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DATE News (chronologically)
05/31/08
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Q and A with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. met with media and discussed the strength of his team with a 5th place finish at Charlotte, the Dover and Pocono facilities, the NASCAR penalties on his Nationwide team, not going to Eldora, and more.

YOU’VE BEEN THE MOST CONSISTENT OF THE HENDRICK DRIVERS THIS YEAR. WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO START THE YEAR LIKE THAT? “It’s important to run that way all the time, no matter what you’re doing. You want to run good all the time.”

HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO BREAKING THROUGH? “We’re running in the top five every week. That’s pretty close.”

DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE BROKEN THROUGH BY THIS TIME? “I’m satisfied and happy with how I’m running. The wins will happen when they happen.”

IN TERMS OF THE WAY YOU FIT IN WITH HMS, HAS IT BEEN ANY BETTER OR ANY WORSE THAN YOU EXPECTED? “No. It’s just what I thought it would be.”

AND WHAT IS THAT? “The important part is my crew guys and my team. I’ve got to get along with them first so we can be a good team. No matter how great I get along with my teammates, if I don’t get along with my own guys, that’s not very good and we won’t run well. Everything is going good.”

IS DOVER A TRACK THAT FAVORS YOU? “I don’t like concrete. I wish it was asphalt. I ain’t a fan of concrete. It’s real bumpy and rough. You look at the old races they run here on asphalt, and they looked pretty fun.”

SO YOU COULD SKIP IT HERE IF YOU HAD TO? “Sure.”

THERE IS TALK OF DOVER MAYBE LOSING A RACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT? “I don’t believe what I read.”

SO WOULD IT MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE NOT TO HAVE A RACE OR TWO HERE? “I don’t believe what I read. If it happens, that’s what’ll happen. I don’t have any control over it anyway. What difference does my opinion matter, you know what I mean?”

HAVING RACED THE NEW CAR AT DOVER LAST YEAR, DO YOU FEEL ANY MORE COMFORTABLE WITH IT NOW? “No. You show up and it’s either good or it ain’t. We ran here last year, but you show up and your car could be different and could handle different. Hopefully it’s driving good and handling good. I didn’t see any advantage running today, from having run here last year, no.”

HOW DID THE FANS REACT TO YOUR SWITCH FROM THE NO. 8 CHEVY TO THE NO. 88 CHEVY? “Good. They all switched.”

HAVE YOU EVER FIGURED OUT HOW THEY AWARD THE PRIZE MONEY IN THIS SPORT? “Absolutely.”

HOW IS IT? “There is money paid to guys who run a full schedule and money paid to guys who are on a Winner’s Circle program or have run a race, teams who have won a race drivers who have run a race. There is money paid to guys for various decals they run on their fenders, it’s very complicated.”

DO YOU THINK IT SHOULD STAY THAT WAY? “The reason my guys are paid what they’re paid is well deserved due to the fact like I said if you’re on a Winner’s Circle program it pushes guys who aren’t on it, like my Busch team, to win a race. To get on that program, we’ll get paid more money every time we race.”

IS WHAT HAPPENED IN CHARLOTTE LAST WEEK A GOOD INDICATION OF HOW GOOD THIS TEAM CAN BE DOWN THE STRETCH? “Well, yeah, yes. We never give up. But not giving up ain’t going to assure you of anything. But that was fortune. That was just good fortune. You take ‘em when you can. But you’ve got to have a good attitude. You’ve got to have a never give up attitude always; always to the bitter end.”

BUT TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE THAT TYPE OF GOOD FORTUNE. “Sure. We realize the importance of getting a fifth place finish last week and how that’s going to help us. We need to be able to do that when those type of situations happen in the race. We need to be able to figure out how to best get a good finish. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I can’t say that every time we hit the wall or have a failure, we’re the type of team who is going to bounce back or luck into something.

“But I guess the experience and having seen guys do that before and being on the other end where you have a good night and somebody outdoes you on fuel strategy, it’s nice to be on the good end every once in a while.”

ON THE POCONO TEST “The track needs to be repaved. It’s real, real rough. It’s real rough. They paved this little strip in Turn 3 in the third groove and we’re all running around on it. It was real funny. When we first hit the track I saw that strip of asphalt in the third groove and I thought man, I bet that’s got a lot of grip. And if I can figure out a way to get up there and run on it, I might find some speed. And by the end of the test, everybody was running there. That’s going to be slightly amusing I think, to see in the race.”

WHAT TYPE OF RACE WILL WE SEE AT POCONO? “Typical Pocono. It’s like a road course in a sense. If you get just a tiny bit tight, you lose a lot of time because it’s such a long track. So guys are going to get spread out pretty good.”

ON HIS REACTION TO THE NASCAR PENALTIES IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES LAST WEEK AT CHARLOTTE “Well, my guys were a little bit aggressive. They did show their butts a little bit. But the penalties I was a little disappointed in. I felt like we sort of got the bad end of the deal before the penalties. And now we’ve got penalties. And I didn’t think Pops should get penalized. Man, he’s a veteran in this sport. He didn’t do anything wrong at all. I thought his treatment should have been a little bit better than that. But for the other guys, it was a good lesson for them, the tire changer and the tire carrier.”

ON BRAD KESELOWSKI IN THE MEDIA CENTER AT CHARLOTTE “Yeah, I heard Brad did a good job. I heard a lot of great comments from the media that Brad did a great job. I was very proud of him and how he dealt with that situation. It’s a very difficult situation when you’re criticized by an accomplished driver in the sport. When you’re in the Nationwide Series and one of the Cup guys criticizes you. I had the same situation happen a couple of times and you want to go in there and get those guys respect and you want to race them and you want them to respect you and appreciate your talent and see your talent. Brad is doing a great job of that. In struggling with Denny (Hamlin) and maybe not having a friendship there, he made a lot of other people respect him for how he acted and how he handled that situation.”

HAVE YOU TALKED TO DENNY HAMLIN? “No, I haven’t talked to Denny.”

I KNOW YOU ARE A BIG FAN OF THE SHOW THE OFFICE, CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED IN ENJOYING THE SHOW, SOME OF THE MOMENTS YOU LIKE MAYBE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTERS? “Jim’s my favorite. He’s everybody’s favorite. I just think it’s great, it’s a hell of a show. It’s kind of like Cheers and Seinfeld were in their hay day. To me that’s what it’s like for this generation or for this decade. It’s just a good show. It’s a really funny show, well-written, great cast and it’s just done really well. It’s really, really done well. It’s from a different perspective and point of view. You are basically mimicking a reality scenario and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”

DO YOU HAVE A DWIGHT BOBBLE HEAD DOLL? “No”

NO, I THOUGHT I HEARD YOU DID. “No. I would take one if you have one”

WHAT’S YOU’RE OPINION OF KYLE BUSCH AND THE COMMENTS HE SAID ABOUT ALL THE HENDRICK TEAMMATES LAST WEEKEND AND WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON ON THE TRACK? “I don’t have an opinion.”

HOW ABOUT JOEY LAGANO MAKING HIS DEBUT THIS WEEKEND? WHAT DO YOU THINK HE’S UP AGAINST FOR HIS FIRST RACE? “He just has to get in there and do a good job. He’ll be fine. He’s got a good team around him and good people. He’s got a good talent. He’s just got to keep himself disciplined and try not to overdrive the car.”

WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST THING ABOUT DOVER? “Concrete. It’s just real bumpy and slick. Gets kind of tough to hang on to.”

CAN YOU GIVE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE RACE AHEAD SUNDAY? “I don’t have any right now. Just thinking about qualifying and practice tomorrow getting my car better.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO RACE THAT PRELUDE RACE ON WEDNESDAY? “I like the day off.”

YOU HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF THINGS JUST TO FOCUS ON THIS. IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO YOU, YOU’RE LIKE FOCUSING ON THE HENDRICK CAR 100 PERCENT AND MAKING SURE YOU’RE KEEPING UP IN THE POINTS AND FOCUSING ON THAT. “That’s my job.”

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE PENALITIES FOR THE HAAS DEAL THIS WEEK? “I don’t know man, I’m done giving you guys my opinion on stuff, on things that ain’t related to me. I don’t know, is it too tough. They make the decisions and I hope they’re right. I don’t want guys really directly cheating, intently cheating to out run me and I hope if that ever happens or if it happens in the future its dealt with harshly or real harshly. I feel very good about how stern that NASCAR is handling all the issues they’ve handled. I’ve been in that situation too and I feel very good about how stern they are. I like the fact that they’re harsh. I want them to be harsh.”

HOW ABOUT THE FACT THAT SOMEBODY RATTED THEM OUT? BASICALLY THAT’S HOW THEY FOUND OUT. “Nobody likes a rat.”

DO YOU LIKE HAVING THE GARAGE OPEN? “No, I rather it be closed. Hell yeah. Look at Formula One they’ve got way more room, they probably have air conditioning. Seriously, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? I’d love to have the Formula One garages, they’re great. They have plenty of room. The drivers get out and walk around and they got couches and stuff. But nobody likes a rat, even if the guys is cheating a rat is no good. You want NASCAR to find it. That’s how it needs to happen.”

WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DO YOU GIVE YOUR DRIVER IN SITUATIONS LIKE LAST WEEK WITH DENNY HAMLIN? “I should give him more advice than I do. I’m a little bit hard on him. He’s doing really good at maintaining his respect of this sport and his position and his appreciation of where he’s at and his opportunity. He needs to keep that mentality. What he said in his comments about having the Nationwide race being his time to race for the weekend and him getting everything out of it he can, that’s pretty true and that’s there for him to feel that way and him to approach it that way. As he does get in the cup series he will learn there is a lot more give and take in the cup series than in the Nationwide Series and when a cup driver races a cup driver in the Nationwide Series we treat each other as if we’re in the cup race and we give and take a lot more than I probably did in ‘98 and ‘99. When you’re racing in the Nationwide Series and trying to get in the cup series you haven’t learned that yet. You can’t expect everybody to understand it and some guys don’t and you race guys out there in the Nationwide Series that don’t give and take and that’s just the way it is. You started that race and wanted to run that weekend and those are the things that you approach in the race and you deal with them however you deal with them. He’ll learn that. I hope that he learns from the cup guys. Denny has a valid point. How he expresses his point is a different opinion. But hopefully he learns through give and take and do that more because in the 500-mile races it’s very important to be patient. Right now I understand his urgency, he wants a job. He wants to move out of that two-bedroom duplex and move into the three-million dollar houses like me and Denny live in.”

WHAT ABOUT FANS DEDICATION? GAS IS $4.00 A GALLON BUT FANS ARE HERE. “Yeah, I mean so far so good. They’re filling up the seats, coming to the races. Seems like the television audience is really, really good this year. If I was a fan and I wasn’t driving cars, I’d put myself through what they put themselves through every weekend to be here. It’s a fun sport, it’s fun to watch. But at the same time you got to kind of admire their dedication, but some of these guys this is their one race or Dover is their one track. They put a lot into it, they look forward to it. They plan it, they tweak it each year, make the plan better.”

POPS (TONY EURY, SR.) WAS REALLY UP ON THE WHEEL AFTER THAT NATIONWIDE RACE, HE WAS AWESOME AND HE WAS SAYING THESE GUYS THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO COME IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES, THAT’S WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO LEARN AND IF HE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO RACE THESE GUYS THAN NOW HE’S TAKING A LITTLE BREAK IN THE TRAILER ON THE BEACH PROBABLY, HOW IS HE DEALING WITH NOT BEING THERE AND IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES WHEN THOSE GUYS GO INTO RACE, SHOULD THEY GIVE THOSE GUYS A LITTLE BIT MORE TO MAKE MISTAKES OR NOT? “NASCAR said they were going to be more lax on the penalties for us showing our emotions. I don’t want to see anybody get punched in the face if it ain’t necessary. I don’t think it was necessary the other night to do that. That’s why I kind of feel like the penalties were real harsh because it was great T.V. Each side really kind of had a valid argument and I really didn’t see much harm in it. Tony (Eury, Sr.) always had a real sore temper when I was a young kid. I didn’t want to mess with him, I was scared to death of him and it just took me until just recently to get to where you know I felt like we worked on the same level but he demands that respect. Tony Sr. is possibly more intimidating than my father.”

REALLY? “Yeah.”

WHY? “Hell if I know I mean he just is. You don’t really go into it, you just know it. He was the same way as my dad in that respect, his ability to intimidate and motivate. He gets guys to team up with him and get on his side, rally with him. He’s a great leader. I’m fortunate as hell to have him on my side working at JR Motorsports. We’re a much better team with him.

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