DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Texas Motor Speedway today and talked about racing at Texas, the support he gets from his fans here; the success he has had here; how well the...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with media members at Texas Motor Speedway today and talked about racing at Texas, the support he gets from his fans here; the success he has had here; how well the season has started for him and his team; his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports and numerous other topics:
HOW IS YOUR CAR SO FAR TODAY? "I'm real extremely happy with my car and how it's driving. We learned a lot in this little practice. The car is responding really good. I'm really, really happy."
HOW DO YOU STAY DIALED INTO THE TRACK WHEN IT CHANGES SO MUCH FROM YEAR TO YEAR AND WHAT ABOUT IT WORKS SO WELL FOR YOU? "It's about the same every time, every time I come back. It's sort of you love it and you hate it. We run good here and have some good wins, but we struggled too. We struggled more often of late. We're concentrating really hard on trying to turn that around with our Impala SS program and how we're running with it this year, I think is gonna help us as well as our performance will be up to where we'll be able to get out here this weekend and run really good all weekend. We just want to keep doing such a good job that we have been doing all year and keep good finishes coming our way and good points. This is one of our better markets west of the Mississippi. The fans turn out in big numbers to see our race here and they seem real excited about our sport. They really get it, they really enjoy it. It's fun to be here, its fun to come here. Eddie Gossage and those guys have some clever ways to bring attention to the race itself. It's a good time when you come here and I really enjoy it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GOOD START SO FAR THIS SEASON? "I'm pretty good, my crew chief is pretty good, my team is great. We got good motors. We just got a really good package."
ON HOW MUCH ATTENTION HE IS PAYING TO THE FINAL FOUR. "Yeah, I was heartbroken for Davidson. Those guys put a lot into it. At the same time you're excited and happy for them and the school itself. You know it did a lot for the school. Yeah, I'm watching UNC and hoping they do well. Always pulled for them and tuned in to follow their seasons each year. I think they have a good chance, they have a really strong team."
WHICH CAR IS HANDLING BETTER HERE? "I like my Cup car the best between the two. My Nationwide car, it drives pretty good. I just got so much focus and concentration on this car and this team and how we need to run and how I can help reach our goals, so that's really where my heart is and my where my focus is all the time. We'll have a good time running the Nationwide car this weekend with GoDaddy. I hope I can get a win. I ain't done too well in that thing the last couple of times. Hopefully I can turn that around because I need to do a little bit better job than I have been doing in that car."
ON THE TIRE THEY ARE RUNNING THIS WEEKEND. "It's the same tire as last year, that's what it feels like. It feels like the same tire as last year. It's good, it's a good tire."
ON HOW BRAD KESELOWSKI IS DOING IN THE NATIONWIDE CAR. "I'm happy with Brad. He's doing a great job. He's keeping up and keeping himself grounded and concentrating on his car and all those great things he's looking for in life will come along with success. He just needs to work with car and work with his team and keep everything in good harmony like he's doing.
"I was tearing up too many cars and had to find somebody that could not do that and he wasn't wrecking a lot. So he got in there and finished all the rest of the year with us. We were losing money right and left due to the equipment we were tearing up and he came in there and stopped the bleeding."
.SIX WEEKS IN HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR INVERSION WITH THE HENDRICK TEAM AND HOW THINGS HAVE GONE TO DATE? "Everything's good man. We got our car running good every week and just trying to realize the situation and understand it and work on the things that are working and fix some things that aren't working. It's a great deal though man, I'm really enjoying it. It's been a good place and got great people around me and I feel real fortunate, really fortunate."
IS IT JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS GETS BACK ON THE MAP THIS YEAR? "It's just circumstance. We got good cars, good teams, good drivers and wins will come. I've been winless for a long time so I'm excited to be in the position to have that opportunity now. I've had a pretty good chance this year to get them wins. I'm happy as hell. I can understand where they're wanting to get back into the winners circle where they're used to being, but I'm tickled about being able to run good and run up front every week. I'm happy as heck about that. I ain't quite as frustrated I guess as they are about that. But I know that they'll get what they want, they always do. They're great teams with a great company. Strong man, just strong. That company will always have success."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT YOU GUYS HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE CAR OF TOMORROW ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS NOW THAT YOU GUYS ARE GOING INTO YOUR THIRD WEEKEND OF THIS STYLE OF TRACKS? ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE A YEAR AGO? "Yeah, hell yeah. You learn a lot in a period of a year, six months, four months, you learn a lot."
WHAT ABOUT BETWEEN VEGAS AND COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND? "Not really. We run about the same package, the same set up as we ran there. It needs different stuff for the load that you get in the corner here."
HOW DOES THE BUMP FEEL? ARE THERE ANY REMNANTS OF THAT AFTER THEY FIXED IT? "They did a good job fixing that. Every time you ever complain about this race track, Eddie Gossage and those guys get out there and fix it. What more can you ask for, they do a good job."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU TO FIND YOURSELF AFTER SIX RACES TO BE THE TOP HENDRICK DRIVER? "Yeah. That's very surprising to me and I'm surprised that we're in the top five in points. But I look at the team and the motors and the company, I'm not surprised but I look at how new it is to me and how young me and Tony (Eury) Jr. are compared to when you look at how long we've been there, it surprised me. I'm gonna take it man. We're gonna keep working with it and keep going with it and see how much we can accomplish.
"I have tons to learn and a lot to give, but I've got a lot to learn. It's going to take some time and patience to let it come to me and to understand the ins and outs of the organization. I don't know for sure that I've met everybody that we have there yet. We've been busy. It's hopefully a long, long-term relationship and so there's plenty of time.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHANGE HAS DONE FOR TONY EURY, JR? "It helped him a lot. I think it helped him kind of, hey man these are some of the things that you've never worked with that you're gonna work with. Here's some new tools that you're not familiar with and that you need to learn. Definitely."
ON YOUR SHOW LAST NIGHT, YOU GOT SOME CALLS BECAUSE YOU WERE JOKING AROUND WITH TONY JR., CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT WAS ALL ABOUT AND MAYBE YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON IT? "I was surprised that he was as candid as he was. It sort of brings a little more understanding to the temperament in the garage and the mentality in the garage. But I remembered once he recalled that one situation about the oil, I remembered that. And I remember them laughing and joking and bragging about that because it was like there was a team that had this oil and they were qualifying and any time they put it in their car they run half a second faster. And we were like man how do we get a jug of that. And you're like wait a minute a jug, the whole time you're thinking how I get a jug of that. You don't need a jug, if you can get your fingertip in it and get a sample you take it to some guy to make it. That was pretty interesting on how that unfolded."
SO YOU THINK HE WAS TALKING ABOUT IT LIKE THAT? "Yeah. I mean you'll have to ask him. Unfortunately last week I said anybody that stole should have their hard card taken so I can't live up to that now I'm gonna have to back track a little bit."
I WANT TO SAY YOU'RE NAÏVE, BUT MAYBE YOU'RE NOT NAÏVE AT ALL YOU'RE MAYBE YOU JUST THOUGHT OF IT SO CLEAN CUT YOU NEVER THOUGHT THAT WAS GOING ON. "That's the only thing right now, and everything that happens to me, I give people way too much credit. Whether it's in this garage or walking down the street, boy that is my biggest fault."
WHAT WAS THE DECISION PROCESS TO RUN THE NATIONWIDE CAR HERE AT TEXAS?"I think it had something to do with the location of the sponsor. GoDaddy probably had a lot of influence in it. I like the track. They just laid a piece of paper in front of me and said to mark some tracks you think you'd like to run because I wanted to run a half dozen of races or so. A lot of times a sponsor will influence where they want you to run, Michigan or Homestead or places like that, that you technically wouldn't recommend running or want to run or think about running."
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT HOW LONG IT HAS BEEN SINCE YOUR FIRST WIN HERE IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? "The Nationwide car? Well you know, I think about it a lot but I haven't done a good job in that car the last couple of times. I'm pretty frustrated with myself and my performance in that car. They build good cars and they got a good track history at most places. They always win races and I want to be able to do that in that car."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM IS, WHAT DO YOU GUYS HAVE TO WORK ON? "Well that penalty deal hurt us a little bit. The team is working through it and we've got some great help. As far as continuity within the team it's sort of a little bit of a hurdle. It's something you got to live with. I just got so much focus on this 88 car where I wasn't keen to that or wasn't paying attention to that before or aware of it. I am now. My heart's really with this car and how it does and what happens to it and how every lap is in practice and how to make it better and running the Nationwide car is just purely for the fun of driving a race car and being on the race track in competition. I don't put the same effort into that car in practice because I just don't want to do anything that's going to hurt my efforts here. I like running in the Nationwide Series and its fun. I think it's a fine line between fun and work. Running a handful of races and having a good time with the team and knowing what kind of cars your company is building. Understanding that side of it is one thing but doing it as a job is not interesting to me.
"I like guys like Brad Keselowski to get in my cars and do a good job and keep them in one piece and have a chance to win races. That's what that company is about. I like to drive the cars every once in a while and have fun with them and do stuff with our sponsors and build new relationships with people like GoDaddy, but for the most part I don't have an interest in running 15 races a year and things like that."
WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS TRACK SO MUCH? "I don't like it more or less than any other track. It just so happens this is where I got my first win in the Nationwide Series and in the Cup series so you never forget it. It's a cool place. The fans are great. The best thing about this track is the fans, to be honest with you. There's nuances about the surface of the track and character that the track has but they're neither good nor bad, they're just things you deal with. The great thing about it is, this is our best market west of the Mississippi. We struggle in our other areas west of the Mississippi, right? And this is great to be able to come to Texas and get people excited. They really love seeing us come here. If this were like Fontana, I might be a little worried. Since we do so well here in this market it gives me hope that we are just missing the boat with something specific. Because we come here and we do well."
HISTORY TELLS US THAT THE TOP 12 LEAVING THIS TRACK IS ESSENTIALLY THE TOP 12 LEAVING RICHMOND IN SEPTEMBER. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU GUYS ARE AWARE OF? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU THINK ABOUT GETTING A FAST START IN THE SEASON? "I think about getting a fast start. That's something I definitely think about. I never take anything for granted."
DOES IT SEEM LIKE 10 YEARS SINCE THAT FIRST WIN? "In the Nationwide car? Yeah. Has it been ten years, yeah it's been ten, wow. Yeah, it does. Any time you think about things like that you're reminded how much time has passed. It's harder to remember specifics about that day. Just little things like words that we said over the radio, what was said in Victory Lane and what was done in Victory Lane. It was a long time ago. I am doing all right. That makes me proud that I've been in this sport that long and I've added what I've added to it whatever that is."
-credit: gm racing