DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the spring race at RIR, running in the Chase, what he needs to get better, the rainy weather, what he's learned this year, racing at Loudon next week, and...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the spring race at RIR, running in the Chase, what he needs to get better, the rainy weather, what he's learned this year, racing at Loudon next week, and more.
Q. Talk about what happened last May. What's your game plan here? Have you thought about that like a million times, how you'll do it this time?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. I haven't thought about too much. We'll just try to make our car a little bit better where they can't get to us at the end of the race like that and we won't have a problem. Car is pretty good, running pretty good in practice, so I'm pretty happy and looking forward to it. I always run good here.
Q. As you head into the weekend, what's more important this weekend, ten bonus points or just running well and getting some momentum going into the race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Winning the race is the most important thing, try to win.
Q. A lot of people are going to look at Kyle and Carl as the favorites for the Chase, maybe Jimmie. What would you say to people? Should they consider you as a championship contender or any of the other guys?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think it's really up to whoever works the hardest and gets the most figured out, has the best cars at the end. I mean, Carl and Kyle are probably the favorites and probably got the best odds right now. But I think that we feel pretty confident that we can win.
Q. Where do you need to get better?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. With what we know now and what we run now and how the cars are, it's so different from this time earlier in the season when we were at all these tracks. I mean, Homestead is really the track that -- Homestead had the worst track record, the one that we struggled with the most, and we always seem to run good at the rest of them.
Q. Is whoever wins is going to have to win a lot of races in the Chase and kind of take it by the throat like Jimmie did last year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It can be done several different ways. It could be one of 100 different ways. You know, you don't know what happens. It's just potluck, you know?
Q. What was one of Kyle Busch's best wins?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. His Atlanta win was pretty good. That was a tough day for everybody on them tires and the way they ran that day was pretty good. He's had a lot of other good wins and runs and stuff. That sticks out. That was just a miserable day for everybody.
Q. On Kyle Busch switching to Gibbs
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. You know, I mean, he went into his new job with a lot of determination. I think that's really worked for him. That's really motivated him. You know, he's got good people working around him, got good people helping him and all that, but he's done -- he deserves a lot of credit. He's got tons of talent.
Q. Who is a sleeper in the Chase?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really know. There ain't really any sleepers in the Chase. Hell, they're all good. Everybody is good.
Q. Are the crew chiefs the key to having success in the COT?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, I'll tell you, I've got to attribute a lot of success that anyone would have this year in this car to the crew chiefs, what they've figured out, and the engineering departments and what they've learned and how they're applying it to the race cars. I mean, that really goes -- that goes for anyone who's had success this year.
I mean, these cars, you've got to drive the heck out of them and the drivers are having to do a lot more work and the talent really pays off when it's behind the wheel. But more so than the old car, you know, it's new and nobody knows much about it and we're still learning tricks and stuff and what the car likes and don't like, and so the engineers and the crew chiefs really deserve a lot of credit for who's winning races.
Q. Have you figured out some of those braking points that people talk about?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we're learning every day, every time we get to work on it we learn something. It seems like Jimmie and the guys have stumbled onto some stuff, and we're getting there on it. We had a pretty good car last week. We really didn't get the finish, but we had a fifth-place car I thought. So it's promising. You know, we've figured out a couple things that were hurting us and why we were running so strong at the start of the race and falling off late. Hopefully that carries through the Chase and we can get some strong finishes. I just think being real consistent is what you need to focus on during the Chase. I mean, you've got to win races and finish strong and all that good stuff, but truly just trying to maximize your potential every weekend and not make mistakes, that's going to be important.
Q. Can you talk about the biggest thing that you've learned this year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know, that's too hard to answer. I don't have that answer. I'm not going to compliment myself. Ask Tony, Jr., or somebody. I feel like I've learned a lot. I was pretty smart when I got there, but -- you know, this car is a frustrating car and everybody is trying to learn as much as they can and really nail it and get on -- find that sweet spot and take off with the Chase and with the championship, run away with it. Just hoping that you do that during the Chase or sometime before the Chase so when you -- somebody is going to find something, you know? That's the way it's been all year long. Somebody finds something, they exploit it for a couple weeks until it's common knowledge, and then they find something else.
Q. If it rains a lot like they're talking about, how much different will this track be with a lot of rain on it tomorrow night?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, it'll be fine. By lap 75 we'd have it worked in pretty good. They need to seal it again so we can get more work in the higher grooves as the sealant wears out and you move up the track with more grip. That's when the track is really at its best. But it's fun; it's one of my favorites.
Q. On not winning at RIR for a long time:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, it's been a long time. It was a while ago. We've got great potential to run well this weekend here. You know, that needs to be foremost on my mind, really, what my job is, trying to work on my car today and concentrate on that. I know it's going to be topic of conversation throughout the weekend, but I'm ready to get out there and get to work. I feel like we've got a good shot.
Q. What's the connection between rock 'n' roll and a race event?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know.
Q. You've been jamming with Kid Rock, though, right?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't play with him. He's got his own band.
Q. Do you listen to rock 'n' roll before you head out on the track?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I've got shit to do.
Q. What's it going to take to bring home a win in New Hampshire?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The best car. If I have the best car, I think I can do it. Just like anything -- the car turning there in the middle there is real important, but that seems to be real important everywhere this year.
Q. Is there anything that you're concerned about?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Hopefully we show up and everything goes good. I don't know what it takes -- I mean, I've won there, but I had the best car. It's just having a good car.
Q. On the importance of the upcoming test at Charlotte
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We'll try to learn as much as we can. That track, though, you can't really plot out what you learned in Charlotte to Texas and Atlanta and places like that, Michigan. They're all kind of -- California and Michigan we run about the same setup, but what we run at Charlotte isn't the same as Texas, and it's hard to really understand what can transfer one to the other. It's a tough test. Charlotte is always a tough test, but at least we'll be close to home and we can learn what we can learn. I think that we learned something in the past month that's really going to help us, and hopefully we can really dial that in and take it. We'll see how it works in Charlotte. I'm sure it'll be fine.
We had a pretty good car there last time we ran there, and we've just got to take better care of it, keep it off the fence.
Q. What do you think about Tony Stewart's Rolling Stone story?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I feel like, you know, he really kind of cut loose a little bit. That little corner of the media market is a place where you can. I wasn't really -- if I was the PR department I wouldn't be overly concerned. But it's a choice you make when you do those type of articles because you know that they're going to -- the writer himself, you can give him a very plain experience because they spend a couple days with you, but he's going to write it, and it's going to be however he wants it. And he can make it as rotten as he wants to make it. So really I don't think -- I think the guy probably pushed it a little further than what the true reality was and what happened. You know Tony as well as I do, and I don't think that's really -- the picture that got painted ain't really what I think happened. Like I said, in that area of the media, you can kind of cut loose and get by with it.
Q. Do you feel that yours was taken a little too far when you did it?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, the guy that wrote mine, we spent about a week together and got a pretty good friendship out of it, and he wrote like what he felt he saw. He didn't write anything that I felt was -- he didn't really misconstrue anything that he saw or did or whatever. So I got kind of lucky, because he was one hell of a writer.
You know, the Playboy deal is 20 questions, so you can't really blame anybody but yourself there. And the Rolling Stone -- you just take that chance when you're working with a high end -- that might be the first time the guy wrote for the Stone for all I know, just trying to make an impression. But I think he pushed it a little bit further than what was really going on at the time. I don't think Tony truly carries himself in that manner, even when he's away from the racetrack.
Q. Are you wary of those type things now, more than you were when you did yours?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, absolutely. I was naïve when I did those articles. I probably wouldn't do them now because they're not necessary. You know, we only did them because we needed a big punch and a major hit. We were naïve enough, but we got lucky. We really didn't get fooled around with, and they wrote a good story. I kind of got lucky.
There's a lot of -- for a driver, there's a lot of pride in being there and getting in that area because it's hard to get there, so there's a lot of pride in that. And sometimes, man, you take the risks and sacrifice the risks just for being there. You know Tony probably enjoyed it, right?
Q. What do you think about the Nationwide test for the COT?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'm not going to have no cars here for it, so what I learn will be probably mostly from word of mouth. They've got a lot of work to do with them and stuff. Right now we're trying to -- we're moving forward with our shot at the championship, and we couldn't do it financially. We don't have all our good eggs in one basket for next year, we don't have all our races sponsored and locked up, and so we didn't want to put ourselves in a precarious position financially by spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to do that program right off the bat now without knowing truly what our future looks like. We just felt like we needed to be a little smarter with our money.
Q. I don't know if you answered this already, but a lot of your fans are saying this week that now that you got in the Chase it relieves a lot of pressure on you and you'll be able to race more like you want to race now.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I race how I want to race. Pressure don't bother people like that. You get out there and you're doing your job; you don't know pressure. People race with the flu and don't even know it and it don't bother them, and you don't think about pressure out on the racetrack. I don't think they're going to see me drive any differently. We've been doing the best we can do, and hopefully -- the only thing that we need is to get our cars a little bit better and have the best race car out there. That's the deal.
Q. Did it bring any kind of sense of relief that as hard as you raced to get into the Chase that --
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, man, I'm glad that -- that's nice, absolutely. There's a lot bit of pride in making it before the Richmond race and being able to be locked in, sure.
Q. How do you think Darian Grubb is going to work with Tony Stewart?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think that -- I mean, Darian is a super guy. He's really laid back. He has a ton of knowledge, just has a great demeanor, and I've really enjoyed working with him. You know, he's particularly over-qualified for what he does with us, and he's just got so much more to offer. So that's going to give him that opportunity. But he'll be fine. I think he'll do great. He's really even-keel and very calm and very decisive and very intelligent.
Q. Will their temperaments compliment each other?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. You know, it's just balancing out a little bit. Tony is pretty high strung. When you're racing and it's hot and your car ain't doing everything you want it to, there's no -- you really have no control over how you feel and what you think and what you want to say and getting your point across is the most important thing, and you'll do whatever and say whatever just to try to make sure it's clear. Darian has experienced all that with me, and so I don't think Tony is any worse than I am. He's probably heard it all before anyways.
Q. Have you ever yelled at Darian on the radio?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I never really did it to Darian because I don't know him that well. Me and Tony, Jr., have been like brothers since we was tiny, and so we're able to do that and deal with it and get away with it. But he's heard me have a go at it. He should be well prepared for all these things.
Q. Do you have a hole in your program, because people are saying with him gone -- you said he was over-qualified but he was pretty helpful, right?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Absolutely. It'll be difficult to replace Darian and it'll be difficult to get what we got out of him. He was a good balancing act for me and Tony, Jr., when we were getting -- if we got off track or something. He's just good. He's perfect for the role, really. But he'll be definitely very difficult to replace.
I was proud to have worked with him and to have known him. He's genuine and very nice, mild-mannered guy, and I really enjoyed him being around, and it made me feel -- there was a security blanket, if you will, for me and Tony, Jr., to fall back on with all his experience and knowledge. He'll be difficult to replace, I'm sure.
-credit: gm racing