DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about the Michigan track, the drivers meeting with NASCAR about the development of the new race car,...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about the Michigan track, the drivers meeting with NASCAR about the development of the new race car, racing last week at Pocono in the heat, and more.
HOW ABOUT IT SO FAR? "It's a little slick. We're working on it though. Our teammate is really good. We went in that direction to make my car a little better. In race trim, I was real, real happy. We ran a lot in race trim the first of the practice and I was pretty happy with that."
IS MIS A FUN TRACK FOR YOU? "Yeah, it's a good race track. It's pretty fun. It's getting a little bit rough. It's got some bumps on the front straightaway pretty bad, but they could fix those with patches. They wouldn't need to repave it. The track is pretty fun."
HAS THIS PLACE TREATED YOU PRETTY FAIRLY OVER THE YEARS? "I like driving on it. We ain't got all the finishes we feel like we should have, but that's the case everywhere. A driver ain't never satisfied. But I'll put this on the list of tracks I really enjoy running on, sure."
WITH HENDRICK'S LEVEL OF SUCCESS, DOES THIS BUOY YOUR CONFIDENCE FOR THIS WEEKEND? "Well, it has all year, every week; everywhere we've been going."
CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT IT WAS ONE YEAR AGO TODAY THAT YOU MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT YOU WERE GOING TO HMS? "I know, I didn't realize that we had done so much so early last year. That was a big surprise to me. But it doesn't. It feels like six months maybe."
ON HEAT ISSUES WITH THE NEW CAR? "It was also really humid and 90-some degrees outside (at Pocono last weekend). The car shouldn't be a whole lot different than the other car. Our vents are the same. Our approach is the same. We've actually made some gains in ability to cool the.....I guess she got all the answer she needed (laughter)."
WERE YOU IN AS GOOD SHAPE AS YOU THOUGHT OR WAS POCONO SORT OF A WAKE-UP CALL? "Was I? C'mon man! (laughter). I was at peak physical condition at (age) 1. It's all been down hill since then (laughs). No, you do what you can. You hydrate. I could do a better job of drinking more water during the week and prepare myself. But I physically didn't feel tired until I stopped. And that's really how it works. You really can go further, but It's really just when you stop. You know how a runner sort of has to jog it off after. You can't just come to a dead stop and have a conversation with anybody. And that's the way it is in the race car when you've been running and running. You have to walk it off and there's really no way to do that. You can in the garage a little bit if you run poorly and nobody is around, but when you're in the top five and you're crowded by crews and media and whatnot, it makes it worse. There is really no way of moving around and no breeze. Everybody was very, very hot last week. Hopefully that was just a coincidence with the weather and humidity. It gets like that here in Michigan too, but we've been pretty fortunate, temperature-wise, for the past several Sundays up until Pocono."
WHAT IS YOUR INTERPRETATION OF WHAT WAS SAID IN THE MEETING THIS MORNING? "My interpretation was that the drivers should be thankful for the position they're in and should be more positive in where this car is going to be in a year or two. It reminds me a lot of working with video game developers. The reason why the analogy works is because the public wants to know how good the game is. The public wants to know what's being fixed. Once the game is released there's a lot of bugs and stuff, just like with this race car. And the public wants to know when is it going to be fixed and what's being worked on and what's going to be added. And a lot of companies are not eager to give that information out until it's done and finished.
"And I see NASCAR with that same attitude. I think that they do a lot of work behind the scenes and they probably agree with us more than we tend to believe. And they understand that the car is new and it's going to evolve and we're going to learn more. Maybe three years from now we'll look back at what we have today and go, man, can you believe we had that car and that was the way we did it? Because they'll be some things we'll find that will be just like man, that's way better. Let's go in that direction. So I think they're doing more than we give them credit for. They're thinking and working and trying and wanting to improve; and that us drivers should do less complaining.
"I think it's always great to be reminded. In my experience with Mike Helton, if he ever says anything, it's been very valuable to me. And every time that man has spoke, I've benefited from it. It gave me a whole lot clearer view of the situation than I had. And I appreciate Mike and NASCAR for thinking it was a good opportunity today to have that."
JIM HUNTER SAID IT WAS ONE OF MIKE HELTON'S BEST CONVERSATIONS IN WHAT HE SAID AND HOW HE SAID IT "Sure. Well, I don't know what you mean."
WELL HE SAID IT WASN'T ELOQUENT, MEANING THAT HE SPOKE STRAIGHT UP AND STRAIGHT ON AND SERIOUS TO YOU ALL "He always does.
"I don't know what the other drivers think. I just know what I think and what it did for me. I was pretty critical and overly critical at times. And the only reason why the drivers are like that is because we feel like our best avenue is through the media because it's very effective. But at the same time, NASCAR reads those opinions and it's not good for the sport. If I enjoy what I do and I'm having fun and want to be here and want to be around for a while, I shouldn't tell people not to buy tickets."
ON THE TIMING OF THE MEETING WITH THE GRANT / NASCAR LAWSUIT BEING FILED THIS WEEK "Well, there was nothing spoken about that in the meeting and I think that was merely coincidental. The CoT is in a critical phase right now and I feel like NASCAR wanted to put the drivers in the right direction, mentally, not only for the critical phase to get worse, but also because it's frustrating a little bit for us to be out there and want more out of the car. But they're open to allowing the car to evolve and there are probably some future opportunities to test some new ideas with the car to make it more raceable."
WITH THE PRICE OF GAS AT $4 A GALLON, TALK ABOUT THE FANS COMING TO THE RACES. "Yeah, I'm glad I don't have to pay for it, the miles I burn this weekend, or I probably wouldn't be here. But gas prices are ridiculous. It's unfortunate."
WITH NASCAR TELLING THE DRIVERS TO LAY LOW ON THEIR CRITICISM OF THE CAR, DO YOU EXPECT THEM TO BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO BEHIND THE SCENES COMPLAINTS NOW AND BE MORE ACTIVE IN DOING THINGS? "Yeah. They will. I think that they were. As a driver you just pent up the anguish that you have about the situation and you misinterpret NASCAR's position and their approach and what they're really doing. Like I said, they're doing a lot with the car now. They are coming up with some new ideas and new ways to make the car not quite as sensitive in dirty air and they'll be testing that soon hopefully. I think it's great that they feel like the car can evolve. It should, as every car has evolved in the sport, this car should as well. I feel like they know that and they're open to it. You want to make the car to where it has more front grip and drives better in dirty air and turns down in the corner better. But at the same time, I like the way the rules are stricter on this car. It's a very difficult situation to have both."
WHAT'S THE UPDATE ON THE PURCHASE OF ALABAMA MOTORSPORTS PARK? "I've been pretty busy."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN? "As far as I know, it's 100% going to happen."
ANY MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT HAVING A CUP TEAM? "Oh, he (Brad Keselowski) is going to have to win a whole lot more races than that for me to go into that kind of money-spending spree."
HAVE YOU HAD CONVERSATIONS BEFORE TODAY WITH NASCAR REGARDING COMPLAINTS FROM DRIVERS ABOUT THE CAR? "I hadn't directly talked to Mike (Helton). I haven't seen Mike quite as often as I normally have seen him in and around the garage. I think we're both busier this year. But normally, I try to talk to Mr. Helton once a month on the telephone. And if I have any comments or input, I normally give it to him. But I've always had an open door to Mike's office. He's always been great top me, as has (John) Darby and all those guys. But they're in a difficult situation. There are ideas to propose on the car and it's just a situation where you need to be patient. It can't happen overnight."
HAVE YOU CHANGED FROM LAST YEAR? "I don't know."
DO YOU FEEL DIFFERENT? IT'S ALMOST LIKE YOU ARE A LITTLE MORE SUBDUED "Yeah, I had all that stress on me. That's about it. I've got a job, and it's stressful and I put a lot of pressure on me. I thought we'd run a little faster than we did today. Just little things like that get you frustrated, but I like that. I'm competitive, you know. I'm totally less stressed this year, but I haven't changed a whole lot I don't think."
-credit: gm racing