DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media to discuss his progress so far this season, what it takes to learn Martinsville, stealing parts in the garage, the HMS team, and more. ON TAKING OVER ANOTHER DRIVER'S...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media to discuss his progress so far this season, what it takes to learn Martinsville, stealing parts in the garage, the HMS team, and more.
ON TAKING OVER ANOTHER DRIVER'S RIDE, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE? "I don't know. He's got to be nervous. His (Reutimann) first race, I'm sure he's got to be nervous but he seems to be a pretty professional guy when it comes to driving and all. He seems like he'll be cautious. Seems to be pretty level-headed."
IS IT JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE YOU MAKE ANOTHER TRIP TO VICTORY LANE? "I hope so. We're just going to keep trying until it happens. I enjoy running good and running up front and really being consistent. That's something I haven't been called in a long, long time. So it's a good feeling how we've been going right now. We'll just keep working and keep doing the same job."
HAS THE PROCESS OF GETTING UP TO SPEED WITH A NEW TEAM GONE FASTER THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD? "No, it could have gone a 100 different ways as far as I knew at the beginning of the year. I didn't know what to expect or how fast or slow it might happen. I knew I was getting in good stuff. I knew I had my cousin me who knew a lot of things about me that we wouldn't have to figure out. He knows how I like my cars to drive and he knows things about the set up that I will like or not like. So, we cut a lot of hurdles out of the way with that."
HMS HAS DOMINATED AT MARTINSVILLE FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS. WOULD YOU MIND KICKING JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF GORDON OUT SO YOU COULD KEEP THE TORCH GOING FOR HENDRICK? "Well, I think it's going to be tough. They're running good. We're running good. They've always run really good and won races here. We seem to be able to run in the top five quite often. I do like the track. And I would like to win a clock. Tony Jr. says he wants a clock. We've come close a couple of times. We got us some third place finishes and been real close. He builds a good car with a good set-up and it's up to us to make the right calls on pit road and do the right thing on the race track. We've got a good shot, though."
ARE YOU READY FOR THE FAN CHANGE FROM A SEA OF RED TO A SEA OF GREEN AT MARTINSVILLE ON SUNDAY? "The fans are really supportive. And no matter what color shirt they've got on, we've had a lot of support this year. And I'm in debt to how they've treated us and it's been really surprising to me how excited they are and how much they're looking forward to all year long. Hopefully they're happy with the way we've been running. A couple of them have been a little hard on Tony Jr., but he's my cousin and hopefully he'll always be my crew chief. We're a package deal and hopefully that's the way it's always going to be. I'd rather work with somebody that you care for and enjoy being around and that you can have good success with. I'd rather have that than try to go a different route. I think he feels the same way. I'm pretty fortunate to have the opportunity we've both got and we're trying to make the most of it for the rest of the season."
DO YOU THINK MARTINSVILLE DESERVES TWO RACE DATES? "Absolutely, man. We can't lose any more short tracks in the season. They ain't building any short tracks to replace them. And we can't afford to loose any more short tracks."
WOULD YOU FIGHT TO SAVE MARTINSVILLE? "Oh, I don't know what I could do, but I don't think there is any jeopardy of losing a date."
THIS PLACE GIVES SOME PEOPLE FITS. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET IT AND WHEN DID YOU GET IT? "We struggled here until we came and spent two days solely just testing. And when we did that, we ran that set-up and generally in that area of springs and stuff since then. And it seems to do well. I ran into everything for a couple of years. We had one race where it was just ridiculous, just the wrecking that I was doing. So it takes a little bit. It really has a lot more to do with the race car than you think. When you first come here, you're thinking oh I'm doing it wrong I've got to go harder and do this different and harder, harder, harder. And you just make it worse and worse and worse. Once you figure out how to get the car to turn and to work and be able to put the power down, it makes learning how to drive this track way easier. And so we struggled with the car for a while, which didn't enable me to understand how to get around here. And I just made it worse trying to drive what I thought was a good car, but apparently we made it a lot better and it calmed me down. That's how it worked."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT IT'S YOU THAT'S CARRYING THE HENDRICK BANNER NOW AND NOT JIMMIE OR JEFF? 'Well we're running good and they've ran good. They've had some misfortunes and some bad luck and struggled at a couple of race tracks. But it's just a matter of time before they get back to where they want to be. With the way that organization is, you won't be down or struggling for long. And there are too many good people that work there; too many dedicated people. The spirit that company has to run up front and the dedication they have is to do whatever it takes to get that. It's not going to be like it is for much more. I expect them all to be in the top 10 this weekend. I think we'll all have good runs this weekend."
COULD YOU ELABORATE ON HOW YOU STRUGGLED AT MARTINSVILLE? "Yeah, well the first several starts were embarrassing. We came here and tested and worked really hard with it. We had a test a long time ago, and we've used that information and improved on it. We do fine now. You just can't overdo it. You've just got to get down in the corner. You can only get in there so fast. The brakes are only going to do so much. And you can only put the power down, you know, the power's going to spin the tires. So you've just got to be patient and work on the car to get the car better. It's real important."
WOULD YOU LIKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE A TEAMMATE WITH MARTIN TRUEX JR. AGAIN? "Well, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at, and working with the guys that are my teammates now. We've got a good combination and a good group between Casey (Mears) and Jimmie and Jeff. There is just a lot of good chemistry there. Everybody is positive about not only themselves, but making sure everybody else is having success and running good. Casey is struggling and he's had a lot of unfortunate luck. He's a better race car driver than he's been running. I think everybody knows that. And I enjoy having him as a teammate. Martin is a great friend of mine. We hang out and I told him to go to that Darlington test if he wanted to go, you know, because we're buddies. I told Matt (Kenseth) to go. But he ended up going to see his mom. There were a couple of other drivers and at one time we were all going to go together. I thought it would be fun. But we're just good friends. Martin is a good guy. I know that he's going to have a difficult year answering this question all year long as far as what he's going to do and where he's going to go and all that. But the only thing I can do for him is help him with that, on how to deal with it. He probably don't need it. He's pretty focused. But we've got a good deal where we are at Hendrick. Our main goal is to give Casey the best opportunity every weekend and give him a better chance and hopefully put him in a situation where he can create some better luck and change his fate a little bit so he can get the finishes. He runs good. He was running great at Bristol and just got caught up in some stuff. It's been unfortunate for him. It's been a tough year."
JACK ROUSH IS UPSET AND ACCUSING ANOTHER TEAM WITH ANOTHER MANUFACTURER OF STEALING A PART AND TAKING ADVANTAGE. IS STEALING EQUIPMENT MORE OF THE NORM THAN THE EXCEPTION IN THIS SPORT? IS THERE REALLY AN HONOR CODE IN THE GARAGE? "Well I don't like stealing, no matter what it is or how it's happening. I don't think anybody should steal anything out of anybody's garage or shop or through a change of hands with employees."
HAVEN'T YOU HAD STUFF STOLEN? "We were testing at Memphis and some guy broke into the race track and hauled off with all the laptops and a bunch of stuff. And they found the car that he used to tow it up on the railroad tracks behind the race track. And that sucks, man. You come to work and that's not even in the back of your mind. You know when you're at home, you lock the door at night or you put things in certain places to keep them safe. But when you're here working, or at your shop, you never feel that way. You feel like the total environment is secure, and that nobody would even have the nerve to even try it."
WHY? "Oh, just a gentlemen's agreement or a trust factor, I don't know. I would assume that nobody here would want to steal anything from our team. I don't care what it was. It's just because you don't. But maybe I give everybody more credit than they should have, I don't know. I just assume this is a safe environment. So when we got stole from at Memphis, that was just a couple of guys trying to pawn some stuff for money. That wasn't even another race team. So, that's sort of understandable. It's not acceptable, but it's understandable. But I don't know anything about that story. I haven't read up on it or anything. I'm not sure exactly what the situation is. Well, I'm sure it happens. There are people that get fired and have information that goes with them. Well, that's just part of firing somebody. That's the price you pay when you let a guy go. If that happened, that's not necessarily stealing. That's just hey man, I got fired but I know they run this spring and this kind of spring bucket and it's been working great and that's why they've been whooping everybody. So that's not stealing. That's just the price you paid to get rid of the guy you didn't want to have around anymore."
JACK ROUSH SAID SOMEBODY ACTUALLY TOOK A PART FROM THEIR PIT BOX OR TOOL BOX FROM DOVER LAST YEAR AND HELD ON TO IT. "Another team?"
YES, ANOTHER TEAM. "Another team walked over to their pit box and stole something off of it?"
IT WAS UNDER THE PIT BOX. "That really happened? Wow. If that happened, whoever did it ought not to have a hard card anymore, hands down. I don't care what his excuse was of if he was put up to it or whatever. If anybody steals anything off my pit stall doesn't deserve to be in the garage; has no business being in the garage. No second chances there."
MAYBE THE SPORT IS CHANGING WITH ALL THE MONEY IN IT. NASCAR SAID THERE REALLY ISN'T A RULE ABOUT THAT 'Yeah, it's unfortunate. You assume that you get enough respect around here that people don't steal from you. I'm going to continue to assume that, that people are just
respectful enough and everybody has a good enough head on their shoulders that that's not the kind of activities they'd get involved in. And until I get stole from, that's how I'm going to feel. Once I get stole from, I hope I'll have the ability to come down really hard on them."
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART FOR A DRIVER IN A CONTRACT YEAR? "Messing with y'all (the media) and talking with y'all. That's the hardest part. You're working behind the scenes and trying to figure out what you're going to do. You're working as hard as you can. You want to get the right deal. You want to get is just like you want it. And it takes time. And people want to believe what they want to believe. And I know the media has a job to do. A driver in a contract year, you try to give them what you give them. Hopefully they return the favor with some room. But if I was going to ask anybody around here, I'd ask them once a month, not every week. Because there's probably nothing happening in the last couple of weeks. He's not going to give you new information. Plus, you're going to find out when everybody else finds out in the end. But y'all got to get the people to tune in and watch and read. So I guess it's good to talk about. But it makes it tough, it does."
-credit: gm racing