DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD / AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Richmond International Raceway and talked about how his car is running, winning at Richmond, getting that next win, his mom and much ...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD / AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Richmond International Raceway and talked about how his car is running, winning at Richmond, getting that next win, his mom and much more.
HOW WAS THE CAR DURING PRACTICE? "Yeah, we were good. We were good when we first got out there, pretty happy. The car is a little bit loose up off the corner and we made some changes and got the car in qualifying trim. Pretty happy with my lap there. The track is gonna be quite a bit different than it is right now once the Nationwide cars put all the rubber down. I'm very happy. We came here pretty good and made some adjustments and got it better."
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT WIN HERE TWO YEARS AGO? "Just running the top. Denny (Hamlin) had a better car, a faster car and I just give him the bottom and he couldn't get by me there for a while. I guess he finally wore his stuff up trying to do it. I remember him going for his first win and just running the top so he would try to keep running the bottom and I knew he wouldn't be able to pass me down there. It was a fun race. It's been a good track for me. Got a lot of good memories here from the Nationwide days and the cup wins we got here. We'll see what we can do this weekend."
LOTS OF HEAT I GUESS THIS WEEK ABOUT JEFF (GORDON) AND YOU NOT WORKING WELL TOGETHER IN TALLADEGA, HAVE YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT THAT? "Yeah, we did. The exact instance that he had a problem with I felt like, he felt like it was 25 to go and I should have helped him and went with him but I felt like the person he went with or decided to get behind and help was not the best choice and that from where he stands, it totally - if I was him I would have felt like I dumped him. From where I was at I felt like I was making the wiser choice between the two of us, but uh. There are ways where people can - it would have done us a lot of good to have sat down before the race at any point this year to discuss our morals and our choices in restrictor-plate racing and what we believed to be fair, what we believed to be right, and what we believed to be wrong, so everybody has a better understanding of what to expect from each other, that way there's really no real disappointments. That's just something we'll have to learn together as teammates. Restrictor-plate racing is difficult because you want to help your teammates but you want to win a race too. Had we won the week before and weren't in such a, weren't trying to end the streak of losses I would have been probably a whole lot more apt to work with him and give up a little bit more and my opinion of what I thought was going to help me win the race I would have been willing to sacrifice more to help him. But I - when the green flag dropped in that race I didn't want anything but the wind and I was gonna do whatever it took and uh.
"I don't know how it would have played out if I would have helped him. We definitely wouldn't have been in the situation we were in to get in all that action at the end and end up having to struggle for 10th. But uh, you know I got a little hot on how things were going for me and I should have been a little more patient. But I don't know, sometimes patience doesn't get what you want either."
ARE YOU TWO OK? "Yeah, we're good. We talked about it at Nashville. We went testing and we sat down and I said look man I got nothing but respect for you. I'm the first guy here ready to cooperate. I'm the last guy wanting to make any problems or cause any issues. I'm determined and I go out there and I race hard. He could see that and he can see that when he's on the race track with me. I guess the one thing that he wanted to make sure that he understood was that I didn't have a spot in my mind to spite him or to show him up in any way. To be competitive with Jeff after all the years he's been at Hendrick, that would be foolish. That would be foolish for me to even, that would be pretty immature to even act that way at this point. But, there's a positive competitiveness you can have at most teams, but that wouldn't be very productive."
WHO DID HE GET BEHIND? "He was behind the 12 and I was pushing him and we were running down the front straightaway with a good head of steam on the outside. The 6 was in the inside line about the second car, he saw us coming and pulled up in front of us to see if we would push him but we were going about 10 mile an hour faster. The 12 went in the middle. I expected Jeff to go to the middle and I already went there and it was a split second decision. My instinct was to steer the car to the left and follow the 12, when I would follow the 12 he would make the move. I just expected Jeff's car to be right in the middle of that in between us two and Jeff didn't do it. He went with the 6 who was the slower car. I definitely wasn't wanting to do that because I felt like I would be the third guy in line on the outside of a three-wide pack and that guy never gets a good position out of that deal. But after I moved in I couldn't lift and let Jeff try to get the spot. We were running too fast and guys were coming and what not. That's gonna happen again and again and again with everybody. All kinds of friends that I've got, there'll be times when we don't do things that make each other happy. If it's a move on a restrictor plate track where you feel like you got left out or somebody dumped you, you can get over that. We'll try to do a better job of working together next time to win the race. I definitely feel like we have a better opportunity to win the race as teammates working together than we do separately and we should take that opportunity next time and try to do the best we can with it."
IF YOUR LOOKING AFTER HIM THOUGH, OBVIOUSLY THERE WOULDN'T BE ANY SPITE THAT YOU HAVE TOWARDS HIM I CAN'T EVEN SEE THAT, BUT IF YOU'RE LOOKING AFTER HIM DOESN'T THAT IN A WAY KIND OF INITIALLY HOLD YOU BACK FROM WHAT YOU'RE USED TO DOING AND HOW YOU'VE ALWAYS DONE IT? "That's definitely not my style. I'm used to having all my friends help me win. But in a sense, everything comes back around. Due to all those races where Tony Stewart pushed me across the finish line to win, Michael Waltrip pushed me across the finish line to win, Ryan Newman helped me win the Shootout once, got a lot of help from different guys, but due to all those wins that way and the few times I've helped anyone win a race, that comes back to haunt you. We find the ever decreasing field of willing participants to help me, work with me and draft me, a lot of guys really go against me and work against me, that seems to be mounting or getting fewer and fewer, just due to how things worked out for me over the years. I still get help from Tony from time to time. I like racing Tony though so it's hard for him and me not to get into racing each other when we should probably keep helping each other. The only chance we're gonna have, because I've got a bulls eye, Jimmie (Johnson), Jeff, Casey (Mears), they've all got bulls eye's individually and then you add the entire bulls eye the company has on it, everybody's out to get you. Everybody's out to beat you."
DO YOU JUST WANT TO CHECK THAT BOX AND GET THAT FIRST WIN AND NOT HAVE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT IT? "I want to check that box so I can celebrate, just enjoy the win. That's got to be what the best part about it will be. Certainly to your point by Thursday or Friday it will be nice not to have to worry about whether you're gonna get it the next week or the next. I can't wait to just have that celebration we're gonna have in Victory Lane, it's gonna be so much fun."
ON EDDIE GOSSAGE OFFERING HIM $100,000 TO RUN THE INDY CAR RACE. "He thinks I'm a cheap date I guess. I wouldn't be able to do it, my conscience wouldn't let me. If they offered me more money, my conscience wouldn't let me feel comfortable with doing it. I know his intentions are well and we had that discussion with the billboard thing and I totally understand what his approach is advertising now. If I had the opportunity if I was there testing my car and somebody had their car there, I'd like to jump in it and run a couple of laps but that would be the extent of the adventure."
IN KNOWING YOU WERE GONNA TURN IT DOWN HE SHOULD HAVE PUT AT LEAST 5 OR 10 MILLION ON IT JUST TO MAKE IT INTERESTING. "That would have definitely made the advertising of that a little more effective but he's kind of like Austin Powers or Doctor Evil, first estimate of holding the world ransom a little under-figured you know. That would be a good little cartoon."
IF YOU WON WHAT TYPE OF BURNOUT WOULD YOU DO AND WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF BURNOUT? "My preference is not to do a burnout but the fans like it. If it's a plate motor or something like that you got to take care of the pistons and valves so you do it in the grass. Old motors, you can usually wear them out pretty good out there on the apron or something."
CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR MOM FOR MOTHER'S DAY WHICH IS COMING UP NEXT? "I'm fortunate. She's a great mom. Really lucky to have her support. She enjoys going to Darlington every year for Mother's day and seeing all the other mothers. She gets a lot of pride and joy out of that. I love doing things for her and giving her a good life. She's got a good place right now where she's at in life. I feel like I was able to help her get to that place, but she's good to me. We're best friends. She's a real good smart ass. (LAUGHS) I try to learn as much from her on that side of it as I can every day, because she puts people right in their place. It's fun to be around her and talk to her."
DO YOU THINK IT'S HARDER TO WIN A RACE NOW THAN IT'S BEEN BEFORE? "No. I feel like I've got a better shot now than I had last year or the years before. We're obviously getting better statistics this year than we did last year and the year before. So I feel like I'm in a better position to win with the team I've got around me. They're a good bunch. We could've went a hundred different ways as far as the personalities and how we would work, get along, but this is really a good deal and I enjoyed last week how we were able to get back to 10th with coming under the flag with four to go we were 31st. Even though it was all on the race track, the team helped make that happen and helped motivate. I feel like it's easier, for me it is. Were you here last year? That was horrible, the whole year. So, I'm in a better spot now. The rest of these guys might not agree because some of them are in the same spot, some of them aren't running as good this year. Matt Kenseth is gonna tell you it's harder but I feel like I'm in a better place so I got a better shot every week."
-credit: gm racing