Transcript: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Media Conference Richmond, Va September 8, 2005 Budweiser "One Night Stand" appearance Dale Earnhardt Jr: "Yo... how's it goin?" Your thoughts on not making the Chase for the Nextel Cup? Dale Jr.:"I'm pretty...
Transcript: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Media Conference
September 8, 2005
Budweiser "One Night Stand" appearance
Dale Earnhardt Jr: "Yo... how's it goin?"
Your thoughts on not making the Chase for the Nextel Cup?
Dale Jr.:"I'm pretty disappointed I didn't make the Chase, but ya know, we gotta look forward to what we can do these next 10 races... 11 races, to make next year a better year. Just try to figure out what we need to do to make sure the team's right, the car's right..."
Are you going to make changes to the team for next year?
Dale Jr: "Yeah, we'll make changes. I really can't talk about the changes we're gonna make. I'm not gonna announce the changes this time, so y'all will just have to wait or ask somebody else."
Do you want to be back with Tony Eury Jr. this season if you're going to work together next season?
Dale Jr: "If me and Tony Jr. are going to work together next year, that'd be a good idea to begin work on that relationship. With the few races left, use it kind work on... (the 8 and 15 teams) they've been working a lot together the last couple of weeks as far as set-ups and stuff, and moving some of their stuff over to my car. But it's not the whole thing. It'd be good to get on track with (Tony) Jr. if that's what we're gonna do next year.
Reuniting with Tony Jr., that's not going fix everything with DEI is it?
Dale Jr: "It's not?!... uh, I damn sure hope so... I mean, I need my motor not to blow up. I don't know how to build motors so.. I mean, I can try, but I don't know if I can build one that will last as long as the one last week (at Fontana). We need to get some people or... I don't know what we need to do to make the cars faster, Tony Jr. can help make it drive good and Steve Hmiel can make 'em drive good. We were actually moving forward in that race last week and when the sun went down we got really loose and we couldn't fix that. We tried, but we couldn't fix it."
What I'm asking is, are there things at DEI that need fixing beyond changing one person?
Dale Jr. "Absolutely. Yes. I'm not gonna sit here and compile all the problems we have, and I'm not the one that'll fix it either. We'll just have to hope that the one that can fix it makes it right."
When did you get a sense this year wasn't clicking?
Dale Jr: "It's been up and down. We started out the season... after about nine or ten races, around the first Texas race, we were in the top-10 in points... me and Pete (Rondeau, former crew chief) were getting' along good. Me and Pete never had any issues where it got to 'we gotta make a change.' I felt like we put him in that position prematurely for him, personally, in his career. It was a big responsibility for him. Had I known all of that, I wouldn't have done that to him. It mad him look bad in a sense. I really got along with Pete. I like Pete, and we could have probably looked around and found an established crew chief, but it wasn't like that, It was just 'sure, I think Pete can get the job done. We'll go with Pete.' It didn't really go down like it should have.
"When we made the switch (at crew chief) to Steve (Hmiel), I just like Steve a lot. We'd always talked about working like that together, or working real close together. He's a person I look up to and I've admired for a long time. The way dad and Mark (Martin) would always battle and the way Steve was always very kindly about the way he spoke about my dad, even when they were competitors, I always had a lot of respect for him. And it was fun to be able to race with him. To win a race -- he says that meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to me. We're a lot closer now in our work relationship even if we are not together next year and he's back in his old position (technical director at DEI). I think we got a better relationship professionally and personally, so that was cool.
"I thought we were going down the right road there for awhile, and we ran good at Daytona and Chicago. We had a lot of good runs, but I made a lot of mistakes myself.... the motor last week, I dunno if we could have turned the car around because the car wasn't very good at all but it's not one thing or one person's fault how this season went. It's just a conglomeration of a lot of issues.
Have you been trying too hard?
Dale Jr: "I've raced harder this year than I've ever raced before. You think you're doing all you can. I've always felt like I've given 100%, but you're put in certain situations and you find there's more... you find you can do more. You're capable of doing more. Hopefully, I still haven't realized my full potential. I feel like I've got a lot to learn and as a driver I can get a lot better and each year I understand there's more to me than I even thought I had."
Can you just go into DEI and say 'I need that... and I need this...?'
Dale Jr. :"I suppose I could do that, but that's just not the way it's done. That's not the way you do business. It's a team. It's not just what one person wants. It's not what one person wants... it's what does Tony Jr think?.. what does Steve Hmiel think? You get everybody's opinion and you try to get everybody... uh, you know, I'm not the one with all the ideas and the best way to do it. I certainly can help, but I think there's a lot of experience there with Richie (Gilmore)and Steve and Tony (Eury) Sr... those are the guys who have to work together to make it alright."
Is it hard for you come to this event (Budweiser appearance) not having made the Chase?
Dale Jr: "No, not really. That's one of the things you learn at a young age, that if you crash on the first lap, you're not gonna look in the stands and see fans swappin' t-shirts and stuff. They're gonna stick with ya no matter how good or bad your race or your season was. You can do stuff like this (appearance) and they'll show up. It helps a lot, you know, it keeps your morale up. The fans have a big effect on your personality and they help you keep up the fight sometimes."
Do you feel you have more fans of your own and less that were fans of your father?
Dale Jr: "As the sport... as the attendance and all that stuff has improved the last few years... the sport has grown by leaps and bounds, a lot of new fans have come in that never saw my dad race or never saw a race before this decade.... Of course, they're gonna know the history but it was... When I first came into the sport, I think a lot of people followed me because of my dad, but I think more and more as time goes by, I've got my own fan base on my own and from what I've been able to accomplish on the racetrack.
Handicap the Chase.
Dale Jr: "Uh.... I dunno, that's hard to say. (long pause) If Matt (Kenseth) makes it, Matt will be strong. (pause) Tony Stewart and Matt probably.
Do you think the Chase is a fair system?
Dale Jr: 'No matter how you rack it up, you can't please everybody. I like the system. I think it's good for the fans. When you have that type of playoff atmosphere, you bring a lot of fans to the sport. A lot of people would turn away from the sport with five races to go when the championship was decided. There was a huge difference in the atmosphere and the feeling at the track when we were at Homestead last year than there would have been with the old system. There were a lot of people tuned-in and checkin' it out all the way to the last lap. It was great. Whether I'm in it or not. I thought about that last year when I was third and guys were trying to fight their way in... I liked the system then and I wondered if I'd change my mind if I was in their shoes, but I don't think so.
There's an irrelevance to the guys that aren't in the Chase in...
Dale Jr: (interrupts) "Well, not really. There's a million bucks in it if you're 11th, ain't there?!"
But how do you stomach being on the outside looking in?
Dale Jr: "Try to win. That's what you try to do: steal a little bit of the spotlight from those guys in the Chase. By winning... by being in the battle. You do what you can to win races. That's it."
Is it hard to keep the crew pumped up, not knowing about next year?
Dale Jr: "They've all been told what they're doing next year. Richie has sat down with most of 'em. Richie has talked to each one of them, and they all have an understanding about what they're gonna be doing next year."
How do you see your new Busch team growing?
Dale Jr: "I want it to accomplish whatever it can accomplish. It's like I have a vision or anything like that. I'm following the same storyline I watched my dad follow. You know, I watched him work out of the shop behind grandma's house in Kannapolis and then watched him build the shop out there on (Highway) 136 and watched it grow. I'm doing it the same way at a little bit slower pace. I don't want to jump in too far and get myself in any kind of trouble financially. Go as we can."
Are you satisfied with the leadership provided by Teresa (Earnhardt) at DEI?
Dale Jr: "With everything else she's had to deal with, she's done what she could. It'll be good when we get a few more people in there in a few places. She's under the understanding we need some kind of a head guy in there making some choices -- not necessarily over just motorsports -- but the whole show. But, I don't know... that's not my business.
Richie (Gilmore) has talked about going back to the motor room...
Dale Jr: "Richie and I talked, and we know why the motor broke last week. I went into the shop, and Richie said 'we made some mistakes' and that's why the engine blew. We hadn't blown a lot of motors, so we didn't expect it to blow, but it didn't run good anyway. It was terrible to begin with. I'm sure he'll go back and have some influence on the motors and we'll get some power back. He's good at runnin' the motorsports side of it, and he's good at building engines. He's good at both -- but he can't do both. He's gotta do one or the other. He does both of 'em good, but probably can't do both of 'em together and make it happen."
Do think the motors are a part of the performance issue?
Dale Jr: "The motors are the biggest. We've got great bodies on our cars... we've got great mechanics... smart people... getting cars prepared... set-ups are great... we just don't have the motor. We can get it fixed over the off-season. I think that's what'll happen."
What about having Martin (Truex Jr.) as a teammate next year?
Dale Jr. : "Pretty excited. He's just a real good racecar driver as far as being smart on his set-up out on the track. He's good at finding a set-up and working on his car, If you gave him a box of springs, in an hour, he'd figure out which four were the best from that box. And he's fast about that. That's what I like about him. And that's one of my shortcomings: if I get a two-day test, I need every bit of it to where I'm satisfied. He can get things figured out a lot faster than I can. He races hard and he's just talented. One of the better drivers outta the pool right now.
What do you think your greatest strength is?
Dale Jr: "What's MY greatest strength? Uh..... (long pause, drums fingers on podium) my strengths? As far as driving? Oh... uh... uh... I don't know... you'll have to... I don't know really. I mean, I feel like I'm a great racecar driver. How and why, I don't know. Maybe not really a master at nothin'- just good at a lot.... See y'all later."