DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Phoenix International Raceway and talked about how his car is running so far this weekend, racing at Phoenix, his consistent runs and start to...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Phoenix International Raceway and talked about how his car is running so far this weekend, racing at Phoenix, his consistent runs and start to the 2008 season and more.
DID YOU EXPECT YOUR MOVE TO HENDRICK TO BE AS SMOOTH AS IT HAS BEEN? "Yeah, I thought it would be smooth. They're a good company and they should be able to help make it pretty smooth, so I thought it would go alright."
ON HOW THE HANDLING OF THE NEW CAR AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF RACING. "The cars are harder to get the handle correctly. They handle pretty bad even when they're good. I mean even when you run toward the front they don't drive quite as good as the old car. The racing wasn't that good I guess, I don't know. I think it's important to help with the sport that we put on a good show and a lot of side-by-side racing and if we're not able to do that right now, we need to figure out how."
ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT HIS CAR SO FAR THIS WEEKEND. "It's alright. It's a little tight. I was tight in the center in my race trim, tight in the center in my qualifying trim. Tony (Eury) Jr. is waiting on me to help him."
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING PLANNED FOR THE OFF WEEK AT ALL? "I will stay home and just hang out. No big plans."
ON HOW THE COT RACES COMPARE WITH ANY OTHER ERA. "I don't know. I don't know how to compare it to any other era. I've been only alive for this one, I wasn't around for them and I just see them on TV. and I can imagine what it was like, but I'm sure I won't hit the nail squarely on the head with that. NASCAR will always work to try to get the racing as good as possible and if for some reason this car is not able to provide it, they'll work on it and they'll fix it. They won't let it stay like that. If it's not good they won't leave it like that, they'll fix it. I'm not saying it's good or bad, NASCAR will fix it. NASCAR's always tried to fix any problems this sports ever had no matter what they are. I think the car itself, we got to learn what gets the car to drive better and NASCAR can't really make the car and give it to you and you go and say here's all the ways to make it drive better. They don't even know that. It's up to us to figure that out and over time we will and as we get better at getting the cars to drive better the racing will get better. It's just gonna take some time to figure it out."
ON HIS CONSISTENT RUNS SO FAR THIS SEASON AND IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT HE HAS NOT BEEN TO VICTORY LANE YET. "Well I haven't been in Victory Lane in two years so I don't see why that would be frustrating because we've had plenty of time to get used to not winning. It'll happen. I've got a great team, I've got a great program so I'm in the best position possible to make that happen and that's just gonna have to do for right now. The reason why our position is exactly that is because of the quality of race team we have around us, the quality of the company as a whole."
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND LAST YEAR? "There isn't one thing that sticks out, it's overall as a whole. Hendrick has a great organization in every aspect of it. They've been doing it a long time and have worked very hard setting a standard. They just don't have any weak area. They work on anything they see they need to fix immediately. It's just a good company to work for and there's not one thing that's like this is why. It's just a lot of different stuff."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING AT PHOENIX. "Yeah, I like Phoenix. It's a fun track. We have had success on it. Race is pretty fun here. I don't know what kind of racing we're gonna have this weekend, but we'll have to see. The COT just takes some time for us to understand what kind of set up these cars generally like and until then the racing is gonna suffer just a little bit."
ON HIS REACTION TO AARON FIKE'S ADMISSION THAT HE RACED UNDER THE INFLUENCE. "Mine is the same reaction that anyone else would have. It's unfortunate. It's obviously not a safe situation for anybody especially Aaron. I think Aaron did enough in his own admissions to his problems. I don't know if everyone, all the public, has to know the specifics such as that. In a situation like that, the most common reaction is how appalling it is and how dangerous of a situation that is for everybody that was involved. But the most important thing is Aaron trying to get himself on a right path and that could get lost in the story. The real important thing is just him getting right and staying right and leading the good life away from those sort of pit falls and hopefully that's what's going to happen."
ON NASCAR HAVING REGULAR RANDOM TESTING. "If the public were to ask that question, NASCAR's reaction would be to start testing people. They've always sort of had that style of management if you will. Once a complaint gets loud enough, they sort of take reaction to it. I wouldn't have problem with random drug testing if it's important to the integrity of the sport. That's what's important to me and maybe it would be able to help maintain that. We've always sort of had it differently than other stick and ball sports because we drive cars. It's just overall handled differently. People would assume that steroids and things like that wouldn't be an advantage here and I don't see how they would but I suspect the only reason a guy would do that in this profession is just physical appearance of his own perception of himself. I don't think it would be an advantage inside the car. Recreational drugs have always been a fact of life and people always say you'd be surprised but I don't think it's a problem here. I don't think it's an issue here but maybe you'd be surprised, I don't know. If NASCAR wants to go in that direction, I guess the second to worst-case scenario is for speculation to run rampant in the media.
"The worst obviously is for that to be happening. If that's the second worst for us to be speculation and be running rampant in the media, let's just squash it, fix it, make a statement with testing and what not."
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT NOW TO MOVE AROUND THAN IT WAS, OR IS THE DRIVER IN MORE CONTROL AT TALLADEGA? "It's always been hard to pass since the second race car was built. It's just the fact of automobile racing regardless, I mean if the guy's faster than you, you can't build cars that are going to give you the ability to pass him, he's just faster so you'll never catch him. It's hard to pass, it's always been hard to pass."
EVEN WITH THE NEW CAR? "I suppose. I don't know. I've had a lot of good race cars and they give me the ability to make moves and do things that I want to do. I don't think the COT is any more difficult in dirty air than the other car or any less difficult. They're about the same and offer the same challenges in that aspect of it especially with 10 laps to go. You're already overdriving the car due the limited time you got left in the race. If you're up in the top 10 you're amongst tough competitors any way and it's always a challenge."
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE TRAINING YOU DID AT THE BONDURANT SCHOOL IN PHOENIX? "It was a long time ago but it was the best thing I did as far as helping me cut the learning curve on a road course. Road course experience and the learning curve there was pretty steep for me as is with a lot of oval racers. They have fantastic approach to tutoring and helping you learn and understand what you're learning and how you're improving and what key elements are important in road course racing. They just have a great group of teachers. Bill Cooper was my teacher I don't know if he's still there. I enjoyed that a lot. I've often recommended it to a lot of people."
CONSIDERING THE START THAT YOU'VE HAD, HAVE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON CHANGED? "They're about the same. I just want to be able to run as good as my car is which we typically roll with a good race off the trailer and I just want to get a good finish with it."
ON WHAT KIND OF RUN HE THINKS HE WILL GET THIS WEEKEND. "The cars are very close and very similar and it's going to be hard to not overdrive the car trying to catch the guy in front of you. You just got to be patient and you'll have your shots and opportunity to pass if you're patient enough. I think that's going to be key. Any time I try to run a little bit harder, I just slowed myself down and made the problems or issues my car had worse. The guy that can just be on a pace and even kill the entire day, he's gonna to be the guy that's moving forward the most."
-credit: gm racing