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Dale Earnhardt Jr. quotes from Wind Tunnel

November 7, 2003

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Dale Jr.
Photo: CIA Stock Photo

Below are select quotes from Thursday's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on SPEED Channel. NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., spoke with Dave about everything from superstitions to safety.

Earnhardt on taking control of his career: "Early on, I was just really busy and didn't know what direction I was going from one day to the next. I was being pulled and tugged in so many different ways, that I didn't have any idea what I had accomplished or where I was headed or what my future held for me. Over the last three years, my big thing has been to get more control over where I'm the guy that you come to get the answer. Instead of somebody else pushing the buttons for me, I'm pushing all my own buttons and that really helps out. That way, I know where I'm at and where I'm going -- I can have a yes or no answer for everything and that's the final answer."

Earnhardt on new attitude toward safety equipment: "I'm ashamed to admit it, but I should have been a little more about making changes and been a little more open-minded to the new things that were coming into the sport, but I was very bull-headed about it and very selfish about putting new safety equipment into my car. ... I was running a lot of older style headrests that we've been running over the last couple of years. And after the (Dover) crash, I went into the shop on Monday and the crew, mainly Tony Eury Sr., and Tony Jr., were already installing the newer stuff without even asking me. That was kinda the wake-up call that you gotta quit thinking about yourself because there are a lot of people that care about you and depend on you. It meant a lot to me that they were making those changes for me because I was so bull-headed, thinking 'I don't need that stuff. I'm out there and my car is as safe as anybody's.' And it really wasn't."

Earnhardt on evolution from Busch champ to Winston Cup contender: "When we moved from the Busch Series, we were a dominating Busch Series team, and when we moved to the Cup Series, we were able to put together a few flash-in-the-pan wins and some great moments, but we had a lot of things about our team that were obsolete -- personnel, it may be an individual, it may be the way you prepare the car, it could be a number of things. And it takes all those things -- I know you've heard time and time again, it takes the right people. Not necessarily the right 'good' people, but the right personality to mesh with this other personality. ... One of the big things is having good morale. Everyone goes to work looking forward to it, you've got friends their and you enjoy it. That's what we've obtained this year -- a friendship amongst all of us."

Earnhardt on living in his father's shadow: "I definitely am my own person and want to be appreciated for my own stuff and my successes. I kinda don't like being measured up to my father 'cause everyone knows how good he was. It would be hard for any driver to be compared to that man. But there is a part of me too, that will always want that close to me - always want that right next to me wherever I go and whatever I do, even if it's not racing."

Earnhardt on why he dons his helmet before getting into the race car: "It's not really a superstition, it's just the way I've always done it. I feel like you suit up before you go to battle. ... and with the Hutchens device that I wear, it's a lot easier for my guys to hook the Hutchens device up and make sure it's hooked up properly and make sure none of the hooks are attached backwards or anything like that."

Earnhardt on best racing advice he ever received from his late father: "It was real hard to get any advice from him or help from him when it came to racing, whether it be set-ups or anything. But there was one day, here at Rockingham, that I took my first provisional in my rookie season. I was just all to pieces and I couldn't believe that we had run so poorly and that I had nothing to look forward to as far as the race. The car wasn't working and I thought I was going to be an embarrassment. That was the first and only time that he ever said anything to me about a race car or anything to do with racing. He said, 'Look, there are going to be bad days and there are going to be good days ... tomorrow, whether you win or lose, you're going to have another race the next weekend and you're going to have another race the next weekend. You've got to be able to maintain and control your emotions as far as that goes.' I was just letting it eat me up inside ...I guess I was more worried about what he thought, and maybe that was the biggest problem with it. And when I knew that he was alright with it and that he understood that his son wasn't always going to be at the top or maybe this isn't going to work out all the time, it made me feel a lot better about the deal."

Earnhardt on whether teaming with Richard Childress is in his future: "I want to drive race cars as long as I am healthy and I enjoy it and that could be for a very long time ... I don't see an opportunity to drive for Richard. I feel like my loyalty belongs to DEI - what we've built up over the last several years and what we've put into that company. All the money and all the effort my father put forth for years to make that happen, I feel like my loyalty belongs there and I'm going to stick it out."

Earnhardt on future as a team owner: "I feel like it is a huge interest of mine and I feel like I would be very good at it. I think I've got a pretty good eye for talent -- not only driver-wise, but who could run each department."

Earnhardt on pressure to win a Winston Cup championship: "I feel like that is a legitimate goal and I feel like I should be able to win a championship in the duration of my career ... it's a goal I set for myself. I'd be very disappointed if I ended my career without a championship."


... and to settle a bet with a producer, Dave asked Junior, "What was the last music you listened to before coming on the show?" The answer: Boston's Greatest Hits.

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