Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD / AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Jay Leno, Mark Martin, racing at Daytona in July, on Randy Moss joining the sport of NASCAR, the Montoya/Kyle Busch incident at Loudon, the performance of the new race cars, 4th of July holiday and more.
Q: Talk about Jay Leno. You've been on a show the couple times, right?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. You know, Jay Leno's a car guy. Got quite a collection. Maybe a more elaborate collection of cars in the United States. You know, I admire his passion for automobiles. Being on the show's fun.
Q: Did you enjoy doing that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, sure. Being on the show's been fun because he's a car guy. You feel more comfortable with him. And, I don't know, just a real neat guy. Very gracious as a host. Takes care -- he knows that that's pretty far from your territory and he makes you feel pretty comfortable.
Q: (Question regarding Mark Martin.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: They haven't announced anything yet. Mark's a great racecar driver. He's done a great job driving the No. 8 car this year. He's a veteran that all the guys look up to. He's a great tutor for the sport, for young guys. I think that anybody that gets a chance to work with him can learn a lot.
Q: (Question regarding retirement and keeping going.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: A lot of different reasons. You know, it's really hard to put it down, I suppose. As tough as the schedule is, it's pretty hard to just stop and not do nothing or do something else, I suppose.
Q: (Question regarding Daytona in July.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I've been coming down here since it was the Firecracker 400. This was the biggest weekend of the year for me when I was a kid. The summer is what you looked forward to. This was the best part of the summer.
It's a great area with the beach and the restaurants, and the racetrack itself has a lot of history. You know, to me it's a little bit funner than the Speedweeks. This is definitely the weekend that I look forward to the most on the whole circuit.
I just met Randy Moss. He's getting ready to announce some kind of a deal going on. So that was kind of cool. You know, just like the 500, you get celebrities and such coming down here for this race. Daytona's always entertained a lot of good celebrities. And it's fun for the drivers, and everyone else for that matter, to interact with them.
Q: (Question about Casey Mears)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm sure that when Rick hired Casey, he would have hoped that that would have been a fruitful deal and it worked out. I'm sure Casey wished it would have worked out.
Q: What do you feel you have to do this week with the rain, what adjustments do you have to make this week?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's tough here. It's hard to tell really what the rain does to the racetrack. But, you know, it should be fine. It shouldn't be too big of a deal. It doesn't really affect you as much here as it does other places.
Q: What do you think draws a guy like Moss into this sport?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. I'd like to ask him that question. I guess he's got some interest in racing and probably got some rather unique investment advice. So, you know, it's interesting. We'll all get to learn that, I guess, over the next day or so. I'm excited about that. You've seen a lot of people from football especially, but other areas, you know, owners of sporting franchises, come into the series. It's pretty neat. I think it's great for us to have a guy like Randy Moss interested in being involved in the sport and getting in as deep as he is. So that's pretty cool for me. I'm really excited about that.
Q: Last weekend Jamie McMurray said it was cool you called him within 20 minutes of what happened. We were all scared for you. That was a bad accident, hard hit. Is there anything that could be done differently?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I just wondered -- me and Jamie are good friends. You know, if you don't call him, he probably thinks you're mad at him or whatever. But I ran into Tony Stewart a couple years ago in the same situation. And it's just tough getting onto pit road there. I was trying to get off the racetrack as fast as I could, to get out of those guys' way. But, you know, you can't speed on the pit road. It's just a difficult situation.
I waved down the back straightaway. I couldn't wave through three and four. There's no way he could have seen me waving on the back straightaway being as far behind me as he was. But I weaved down to the apron on the back straightaway, too, which is kind of common. If you want guys that are a hundred yards or further behind to see, that's sort of international move, let people know you're coming in. They're expecting pit stops around that time anyway. If a guy drives the apron on the back straightaway, you definitely notice it and understand what's going on. Just unfortunate.
But, you know, in certain cases like that, you know, it's good to clear it up as soon as you can.
Q: How do you evaluate how has DEI moved on since you left?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Seems they're doing really good. They fielded four race teams rather competitively. You know, Paul has really improved his ability to be more competitive each week. If you really look at where he was last year, I think he's improved quite a bit. Mark's done a great job helping the No. 8 team remain competitive. They're a great group of guys and deserve an opportunity to run good. And it was great of Mark to get in that car and give them that opportunity. I think Eric is going to do a good job. He's a good kid with a lot of attitude and a lot of heart. Really, you know, he's a good student of the sport. He really etches out things that's happening to him and tries to understand them. And, you know, Martin Truex was an awesome teammate; he was a great friend. If there's, you know -- I miss being teammates with Martin pretty bad. But, you know, he's a great racecar driver and you can put him in any one of those four cars and he's gonna help carry that company, you know, just like Mark is helping doing that.
So I feel like they've done a lot with really -- they've done a lot with a lot less, in my opinion.
Q: What was your reaction to Montoya's retaliation to Busch?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was really surprised. I hadn't seen that since East Carolina Motor Speedway in '94. You rarely see guys wrecking each other under caution. Juan is a real firecracker man. He's a good guy, but you just don't push his buttons. You got to respect him on the racetrack. And he has to sort of have that sort of mentality coming from Formula One. He definitely doesn't want to get pushed around. He's not having the best season. You know, obviously not very happy with how his car's running up to this point. So he's got an even shorter fuse due to that.
Q: How do you catch Busch?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: How do I catch Busch? You just try to run as good as you can. You don't wish anybody to have any misfortune. Hopefully we can beat him on the racetrack week after week.
But, you know, he's having a great season. He's got a lot of points ahead of everybody and doesn't seem to be really faltering much. You know, he had a little bit of a struggle last week. But I don't expect to see too much more of that out of that whole team up until the Chase starts. Hopefully by that time, we'll have all our ducks in a row and be ready to give him a good run for it.
Q: Are you a superstitious guy?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Just the standard stuff. You know, when a black cat crosses the road in front of you or walking under ladders, things like that.
Q: Do you abide by any of the racing superstitions?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, huh-uh.
Q: How confident are you in your COT program?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm real happy. I landed a hell of a good job with a good company. Got a good program, great crew chief, really innovative. He's got other great crew chiefs around him to work with, learn and feed off of. We're just trying to be a really -- you know, just trying to be a sponge the whole time, learning as much as we can from the other teams in our organization. I feel fortunate, really fortunate.
Q: There's only a couple tracks you're going to go to the second half of the season you haven't been to yet with this car, Indy being one of them. Are there any concerns with those tracks?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I tested at Indy for Goodyear. That give me a good idea of how the car's gonna drive, things about the car I need to work on to help it. So we got a little leg up on the rest of the guys. So hopefully that will help us
Q: Independence Day is tomorrow. What do you have to say for our National Guardsmen out there?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: All the National Guardsmen and all our sailors in the Navy, you know, this is -- July 4th kind of snuck up on everybody. It's kind of hard to believe it's the middle of the season. But, you know, we're trying to do our best job to represent both those branches of the military, you know, at the racetrack. So we're trying to work hard, represent 'em well, make 'em proud.
Q: Do you think drivers today have to have more skills today than the drivers of yesterday?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I don't think so. I think the cars, from the '70s and even before that, were more difficult to drive, for sure, more challenging to drive. So I think it took quite a unique person to be able to make that work, so... I would say that David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, those guys would be able to give us one hell of a run for our money today, and we would find it quite a challenge to keep up with 'em back in the '60s and '70s if they were to put us in those cars.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working with Mark and can he help you again as a teammate?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Mark, in his history, especially of recent times, Mark's really taken on that role of being -- he's very gracious, you know. He wants to help. He wants to be an asset. He wants -- whatever he's got within arm's reach, he wants to have a positive effect on it, if it's a driver, a team, a crew, a crewman. You know, he just has a good work ethic to him.
I think him and Jeff Burton are very similar. You know what Jeff did for RCR. You know how hard Jeff works for RCR. The guy's on the racetrack every minute of the day, if he can be. Regardless of whether Mark went to a partial schedule, but he still has that same work ethic. You know, he's just very gracious. You know, if he can help you, he's there. He really, really goes out of his way to try to add something to the whole puzzle, he really does. GM Racing