NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
FOOD CITY 500 / BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed his Dad racing at Bristol, the Legends race being held at Bristol, start to this season, new F-1 championship rules and other topics . Full transcript:
WHAT IT THE BEST DALE EARNHARDT, SR. MOMENT HERE AT BRISTOL FOR YOU? “The Earnhardt moment for me here was when he ran like 450 laps and won the race and had no power steering. I think that was in ’87 or ’86 or something like that. For me, I have run like 20 laps at California with no power steering and it was difficult, it was hard to drive the car where you wanted it to go. The whole handle of the car, the whole feel of the car changed. I just can’t imagine. I was having a hard time running any kind of competitive on new tires, on old tires I was ok without the power steering, but on new tires it was just really hard to run as fast as everybody else was running. For him to have been able to do that here, a place like this, on the blacktop, for basically the entire race and win. That was pretty cool. I was here for that and I was pretty proud of him for that kind of effort.
“I must have been 12 or 13 at that race.”
WITH YOUR APPRECIATION OF THE HISTORY OF THIS SPORT, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE LEGENDS RACE TOMORROW NIGHT AND DO YOU THINK THAT COULD BE A REGULAR CONCEPT AND SOMETHING THAT WOULD INTEREST YOU AFTER YOUR FULL-TIME CUP CAREER IS DONE? “I would definitely be interested in being involved in it just because of the other guys that are involved in the race. I would be very proud to have the opportunity to race against Jack Ingram and Junior Johnson and those guys and other people I didn’t get the chance to race against. So that would be really cool. They did the deal at Charlotte years ago on a Legends track, it was kind of a hokey kind of deal but some of those guys took it really serious and it ended up being a pretty exciting race that Elmo (Langley) won.
It was great to watch and I think they all really had a ball with it. For the historians of the sport, it is a lot of fun. For people who have never seen Junior Johnson run a lap or the people who have never seen L.D. Ottinger run a lap and some of the guys that are going to be in the race, it is just neat to see them out on the race track and compete because, even though it is a fun race and most of them aren’t taking it too seriously, you do see some of the competitive fire and spirit and you imagine what kind of driver they were, I guess, back when they were at their peak. I think it is a great, great idea, I would be excited to see it more often.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF F-1 NOW DECIDING THEIR CHAMPION ON WINS ONLY, WOULD THAT WORK IN NASCAR AND WHAT DO YOU THINK? “That sounds crazy. Like the ‘60s or ‘70s, you know. In Formula One that might work. It is definitely going to make for some interesting strategies during the races. They have such a different style of racing and the strategies and how the pit stops and everything plays out and they don’t really have many full-course cautions to bunch the field up. There are no lapped cars on the inside and things like that. It is quite a different race and you have to have an appreciation for that type of racing to understand and really like it. It would be interesting to have that. I have always said that however they want to set up the pins, we’ll knock ‘em down the best way we can. So whatever the format is to win a championship, makes no real difference to me.
“I think it would be exciting. I would like it no more or no less than what we got. I don’t want to make any controversy (LAUGHS), I like we what we have got. But, if they want to do that, I would support them 100%.”
DO THE FANS AND MEDIA OVER ANALYZE, OVER THINK EVERYTHING YOU DO BECAUSE OF YOUR ENORMOUS POPULARITY? “Well, no, not really. I mean, we haven’t run well, and it is obvious. It is ok for people to point that out because it is a fact. I put myself in this position. I’m willing to accept the ups and downs and the goods and bads that come with it. We haven’t run like we want to, like I think we should. It’s alright for everyone to point that out. I have said it a hundred times, and it just doesn’t seem to make a dent, but, the guy that I feel bad for is Tony, Jr. (Eury, crew chief) because he gets criticized so badly. Everybody in this room and some of you have criticized him yourselves, know how smart a guy he is. Truly know that he is a good mechanic and a solid crew chief. He just wanted to do this for a living, just like I do, but I’ll take the fall.
I would rather be crucified than him. Because every time I read in the paper that people are on his case, I feel like I am sending my brother to jail for a crime I committed, you know what I mean. It is kind of tough sometimes, but I feel bad for him because he just wants to work and have fun. He just wants to race. That is what everybody in the garage wants to do, we just all want to race. I am ok with, I understand that I need to run better. I understand what everybody…I understand y’all’s point of view when y’all say ‘what gives, where is the results’. I understand that and I am out there bustin’ my butt trying to make it happen. That is my goal until nobody will include me in this sport, that is my goal, to make it happen. I just wish it were an easier job for him and the guys on the team. They take a little bit of the blow too, it is tough working on that team. I am ok with it.”
SOME SCHOOLS OF THAT ARE NOT THAT TONY, JR. IS A BAD CREW CHIEF, BUT THAT YOU ARE TOO COMFORTABLE WITH HIM AND THAT HE ISN’T ABLE TO CALM YOU DOWN, ETC., WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “Well, there are combinations that work really good, but no one personality, I don’t think there is a crew chief in the garage with the best personality. Everybody has flaws and things that are going to get under your skin and things you have to look over. There are riffs between every driver and every crew chief and they work it out or they don’t. I think me and Tony, Jr. do a pretty good job of working it out.
Obviously, through everything we have been through, we still love each other to death and would do anything for each other. I don’t dread seeing him when I get to the race track, I can’t wait to see him when I get to the race track. We really do enjoy working together. It is a tough deal because we have a lot of sponsors and you have a lot of people, a lot of fans. You are in a big sport and each wants to go out there and make it happen. But at the same time, I like racing with my cousin. Whether we are the perfect combination or not, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I just like racing with him. That is what I want to do, you know, for the rest of my life. I like working with him. Whether I get to do that or not, I don’t know. I like racing with him. Maybe we are not the best combination out there, but I think if we are both on our A game and doing what we should be doing and we get a little bit of luck and a break here and a break there, we would be just as good as anybody else out there. We had a little bit of bad luck and a lot of failures and stuff happen, especially at the end of last year.
That makes it difficult to have an argument about how me and him can make it happen; me and him are a good combination. But really what it comes down is there are two different arguments. You have the professional side where you have the National Guard and AMP and all the people that support, they want to you to go out there and win races. You are in this business to professionally succeed and win races and championships and that is your ultimate goal and you should do everything you need to do as far a pieces of the puzzle to get there. Then there is the other side of you that thinks like you are still driving late models and just want to go to the track with your buddy. You just want to have fun because you did this for fun and people decided to pay you to do it.
That side of me still wants too.. that is where I am at. It is up to all the professionals and experts to figure out what we need to do to be a winning race team and we will make the changes and we have made changes. I like working with the guy. We trust each other and we go through a lot of crap together, I know where he is at and I know where I’m is at. We just have a bond. There are days where I wish Tony, Sr. was still around but when moved Tony, Jr. in to the crew chief role, it was what was supposed to happen with him. He was going to develop in to a crew chief and he was old enough to do it. There are times I wish Tony, Sr. was over his shoulder. But don’t want to change Tony, Jr.’s position and his authority. It was just awesome having Tony, Sr. around chewing our butts sometimes.”