DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway. NOTE: In the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice today, Earnhardt experienced engine problems forcing the team to...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway.
NOTE: In the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice today, Earnhardt experienced engine problems forcing the team to change engines in the primary car. In the second practice today, Earnhardt blew a tire that caused a multi-car incident on-track. The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team was forced to go to a backup car. Earnhardt's backup car is No. 475 and was his primary car for the 2008 Daytona 500 and the car he won one of the Gatorade 150 races leading up to the '08 Daytona 500.
Earnhardt will start in the back of the field regardless of where he qualifies as a result of the engine change.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE RIGHT REAR TIRE? DID IT EXPLODE? "Yes, I think the tire seemed to come apart at the tread and the side-wall. We looked to the car, and really nothing has fell off of it. Normally you look at exhaust straps and stuff like that, but it just come out of nowhere. It is hard to say. I will look at some of the replays to see if anything come out from under it. Maybe we can find it on the replay, something we might have run over.
"It is unfortunate; there are a lot of man hours that go in to the primary. That was our Shootout car, the car that is the backup was our 500 car so we still have a good race car for the race. We really aren't any further behind than we were when we unloaded today. If you are going to have that kind of a day, this is the race track to have it. They just put a lot of work in those cars. It is unfortunate for the cars that have put so many hours in to it. My team has worked really hard, more than they were expecting to when they got up this morning. I have to thank them."
DID YOU CHANGE ENGINES DURING THE FIRST PRACTICE? "We had an issue in the first motor that caused some blow-by in the cylinder head and it filled the crankcase up with oil and the pressure was blowing out the oil tank itself. It just ran out of oil so we were going to have to replace it and we did. We were trying to get out there for that second practice, we were just sitting there running along and the tire exploded. It was just incredible how it ripped that car apart."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT A TIRE ISSUE HERE? "No, I am just hoping that was a rare deal there. We ain't really had one the last time we were here. I don't think the tire is any different. Hopefully that is just; we got a bad tire or something. I don't know, maybe we could have easily run over something. Typically, chances are we ran over something than we got a bad tire. It is just rare that you get a tire that is just going to apart on your for no reason."
DESPITE TODAY'S ADVERSITY, DOES YOUR PREVIOUS SUCCESS HERE HELP YOU KEEP A POSITIVE STATE OF MIND? "I have always liked this place and regardless of driving for Rick (Hendrick) or DEI (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) in the past, we have had troubles here and we have always come back and been ok. It is a place where you can rally back if you have good luck. I ain't too worried about.
"We are going to start last anyways because of the motor change this morning. This car that I am running is fast and run well in the 150 and the Daytona 500 it did pretty good."
PERSONALLY IS THERE A BETTER RACE TRACK FOR YOU TO FACE ADVERSITY. "I don't know, we have faced adversity at a lot of them, but this is definitely easier for the team to handle on a day like this at this track. If you were to tear up a car in happy hour at Charlotte or somewhere, it would be a whole lot of work. A lot of questions and uncertainties. But there aren't any really here."
WITH PAUL MENARD LEAVING DEI, THERE HAVE BEEN QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION. WHERE DO YOU SEE THE ORGANIZATION AND CAN THEY REBOUND? "Well, if they can talk Rusty in to going over there and driving, that sounds like it would be a good deal. But I don't know how much truth there is to that. Something will happen to where they are able to accomplish and be what they want to be. Paul has done an excellent job. He is a hard, hard racer, harder than he should be at times, but he works extremely hard and takes his job extremely seriously. He is a good asset to DEI, but I think that DEI will be able to fill that gap and be able to move forward."
DO YOU KEEP CLOSER TABS ON THAT TEAM OR DO YOU TRY TO DISTANCE YOURSELF? "Neither one. I just concentrate on what I have going on."
WILL A DAY LIKE TODAY PULL A TEAM TOGETHER? "Sometimes it can work both ways. If everybody is over there trying to get that backup car going and they are hollerin' and cussin' at each other, it don't work. It pushes you apart and you end up at the end of the day ticked off at one another and you have to work those things out and smooth those things out. If you stay strong and they got the car back out, they got to practice, little bit of a mental victory to basically where we were this morning when we unloaded. I feel like that we'll definitely mentally be stronger and tougher on Sunday because of what happened today I think, you know. Like it owes us one a little bit."
STARTING AT THE REAR, WILL YOU THINK ABOUT STAYING BACK MORE THAN YOUR FANS ARE USED TO SEEING? "I can't do that. Like you say, we have a lot of fans looking forward to us getting up toward the front. I like to get up there. I think that is the safest place to be. It is the most exciting place to be. It is where all the action is. I don't mind getting up in there and mixing it up.
"When I see guys going three and four wide continuously for a few laps, I take a little more precautionary measure and where I am running, I might back up a little bit and get in the back. Might just go back there to see who is back there. In this kind of car, if you are not going anywhere and you are sitting there with the guys three wide in front of you, nowhere to go, you just go back and see who is running in the back and see what they are doing and wait for the crowd back up front to cool back down to two wide and then try to move back up through there."
YOU DON'T SEEM LIKE YOU ARE THAT FRUSTRATED. "It would be worse somewhere else. This place, the way these cars drive, it doesn't matter. I was talking to David (Gillilund) about his car, I felt sorry for him to get swept up in that. He said his backup car wasn't that good. I told him it probably wouldn't matter in a place like this. He might have more fun with it than he thinks. I got a really good car, but even if we weren't sure how good our car was that we are bringing for the race, I still feel pretty confident. It is fun race track, I enjoy racing here. It just has a lot of mystique and history for me and I really enjoy it. But, it has been a tough day. I don't even know if it has really set in how tough it has been. We have a lot of things going on this weekend since AMP is sponsoring the race, we have things happening that are going to take it off our mind."
DOES THIS RACE BECOME MORE THAN THE SPRING RACE BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH MORE ON THE LINE? "It is tough to say really. At the end of the race you aren't thinking about all those things. It was pretty hairy and pretty crazy at the end of the race last time up toward the front. A lot of bangin' and bouncin' around. I think it will be the same way, guys are going for the win. Everybody is wanting to be in victory lane. Nobody cares about anything else but that."
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT CARL'S (EDWARDS) MOVE AT THE END OF LAST WEEK'S RACE? "I haven't seen it yet. I tried to play it on NASCAR.com, it wouldn't work. It had some kind of error."
IS THERE A BANZAI MOVE IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU REMEMBER? "I have never really tried anything like that. I haven't been in a position to either. I can't say that I got anything that compares to Carl."
HOW HARD IS YOUR SPONSORSHIP SEARCH FOR YOUR NATIONWIDE CAR WITH THE ECONOMY THE WAY IT IS? "We are definitely more alert and purposeful. In years past you kind of went week to week if they plan was you were going to hear back from them in a week, you kind of waited patiently, but there is a lot more purpose of how important and how fast the time can go by. You can be sitting here in December and still not be anywhere different than you are now. That is not good.
"We are working pretty hard. We have a lot of things that are looking really really good. We have some things wrapped up that we will be looking forward to announcing soon. We still have several races that we can fill up yet. Me and Rick (Hendrick) feel like we will race whatever we can afford to race. We won't put a car out there that doesn't have a sponsor on it. We can't afford to lose any money.
"I'm not worried, not really. I am going to run whatever I can afford to run as far as races. If I can afford to run them all, we will run them all. If we can afford to run 10, we will run 10. That is just the way it is.
"The economy is the way it is, there isn't much you can do about it. You have to be thankful for whatever you do get. A lot of these guys are going to walk around empty handed next year. I think we are going to at least come out going in to Daytona, I would at least expect our basket to be ¾ of the way full looking at the things are going now, if not all the way."
DO YOU TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO SPONSORS NOW THAN YOU HAVE IN THE PAST? "You are more cognizant of what they are getting out of the deal. You might ask them a few more times, more often, where they are at and how happy they are, what would they like different. When you know how difficult it is for them to work that in their budget, a sponsorship for a motorsports racing team, you definitely want to cater to them a little bit more and make sure they are getting everything they want because you want them to come back the next year. A lot of the deals in the Nationwide series are getting shorter and shorter as far as the length of the term."
IS YOUR NO. 88 CAR STILL TO GROOM PEOPLE? "Mark McFarland was doing good until he got injured at Milwaukee and that hurt him and set him back pretty bad but Mark is a good guy. I haven't really got an eye on anybody at this point. It is hard to pick them out, man. I can't say that I knew how good Brad (Keselowski) was going to be. But I just knew he knew how to take care of race cars and that was what I wanted at the time, he just happened to be a good race car driver on top of it. So that really worked out. You look for guys that No. 1 are going to take care of your car because that is how you go broke more often. You see these guys that are showing up and racing with a rare chance to win and still showing up every week. But they can do that because their cars are in one piece and they are taking care of them. Even the start and park guys or the guys that know they have a rare shot at winning. That is how you are able to continue first is by not wrecking cars. You can't put a hot shoe in there. Even if he is going to be good one day, you can't afford to go through that whole season of him wadding up cars and bending ball joints. You just have to find somebody like Brad that knows already how to take care of it. A guy that has maybe been running in some sub-par equipment and has learned how to take care of that stuff because they only have one or two race cars in the shop. I really lucked out on that."
DOES THAT MEAN WITH THE SPONSORSHIPS ISSUES, YOU CAN'T TAKE A CHANCE ON A YOUNG GUY AS MUCH, YOU HAVE TO RECYCLE A DRIVER? "Not necessarily recycle somebody. It is going to be harder; it is harder now to pull a guy out of the super late model series and a guy that has never been on a radial tire like the Goodyear. It is harder to plug them in, you know. Like the (Tim) McCreadies and those kinds of guys even though I think those type of guys would eventually make it at this level without a doubt, they are talented, but you can't afford to go through the learning curve with them. You can't afford to experience that learning curve with him. Like Clint (Bowyer), how many cars did he wreck on his first season? I don't even know. I think half the garage didn't think Clint was going to make it; he was backin' in the wall so much with that car. Somebody has to go through that process with him until he gets out the other end of it and becomes the race car driver he is today. But in the economy the way it is now, you can't hardly afford to do that anymore."
-credit: gm racing