Post Happy Hour comments by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the no. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo Note: He was 2nd fast in the final Happy Hour Practice -- The Fastest Chevrolet. REGARDING YOUR SEASON SO FAR, IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER, IS...
Post Happy Hour comments by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the no. 8
Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Note: He was 2nd fast in the final Happy Hour Practice -- The Fastest Chevrolet.
REGARDING YOUR SEASON SO FAR, IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER, IS IT?
"I hope not. We've got a lot of racing left. We really can't afford to think that it's over. We've got to continue to try to accomplish what we can week in and week out, and see if we can't make it a little more interesting. There is always opportunity for us and unfortunate bad luck for Matt (Kenseth) and an opportunity for us to gain points on him. So we're just going to keep sticking it out and take advantage of any falter he may have."
ON MATT KENSETH'S COMMENT ABOUT UPCOMING TRACKS WHERE DALE JR. EXCELLS
"Matt always says that and then he always finds a way to come up with something that's salvageable and enjoyable. He says he doesn't enjoy the plate tracks or doesn't run well on them, but he's always there at the end with a good finish."
IS SUNDAY'S RACE AT MIS SHAPING UP TO BE A FUEL MILEAGE RACE OR A SPEED & DOWNFORCE RACE?
"Well, I hope it's just a 'Dale Jr. out front all day' race. That would be my kind of race (laughs). It could be one or the other. It depends on how the cautions fall. That's always been the case this year."
HOW IS YOUR CAR?
"Our Chevy was really good in that second practice. We had some stuff on there that wasn't working right (in the first practice) and we put the old stuff on there and it went right back to where it should have been running."
RELATIVE TO YOUR CONTRACT WITH DEI, HOW IMPORTANT IS TEAM OWNERSHIP TO YOU?
"It's not a big deal to me. I never said it was a big deal to me. There are other things in the contract. I haven't talked to Teresa (Earnhardt) one on one. So I don't know what certain aspects we need to sit down and discuss yet. So I can't say what is holding the process up."
WHERE DID THIS OWNERSHIP RUMOR COME FROM?
"I don't know. I guess people were speculating on the (contract) hold up or what could be the situations of disagreement or circumstances that need to be compromised in the contract between me and Teresa (Earnhardt). I guess that was one of the things that people thought might be my interest but it's really not. I don't really find interest in ownership at this particular time."
"I enjoy the Busch Series team that I have and I'm only 50% owner in that. But it's fun and I'm learning as far as that goes. That'll be the experience that will tell me whether I want to have anything to do with ownership down the road. Right now, this is enough. I haven't even gotten to where I want to be as a race car driver. I've got a long way to go as a race car driver. Ownership is just way, way out of the picture right now."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THIS CONTRACT ISSUE IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW? THE MEDIA THOUGHT THIS WAS SIGNED AND OVER WITH LAST JANUARY?
"I knew it was going on and we just didn't particularly have any interest in sharing information with anybody. But you know me when I'm asked a question. I can't help but give an honest answer."
DID THAT GET YOU IN TROUBLE?
"Well, it looked a little poorly upon myself. And it did put the company in a little bit of a strain. We're trying to seek sponsors for the No. 1 Chevrolet and we don't need any mysteries about what I was going to be doing next year. My initiative it to try to find sponsors for the No. 1 car and try to put a driver and a team together on every level of that company that can run good. So my interests are very similar to the ownership side of it. And I want to drive well for my Bud car. I really enjoy those guys and I'm having a great time. I never thought about it. I entertained the idea for driving for somebody. You always do that. You daydream about everything in the sport. But it was never anything I ever thought would be a reality."
"But on the other side of that, I'm definitely out to get what I feel like I deserve. As sure as everybody can be about me driving the No. 8 car for as long as I drive, I'm not going to do it for free. I would expect to get paid and get compensated as I would for anywhere else in this business."
HAS THIS STIRRED UP A LOT MORE STUFF THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD?
"It certainly did. But maybe it bumped it all up to priority in some people's minds. Every once in a while, you guys (the media) come in pretty handy (laughs)."
YOU AND TONY STEWART ARE GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING RIGHT NOW. IS PART OF YOUR GOAL TO MAKE SURE THE TOP DRIVERS IN THIS SPORT ARE PAID BETTER - LIKE OTHER ATHLETES?
"We make good money. We make plenty to live the lifestyle we want to live. There is a lot of money in this sport and much of it doesn't go to the drivers and they put on the show. So that can get frustrating sometimes. But again, you've got to look back at who you are, where you came from, who you want to be, and how you want to live."
"I've got plenty of money to do what I want to do and to live like I want to live. I'm really not out there buying yachts and airplanes, so I don't need to worry about those types of things. But as sponsor money increases, I'm sure the driver's salary and crew members and crew chiefs salaries always will increase as well. I drove that Busch Series car in 1998 for $350 week. So I've always been underpaid - I don't know what it is (laughs)."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU HOW BIG THIS CONTRACT ISSUE HAS BECOME?
"Well, it's nice to have a little leverage. I've been without leverage for a long time and it's nice to have leverage."
IS BUDWEISER A PART OF THIS, OR ARE THEY ALREADY SIGNED WITH DEI?
"I feel like me and Budweiser have a great understanding that we're going to be partners for a long time."
HOW ABOUT BUDWEISER AND DEI - ARE THEY SIGNED?
"Budweiser of course, in doing the smart thing, is going to wait until our issues are secured until they can sign an extension. They want to definitely know that everything is in place. They're like everyone else - including the press - and everybody else out in the public. They don't know the whole story. And (they) don't really know my true feelings. If they did, I feel like everybody would just calm down about it. My mind and my heart are in driving the No. 8 car and it always has been."