DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with member of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed how he feels how the team is running since the crew chief change, the news that Chevrolet is pulling its...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with member of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed how he feels how the team is running since the crew chief change, the news that Chevrolet is pulling its support in the Truck and Nationwide Series, the Car of Tomorrow in the Nationwide Series and more.
AS DEFENDING CHAMPION OF THE RACE DO YOU ALLOW YOURSELF THE HOPE FOR A BREAKOUT OF A WIN OR IS IT TOO SOON IN THIS REBUILDING PROCESS? "You show up every week thinking you can win and hoping you can win. So it's not too soon to think about that and try to realize that is your ultimate goal. We seem to have good communication. We had a pretty good practice right there but a bad set of tires so we didn't get to make a real hard mock run. I was pretty happy with how things worked out. The communication seems to be going good and I hope to be realizing some success from it soon."
LANCE (MCGREW, CREW CHIEF) SAID YOU GUYS FOUND A LITTLE MECHANICAL GLITCH IN POCONO LAST WEEK BUT HE WOULDN'T SAY WHAT. "In Charlotte we ran so poorly we didn't have a mechanical piece on the car to point at and go that broke or that fell apart and you feel terrible and you have no answers. We had a really good car in practice at Pocono and when the race started it felt pretty good for about 20 laps and then it just got so loose and we couldn't fix it all day. We came back to the shop and found that part in the front suspension that had failed. It was good and it totally made sense. Actually in the middle part of the race I commented over to my engineer that I thought that part had failed. It was pretty good to be able to point at something and go well here's the problem. At least you can start forming better solutions when you know what your problem is."
HOW MUCH DOES CHEVY PULLING ITS SUPPORT IN THE TRUCK AND NATIONWIDE SERIES REALLY GOING TO HURT YOUR TEAM? "We'll try to do the best we can to cover the void that will create. Chevrolet is going through some very challenging times. I had a true understanding that this would be coming down the pipe and they would have to make some adjustments. Every company not only in this sport but particularly having a company of my own I've had to make adjustments due to how the economy has turned so it wouldn't be any different for anybody else. I've been a loyal supporter of Chevrolet for a very long time and will continue to be. They've been a great partner. There are some really, really good friendships there and I hope our relationship will remain strong as they try to rebound."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES? "We've been pretty uncertain about the future of that series for a long, long time. Obviously the support that Chevy was able to provide us was in a lot of ways a privilege only to a few teams. Not everybody has had that support. You see a lot of the guys that are getting to the race track without that kind of manufacturer support and to me it was always a feather in your cap and never taken for granted. We'll be able to try to do some unique programs with our sponsors and future partners to try to cover that expense. I personally in no way feel like it's changing my relationship or my perception toward Chevrolet and how I'll work with them in the future."
DOES THIS MAKE IT EASIER TO MOVE UP TO CUP? "Well we really don't have to start back at ground zero so to speak but it doesn't make the decision to go to Cup any different for my team anyways. The decision to go to Cup really is based on the group that is going to bring in 20 to 25 million dollars. The manufacturer support was always a great part of the program but in no way was it the entire puzzle obviously. I'm glad that they were able to continue to support of Hendrick and Stewart-Haas and obviously Richard Childress. They've made some great partnerships and apparently those meant a lot to Chevrolet to maintain them. Again I think that a lot of teams run without that type of assistance from the manufacturers so I can't really feel any sympathy even though I own one of the teams that's going to be running without it in the future. I can't really feel a lot of sympathy for those guys including myself for losing it because you see guys around here making it work. We'll be able to make it work."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE LATEST THING KYLE BUSCH HAS SAID THAT HE HAS ZERO PROBLEMS WITH YOU, IT'S YOUR FANS THAT ARE CRAZY, KNOWING YOUR FANS AS WELL AS YOU DO WHAT DO YOU THINK OF A GUY WHO WOULD CALL OUT YOUR FAN BASE? "I think the guy is just trying to direct a lot of people to his website or to his column and generate ad revenue for said website I suppose. I really don't see how that argument really is that relevant to anything and I don't even know really what kind of problem he has or what kind of solution he wants. I don't really get into it. My fans will handle themselves they're good people. We've got a lot of great fans that follow this sport and they're very loyal to us and we need them more now than ever right now so I think anyone who would be calling them out and stirring them up is causing problems not only for himself but everyone else in this sport."
HOW MUCH MORE CONFIDENT WERE YOU WALKING IN HERE THIS MORNING THAN MAYBE IN THE PAST? "Like I said the communication with the team is good. Lance (McGrew) is doing a great job. All of the other guys on the road crew have stepped up and what that means to me is when I come in here and I can see the different disposition on everyone's face I'm more positive about what kind of lap time I'm going to get ready to run in the car. Lance and I have been talking during the week about everything that comes to mind and having consistent discussions to try to understand where each of us is at, what our opinion and attitude is. I think it just feels like this should be turning around and should begin to work and I feel confidence. It gives me confidence. I know that in this sport you can be great one day and not so great the next. We ran really, really bad and it was very frustrating during the race last week but even though I didn't know at the time what had went wrong with the car, even at the end of the race I said I still see a lot of positive things happening with the team and feel good about Lance.
"I feel good that we're leaning on our teammates a lot and if they can run fast with this such and such set-up I should be able to make it work and I need to learn how to drive it if it feels different. So I'm really open-minded and trying to adjust whatever I need to adjust to adapt and it will work or it won't work but giving it your best effort is the best way to go. People say often times the best things to do is always the hardest thing to do. We're just putting our foot down and trying to work hard. The guys have got a better attitude. The team was really beat down over the last several months and that's gotten better. That affects me and affects everybody. We just really want to see some results and things like that in the next couple of weeks to give us an assertion we need to move forward and keep improving. I think we will. We ran way better than I thought we would at Dover. The car was good in practice at Pocono and we felt like we were going to be alright going into the race. It felt pretty good the first couple of laps but we had an issue. We'll just see how it goes. I feel pretty good about it. I think Rick (Hendrick) has gone far beyond what I anticipated in trying to get us assistance and trying help me. More so I'm surprised by how much the crew chiefs and driver's are participating and trying to help us. Everybody is just really trying to help and it feels great. That kind of thing has got to give you some confidence going in because I see that they want it to work just like I do."
DOES THE LOSS OF FACTORY SUPPORT IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO PHASE IN THE NATIONWIDE COT? "The phasing in of the Nationwide COT will be difficult period aside from whatever factory support that you have or don't have. I understand that the COT is a very safe car and I'm glad for its safety and I appreciate its safety but I wished that car had developed and evolved into a better race car over the period that we've used it. It hasn't progressed into a better race car as quickly as I would have liked so that makes me apprehensive about the same process occurring in the Nationwide Series let alone that is secondary to the expense that it would cost. I would say that to give you an idea of how much the manufacturer support would assist or not assist you, the manufacturer support would be less than 30% of the entire expense to change into a COT Nationwide program. You're talking probably two to three or four million dollars just to change over even if you're currently a Nationwide program. That's expensive, that's a lot of people's entire budget."
DOES THE SITUATION WITH THE NATIONWIDE THING, IS IT STRAIGHT CASH THAT THEY'RE CUTTING OR ARE THEY STILL GOING ALLOW YOU TO USE TECHNICAL STUFF? "I really don't know what each program what their situation was as far as what assistance that Chevrolet was giving them in terms of dollars or wind tunnel time or whatever but I know that through their manufacturers and their centers up north that we'll still probably have a lot of engineering data and trade back and forth and we'll still try to learn a lot of things from them on the engineering side of things but obviously on the financial side of it is entirely going away which everybody understands. Obviously Chevrolet cares really deeply about this sport and they still are going to maintain some relationships and they still want to see Chevrolet's win no matter whose driving them or who owns them so they'll still offer quite a bit of support on the engineering and data side to try to improve and help change on aero and the development of better bodies and what not."
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE NATIONWIDE BUDGET IS THE FACTORY SUPPORT? "Very small. The sponsorships obviously are the biggest part of our budget. Our relationship with Chevrolet was more just about brand loyalty. I've been with them for so long I don't really think that we even negotiated with them on the manufacturer support. It was just about brand loyalty because we've been with them so long and they've been such a good company to us. It was a good assistance to our program but it was not a very large portion of our entire funding for the season. I would assume for some programs it would be a lot more. For example maybe (Kevin) Harvick was really dependent upon the manufacturer support which we were dependent upon it but we'll find other ways to make that up. I think it will be pretty feasible to be able to do that."
AT THIS POINT WHEN THINGS ARE SO DIRE HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY EXPECT THE MANUFACTURERS TO STEP UP AND DEVELOP THE NEW CAR? "We'll have to develop it ourselves the best way we can. The manufacturers have been in and out of the sport many times in the last several years and Chevrolet has not gone away its just they had to adjust their situation just like everybody else did with the economy the way it is. We'll do things differently and still accomplish the same goals in my opinion."
-credit: gm racing