DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "We looked at the competition out there and the investment we had in Steve and the investment we have in that race team. We've tuned on that race team since the time we ...
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"We looked at the competition out there and the investment we had in Steve and the investment we have in that race team. We've tuned on that race team since the time we started and we've made it better and better. As a matter of fact, I think that's the reason the 8 team is so strong. We already had the engine shop in place and fine-tuned the aerodynamics of the cars. Really the 8 car came in with a lot of proven product. Our situation with Steve and Paul Andrews and everything is, I think, getting better and better. We keep changing things and making things stronger. The changes in the company itself have been a little bit more than I'd like to see after building a new company, but I think our team is better because of it. Our race team, I think, is now in shape to be competitive and a winner. We definitely have confidence in Steve and what we've seen in Steve the last couple of year to be that guy who can win races. There's no reason that car and the 8 and the 3 and 31 shouldn't be battling for the lead here Sunday. Park and myself have got to try to keep up with Junior. That's where we stand right now. "I was proud to see the 1 car qualify and win the Winston Open. Charlotte was a tremendous race for us. To see your race car do that, and what you've put together with people, it makes Ty Norris and everybody proud of what you've put together. It's amazing to see Dale Jr. come out and win this year. I just didn't think we could do it right off the bat. He put the pressure on Park and myself and the rest of the guys back there at the shop to step up to the plate and do what they've done. We learn from each other. That's a great thing about having those race teams. I've learned from the 1 and 8. We mix it all together and try to help each other. We don't tell each other the exact setup, but we steer each other in the right direction. We found some shocks or we've seen this or whatever. We give test notes back and forth. We take our cars to the wind tunnel together. The relationship between Childress and Dale Earnhardt and Park and Dale Jr. and Skinner has grown to make better race cars and better teams out of all four of us. Andy Petree is in the mix with the RAD program, too. "To be able to race and win myself and race for a championship, I'm pretty excited about that. It's been a pretty good year starting off here if we can just keep the momentum going. I see the momentum in the 8 and 1 car keep building and getting better every race. I'm as happy as I can be. I'm like Dale Jr., this is fun, you know. That's basically what's it's been with these guys and the 3 bunch and Kevin Hamlin and all those guys. It's fun to go race. It's fun to get in the race car and go race now. "You struggle at times through your career. The ideal situation, what you work for, is to get in that car on Sunday and go race. To be able to go race and be a contender is fun. That's definitely what you work for. "I'm glad you guys haven't been talking much about it. It just lets you be able to do the work you're doing and keep focusing on what you're doing. It's kind of like controversy with Park's team and the 8 team getting all the press. The 1 team just keeps building and getting stronger and stronger. I sort of enjoy that, surprising, being a contender and coming up and being the champion. That would be great. I've had my day in the press. I'll let the other guys carry the ball until the end of the game. "I spend all the time I get to with the 3 team, talking back and forth on the phone with Kevin Hamlin and Danny Lawrence and the engine guys. The confidence level there is so good that I have the confidence when we talk back and forth that things are going in that direction. I tough base with them at the track on any last-minute changes. That's a good situation. I'm the guy who signs the checks and directs the business at hand at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., offices. These other guys put the people together. We've had some restructuring at our company. You guys all know about, and it's gone very well. We now have a licensing person in place to help Park and Dale Jr. and myself with our souvenir side of it. Joe Hedrick came to work for us just after Charlotte here, and Teresa and I are doing the business at hand. We deal one on one with the sponsors we have. It's quite a job, plus we deal with the dealership business. It's stay busy, but it's something that I enjoy doing. It's something that I've grown up with my dad, watching him run his racing business and growing with it. I ran my own car, and I've been a part of that. To be a driver and an owner in this sport is pretty unique to me. To be competitive in both sides of it, we're pretty happy with it and I'm pretty comfortable with my situation. I spread myself as I need to do, and Teresa is at home today taking up the slack because we're gone. If she fires everybody and sells everything while we're gone, Ty and I will be looking for a job."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"This whole deal started like three years ago. The first year wasn't like what we planned on it to be. The first year getting injured and stuff not only hurt the first year but obviously the second year not having the experience we needed. We just kept building the team where we felt it needed to be. At the onset of this year and halfway through last year, we felt we had a team that was capable of running for top 10s and top fives. This year, we really feel like we have a team that week in and week out can win races and run in the top five. That's really what we spent the last three years building toward. With the addition of Paul Andrews (crew chief) and a lot of the other engineers and fabricators and engine shop employees that we have, we really feel DEI is an organization that can win races. Junior has proved that. We're fixing to prove it pretty soon. We feel with Pennzoil's support through the last three years, they've been through the ups and downs with us and we've solidified a good relationship with them where talking about the next couple of years, we want to reward them for what they've been through. Nothing would satisfy us more than to give Pennzoil their first win in Winston Cup. I think obviously we feel like we're pretty close to that. We just need to be consistent among the top five and we know that win will come. We seem like we're struggling a little bit for that first win. For some reason, we don't know, but we feel that once we get that first win behind us, we feel like that second and third win will be pretty close behind. We're excited about the whole program. Obviously, I'm excited to be a part of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Me and Dale have developed a good relationship over the past few years. We've been through just about everything that a car owner and driver can be through. Pennzoil has stuck behind us through the whole thing, too. They've been a great sponsor. I'm excited to be a part of it. Being a young guy in Winston Cup and having the finishes we've had this year, and winning The Winston Open and having the opportunity to almost win The Winston, is exciting. We want to take all that momentum and roll it into a win, hopefully here at Michigan. I'm just thankful for the position Dale has put me in and DEI and he's spent a lot of his own money developing an organization that can win races. You've seen the commitment Dale has to not only the sport of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, but also to Pennzoil and Budweiser and all the other sponsors we have. "He's tough on Sundays. Mondays are easy compared to trying to pass him on Sunday. Sometimes I think he races that 1 car and 8 car harder than he races anybody else. If we mess up or get off our game a little bit and start to slip back, he's there every day. He's kicking around the shop almost every day of the week. If we're struggling, he comes in and says 'man, we've tried this and tried that.' He's a pretty hands-on car owner. I think if you keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and listen sometimes you can learn something. He hasn't won seven championships not knowing what he's doing, so it's helped our young team growing in the sport having someone like Dale as a car owner. He's not a car owner that's got a ton of money and really doesn't know a lot about racing. He's a racer at heart that's done well in racing. If you just stay quiet and listen sometimes you'll learn something."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"It's like any other race these days. So many different guys can win. You've got to look at the 18 car, he's really strong. The 88 has run extremely well here in the past. You can't throw out a guy like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Matt Kenseth. I can go on and on. I don't know who it's going to be. I just hope we're in the mix and give them a run for their money. "I'm working harder now than I've ever worked. That's usually the way it is. When the car's working right, when the team is clicking and everything is jelling, you almost feel like it's easy. It's one of those things where right now we're doing the same things. We're working extremely hard, things just don't maybe fall into place like they did at one time. We're working at getting the chemistry back, getting everybody to click. I see it coming together. We've made some changes on our cars to get 'em better and already we're seeing some great results here at Michigan. "I'm a realistic person. I've seen a lot of things through all the different racing I've done. I've been at the top. Maybe I've never been at the bottom, but I've been back there before where I wasn't the dominant car. I'm experiencing that again. It's just at a higher level and there's more attention that goes on with it. There's more pressure. I think that it's one of those situations where I respect what we did so much more now. When we do get back to the top, I'll appreciate it that much more. For me personally, I've learned not to base my happiness and my everyday life off where my finishes are on Sunday. I'm trying to work with the team and Hendrick Motorsports and constantly make things better and talk about what we can do and what I can do to make it better. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. Right now, I think it's definitely been a great test for us if you can put it that way of what we're made of. We're finding out right now. "When I'm at the race track, it is based on that. When I leave the race track, I'm able to not dwell on it. I'm able to let those things be behind me and look at what's ahead of me. I'm able to have a peace of mind that we're going to get better and we're going to keep working at it until we do get better. If we have a bad finish, it's a bad finish, but it's in the past. "I try to maybe watch what I say. It's helped me on and off the race track with my vocabulary. There's a lot of things I don't want to say (over the radio), but I just push the button and say 'em. At one time, I'd do that and now you try not to. I think you're just a lot more conscious of what's going on out there. My goal is to communicate with the team and make the car go better. I try not to put myself in a situation where the race controls what I'm saying. I'm not on a talk show. I'm on a frequency that I'm trying to communicate with my team. "People need to recognize that everybody is going to say what they want their kids to hear. I think it's a great access, but sometimes you wish you had some more privacy. I think maybe during the races it's OK. Maybe during practices maybe we can have it to ourselves."