SPEED Quotes: Earnhardt Jr., Franchitti, Newman and Vickers NASCAR Preseason Thunder on SPEED continued Tuesday with a recap of the day's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at Daytona. John Roberts hosted the on-site special with assistance from Adam Alexander and Larry McReynolds. SPEED’s coverage from Daytona will continue Jan. 16-17 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Following are excerpts from Tuesday’s show, including interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dario Franchitti, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers, with analysis from McReynolds.
(Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
Adam Alexander: Talk about how anxious you’ve been to get to this point because I know it was probably a long off-season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Yeah, it was. I wanted to get to the race track and get to work. I was so excited about being with a new team like Rick’s (Hendrick) and we have a lot of people excited about getting the year started. We’re ready to go and couldn’t wait to get to the track and start working.
Alexander: We know all about your history and Hendrick Motorsports has a great history. Have you thought at all about what it would mean to come here and win your first race for them in the 500?
Earnhardt Jr.: I try not to think about it too much because I try not to daydream too much. It doesn’t get you too much. I think it’s going to be fun. There’s going to be a lot of attention on our team. I hope everything goes smoothly and I think it should. We’ve got everything well prepared and should have a lot of fun and really enjoy it. There’s going to be a lot of pressure and stuff surrounding our team. We’re trying to do our job but we should enjoy it because this should be the greatest time of our lives.
John Roberts: The Indy 500 and Daytona 500 are the two biggest races. What is it like to be down here preparing for the Daytona 500?
Dario Franchitti: It’s pretty daunting. I showed up at the Indy 500 and had done it before, had a pretty good idea about the car and was pretty comfortable. When I showed up here yesterday, it was all new. The single-car runs were more about the car than the driver and this afternoon was drafting and I was really worried about that.
Roberts: Looks like the drafting went pretty well for you today.
Franchitti: I think the single-car car runs have more to do with the guys building the Dodge than me. But we drafted today and I made my first run in a group. I had Dale Jr. with me so I was pretty lucky. I just followed him around for 15 laps and it felt pretty good.
Adam Alexander: If you look at the speed charts, one thing is consistent. That is the Dodge teams are having trouble finding speed. Is there reason for concern?
Ryan Newman: Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for and what we gauge off of. I’m guessing that the guys that are strong, specifically Hendrick and Toyota, are going to come back with more horsepower and a shinier package. We’re going to try to do the same but we have to catch up to them for sure.
Brian Vickers: There are no surprises because we already had it at Talladega (last year). It (the car of tomorrow) definitely had more turbulence and moved around more in the draft there. You can only imagine it would be a little worse here because the track is rougher. It was but it wasn’t too bad. I was also in a three to four-car draft.
The key of the Car of Tomorrow is the front splitter. You want the front splitter to travel down and be right against the ground but not bottom out. If you go back to our old car, teams would take the front springs and do a coil-binding process. When the car travels, these coils would touch each other and that’s as far as the car would travel. That really won’t work with the car of tomorrow and the front splitter. So, what they’re working with along the front springs is the front shock absorber. What they’re doing is put these spacers on the shock shaft and when the car travels, the shocks will bottom out on these and that’s as far as the car will travel. If you go back to Talladega when we first raced the Car of Tomorrow at a restrictor-plate track, teams were getting really soft with the front springs because the surface was really smooth. But here at Daytona, there are a lot of bumps and humps on the track and the car wants to bottom out. So, the teams have to be really careful to work with the right springs and shocks because when the car bottoms out, it doesn’t drive well.