moved around helped a lot. Chris Heroy, he is the engineer-we call him Sunshine, I don't know where he got the name, but he's been a big help and a couple of other guys that have come on board. The relationship with Lance, I was counting and I think I have worked with about six different crew chiefs, Lance, we aren't kin or related, we have to respect each other more, I think, because of our different backgrounds and upbringing, whatever, what have you. The longer we work together, the more respect we have for each other. I read in an article where he said there is a lot of respect back and forth. He backs me up a little bit more than I am than I'm used to I guess. He sorta has my back in a lot of situations. The reason why I guess I was able to keep my composure because I knew that he wanted the same result I wanted. I knew he was pulling for me; we were on the same path, on the same page even though I was upset. I wasn't upset at him, I was upset at NASCAR, but I wasn't upset and him or anybody on the team. I just sort of had to get all that shit off my chest. I think the reason we are running better is because of the changes we made in the off season mainly and that has given us some confidence. The guys that were already there are more confident because of those changes. Everybody can see a little different step in our walk. Last year when we were struggling and we would show up and unload the car and it was a little bit off, it was really easy to accept it. It was disappointing as hell. There was no reaction of we can fix it. You didn't really have that feeling of confidence that that could happen. If it was the practice before qualifying at any of those races, those last 10, that was the feeling that I had. I figured if we did fix it, oh well. If we didn't, that wouldn't surprise me either. But this year you have that feeling that anytime there is that little thing that goes wrong; a little switch comes on where we can probably fix this. This is not a problem because we just have so much more communication going on. It is good. Lance has done a lot of great things. He started off when he came in as the crew chief building a few cars that he thought needed to be a little different in some ways. I drove them, I liked them. In the off season, once he understood that was his position and his right to do so, he made the changes to the team. He deserves a lot of credit."
HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU HAVE FELT LIKE YOU COULD MAKE THE CHANGES TO MAKE IT BETTER? "Probably three-quarters of the way through the first season with Rick (Hendrick). We were running pretty good all year then it all went to hell. Right around then."
HOW FAR CAN A CREW CHIEF PUSH SOMEBODY AND ARE YOU A GUY THAT NEEDS TO BE COACHED IN A DIFFERENT MANNER? "I just think you talk to people...it is real easy. Every situation is different and the good people know exactly what each situation calls for at that very moment. Throughout my career, everybody has always sort of said I wasn't focused, especially when my Daddy was alive and he was out there running he did and was. Everybody would compare me to him and say that I lacked so much determination, didn't have the will power, all that he had. He wore it on his sleeve and I don't really do that. Even after he passed away, I still got that I didn't have focus and this that and the other. That sort of followed me throughout my career. Anytime somebody would say that I laid down or insinuated that I might or whatever, just sort of pisses me off a little bit. Which, I have a right to feel however I want to feel or get upset about things that I want to get upset about. I'm just a human being. The thing about a really good crew chief is he will know exactly what to say for each situation. Lance knew to cheer me back to my game and steer me in that direction with a little pep talk and he did it and that is what I needed. Maybe at times it is his job, maybe it ain't. Maybe it is my job to keep my head together. If he sees me going off on the wrong path, he cares enough to want to fix it and helped me out a lot at that moment. Because I was really really upset about how that went down, regardless of who was right or wrong, I wasn't thinking about what I was supposed to be thinking about, my job. He did the right thing. I go on the internet and listen to all the audio files of everybody else and I don't see or hear anything that is really different. To be honest, what happened at Bristol on the radio, hell, that probably happens to half the field during every race at some point. It is really not all that uncommon. There are some lines that you just don't cross when you are pissed off and you are talking dirty, even if you are really mad at your crew chief, there are just lines you don't cross.
As long as we don't cross them, we will be in good shape. We have to be able to speak up when we feel strongly about something but we have to be able to have respect at the same time and I think we have done that. He knew Sunday I wasn't mad at him, but I needed to tell somebody what I was mad about and why I felt that way."
HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE PUSHED YOURSELF? "I don't feel like I've really had to change a bunch. The thing about Lance is, Lance just works on my confidence all the time, which that is what I need. Certain times there are moments during the bulk of the work of the weekend on Friday's and Saturdays. During that time there are little moments where he goes 'we're going this little bit right here, we're going to work and you're going to do this for us and we're going to do this and that is going to get us to where we want to be on the time chart, that is going to get us to the target lap time that we want'. That is kind of refreshing and he just asks you to step up a little bit and he really sort of does that to the whole team at the same time. He say's 'all right, everybody just step up a little big' and that is really is a lot of fun especially when it works which it does most of the time. Even if it only worked half the time, it is worth the effort. It is good. He has just done a good job. He has got a good group of guys around him and they keep improving and I'm happy to be working with them."
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU MISSED BEING IN THE MEDIA CENTER AND ARE YOU GLAD TO BE BACK? "Honestly, I try not to say too much when I get in here, which never happens. Cause I like to go on the Internet and not read about myself. A couple of years ago, we were in the top-12 all the time for quite a bit of the season and it was frustrating having to sort of bullshit your way through a top-12 media session when there was nothing to talk about but we would find something. That was what would be all over the news whether it was me talking about it or another driver. I enjoyed last week and everything that went on with you guys. I was watching it from the guys and I am glad to be in the top-12 so I will come in here every damn week if I have too. (LAUGHS) As long as I can stay in the top-12. I remember that first year, I complained a lot to Mike Davis about having to do the top-12 media every week. But after this spell I have been in, I will put up with it."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH GETTING YOUR CONFIDENCE BACK IN ADDITION TO THE PRESSURE OF BEING THE FACE OF NASCAR? "I have the confidence that we can do this the right way and we can accomplish our goals. We haven't turned a corner. We are maybe turning the corner, but we haven't quite got there yet. We are approaching it maybe. But as a team, we got a lot to fix still. We have a lot to improve upon and I think that the next 10 races will surely reveal where we are still weak and where we need to work as a team. I think we showed at Fontana, Atlanta and Vegas where we need to be better. We got sort of fortunate last week to be able to get enough of a finish to get ourselves in the top-12. We have a lot of work to do. I have the confidence we can fix it but I just know we need to be better. I think that it is important not to get too really satisfied with how things are going. Always trying to strive to get more out of your team performance."
TELL US ABOUT MARTINSVILLE, WHAT YOU LIKE? "This was one of the race tracks that I could count on coming to as a kid so I saw a lot of races here when I was young. One of the amazing things about Martinsville is the ability to be so close to the action, especially a lot of you guys will walk down on pit road. When you stand out there during qualifying you feel like you can almost reach out and touch the cars when they are going by. And you can see, you are so close to the cars, you can really see them working. You can almost guess how the car is handling so much easier than you can at the other tracks. I remember that as a kid, just being so close to the cars, even when there was a little bit of infield down there in the corners, we could still get close enough to see them coming through there and working the throttle and the brake all the way through the corners. There is just a lot of good history here and it is an old race track and it is a short track. I always complain about the lack of short tracks in the schedule. It is fun to come to any one of them. Martinsville is so unique being a paperclip and flat. You have to really get your car working pretty good through the corners and be able to be competitive in the race, it is really really imperative that your car handles well, because there is not much adjustment to the line in the corner that you can make to try to make up for something that you car isn't doing correctly. So you really have to work hard with your team and show up pretty good out of the box. I love coming here and I hope as long as I am a driver that we are always visiting this race track."
WHAT WERE YOU REALLY MAD ABOUT AT BRISTOL AND IS IT UNFAIR HOW THEY DETERMINE THAT? "It's not unfair. We all know where the little loop holes are and how to use them. I just wish they weren't there. I just wish it was a little more cut and dried on how things are done. We know what the tricks are and that one stall is better than another and why and how to make that work to your advantage. If somebody picks it before you, then you have to pick the next best one that has a little less advantage but still something. Eventually you get down to the bottom line and you are in the stalls that are a total disadvantage. At the short tracks they really show up more, there is quite a bit bigger tolerance between a good stall and a poor stall. We all know that going in so I don't feel as if the chips are stacked against me. I will be the first to admit that I obviously sped, I went over the speed limit and that is speeding so it wasn't that I was arguing that I wasn't speeding, it is just that I saw the guy in front me that was going to pit before the start/finish line and the timing line gun his car for about five stalls and I gunned mine for maybe one and a half or two stalls and it is just frustrating to be caught. We are out there trying to get everything we can. They gave us five miles an hour over the original speed limit and we still complain when we get caught speeding but we are competitors, we're racers."
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT TO SEE AT TALLADEGA? "During the testing, I really enjoyed it. My car was super fast. The racing seemed pretty entertaining. I think it will be really close to what you've seen there the last several trips. We'll start the race, run a little bit. Everybody will find some position they are happy with and we will all probably go to the top and ride around for about 300 miles and then start racing. Riding around the top is fun. Even though we are all in a line, it is pretty cool getting up against the wall like that going over 190 mile an hour. Probably super boring for you guys but a way to pass the time until the real race starts. It will probably be a lot like that."
-source: gm racing