DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at MIS, what happened to brakes at The Glen, season to date, support he receives from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, improving the racing and...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at MIS, what happened to brakes at The Glen, season to date, support he receives from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, improving the racing and other topics.
ON WINNING AT MICHIGAN LAST JUNE "Michigan is a great race track. It has a lot of different grooves and we can move around and find places to run on the track which makes it pretty enjoyable. We like coming here because it's in the backyard of the manufacturers. But I like the race track because it's so wide. It's really a well-built race track."
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS RUNS REALLY WELL AT THIS TRACK. AS A DRIVER WITH A COMFORT LEVEL AT THIS TRACK, WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO TO GAIN POSITION AND WIN? "I think the double-file restarts are going to be interesting and also the best opportunities to gain position."
DOES IT SEEM LIKE THAT WIN WAS ANOTHER LIFETIME AGO? "Well, not really. Busch Series championships, Daytona 500 win, and the All-Star win were a lifetime ago."
HOW HAS THIS YEAR CHALLENGED YOU WITH THE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN SAID ABOUT YOU IN THE NEWS MEDIA AND ONLINE? "It's still handling criticism no matter what direction it comes from. Everybody finds that a challenge. So, I don't really find it to be a real big problem because for the most part, most of the criticism was definitely deserved or warranted. Most of the time the media were bringing up facts and statistics that were making sense (laughs). As a member of this team, you'd rather not be in the news for those reasons and you're just trying to get back to the race track to do something to turn it around, you know? It just hasn't happened yet. But criticism can be used as a way to motivate yourself and try to find some way to make it be a tool to help you. So, that's what I try to do and try not to let it bring you further down, you know, in your spirits."
DID YOU FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE BRAKES AT WATKINS GLEN LAST WEEK? "The brake line on the right-rear rubbed the hose clamp for the brake duct. That's the way that we had routed that brake line all year long and it passed. And the line has also been routed that way in other race cars and it was just a freak deal how it flipped over.
"The adjuster on the hose clamp that holds the brake duct for the right rear on, hose, it rubbed on that nut where you put nut driver to tighten the hose clamp up, it rubbed against that. And it anything's just barely rubbing on something on these cars, it can wear it in half if it happens to be a hose of some sort or a line like the brake line itself. And it was unfortunate. It was poor luck and it just seems to be the way things have been going for us."
HAVE YOU TRIED JUST GETTING UP ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BED TO CHANGE YOUR LUCK? "No. I just try to keep coming back to the race track. I want to be at the race track because I feel like if I'm at the race track working with (crew chief) Lance (McGrew) we're getting closer to turning it around. The days that it's hard and frustrating are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays when you're not at the track and you don't feel like you can make as much headway toward achieving your goals. It's just waiting to get back to the track to see how we can get fast."
WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN THAT INDICATES YOU GUYS ARE GETTING CLOSER? "Well, I don't know. We had a pretty good car at Indy. We've had a couple of other runs at other tracks that were decent. But, we're still not seeing the type of stuff that we need to see to feel like we're going to be able to turn it around. We're working hard. I got a lot of confidence in Lance. He has a lot of confidence in me. And I think we get along really well and we're working really, really hard together. Our teammates, not just the drivers, but the crews and the crew chiefs are all trying to bond together to try to build the teams up; especially specifically our team. We want to be able to help our teammates in the Chase. We want to be able to be an asset to the company before the end of the season toward their quest for the championship. And that's what's most important I think for us, is to feel like we have a hand in controlling everyone's destiny and be a part of it. So, we're trying to become better and we have reason to do that before the end of the year, not only for ourselves, but for the company as well. Lance is a company guy. I've always kind of been that way in the past and try to do the right thing on and off the race track to help the company at that specific moment. So it's sort of a goal of ours, not only to get ourselves turned around but to try to be an asset to the other teams throughout the Chase and be in some way, performance-wise, supportive to them."
WHAT WERE YOU GETTING AT WITH RECENT COMMENTS ABOUT NASCAR ENGINEERS COULD DO MORE TO MAKE THESE CARS COMPETITIVE? "I just think, that everyone needs to..., what I am getting at is I think we need to open our eyes a little bit, everyone. I think media could address it a little stronger. I think that the drivers could be a little more vocal about it. I think NASCAR could probably be a little more urgent in improving our product. With the ultimate result is great, exciting racing that the fans will enjoy. That the drivers enjoy and so everyone is happy. That should be our quest always, even when things are good. I feel like especially right now, we need to really, really try to turn over every stone.
"That includes where we are with this COT and where we feel like its development is. And where we feel like its future goes and where we feel like this car goes; how it evolves. I just have a sense of urgency over the last couple of weeks I guess to see if we can't do better.
"The reason, I think, where that comes from, is the double-file restarts and the spark that really put in to the racing. I enjoy it, I think all the drivers enjoy it. I think the fans love it. We need more of that. We need to do that. Things that are tangible such as the cars themselves and think of more ideas we can do within the races to add more of that. The double-file restarts gave us an opportunity to be exciting for only a moment and we need to figure out how we can maintain that throughout the entire race.
"I feel like, I just remember how the other cars drove. I liked how they drove and I like how this car is safe but I want to be able to race it like we raced the other cars.
"NASCAR is open to all of the drivers. I was just asked a question and gave an answer. I'm not trying to start a crusade against nobody or cause anybody problems. We all, I think, the drivers, myself included, we all work together with NASCAR to do this. I am just trying to remind everyone of the optimal goal and prize for us is to have better racing.
"Even when things are good, we shouldn't rest on any success we may be having. We are not really where we want to be, I don't think, as a sport. We need to do thinks to excite corporate America. Excite the fans. We need to get proactive immediately to make that happen."
HOW WOULD RATE THE RACING AFTER THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS? "Before that, I thought it was rather poor, I did. The races to me were very poor and we almost depended on the late cautions to save the day to make somebody race side-by-side for a couple of laps at least within 10 laps of the finish of the race and somehow that saved the day. Then there was no argument the next week, it would go away. It was very frustrating because 95% of the race wasn't worth the price of the ticket."
IS THE TOWN HALL MEETING VALUABLE OR NOT? "I was testing that day (of the first one). (LAUGHS) I feel like that those meetings are good. Those meetings are great. We need to do them more and I am sure NASCAR probably doing it without us evening knowing. I just think that we need to be proactive all of the time to try to make it better. And I think that the car is really safe and there are great characteristics about it but we need to be looking to opportunities on what could we do to make it even better, even greater."
-credit: gm racing