Earnhardt, Jr., Talks The Chase, His Championship Favorites & Football
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, took time out of his busy schedule to visit with the NASCAR Race Hub this evening.
|Slowed now that NASCAR banned his trick rear suspension on his Hendrick Racing car|
The North Carolina resident joined host Steve Byrnes and talked about his Chase prospects, the way his team is coming together and his love of football. Earnhardt, Jr., also talked about his early championship favorites, and how he is striving to be among them come season’s end.
Here is what he had to say…
Steve Byrnes: How do you feel after two races?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I feel like we need to be more competitive than we’ve been, but we aren’t out of it by any means. We have a lot of racing left, but we were definitely a little disappointed by the race this past weekend in New Hampshire, that we weren’t more competitive. I do like the race track and felt like that I could have went in there and run in the top ten pretty easily. But we just never had the car doing the things we needed it to do in the middle of the corner and kind of suffered all day. We’re going to Dover, which has been kind of a tough race track for me; we did have a good run this year, earlier in the season, so we’re going in there with good confidence that we can rebound. Again, there’s a lot of racing left. Keep working hard and trying to give ourselves every opportunity we can to improve.
Byrnes: I think it’s kind of odd that people ask you if there are certain races you need to circle. This time of year, you have to circle all of them. Wouldn’t you agree? Dover is as important as Talladega, as Martinsville.
Earnhardt, Jr.: Yes, somebody asked me at the start of The Chase which race that I thought would stand out, and I said that Chicago, the first one. You want to go into that race and make a statement. You have to have good finishes every week. You don’t win one of these races and get it done; you have to have great runs every week, as every one is going to matter when it comes down to it. Hopefully, we can get through a couple of obstacles like Talladega and places like that. But I feel like we can be strong every race. We’ve been pretty consistent throughout the year, at a variety of different race tracks, and we feel like all these race tracks are good for me in The Chase. We want to be strong at all of them.
Byrnes: Do you think, after two races, that we’re already seeing a personality evolve? In so far as, who the major players are going to be?
Earnhardt, Jr.: I think so. I felt pretty strong about Denny (Hamlin) being pretty competitive with his crew chief Darian’s (Grubb) experience from last year. I think that really boosts that team and gives them a strong opportunity. You know the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) is going to be strong; they are a great organization and a great group of guys. They work seamlessly week in and week out. Brad (Keselowski) is not a surprise to me. He’s been competitive and had good finishes as well. That team is really hungry, and they are a strong team. When he works, he puts in the effort, and that team is consistent because Brad’s effort and he lives, breathes and sleeps racing. He’s always trying to think about that car, and always wanting to improve it, and how it works. Those three guys right there seem to be the favorites going in to Dover and throughout the rest of The Chase. I wouldn’t be surprised, of the three, that all three aren’t battling for the championship at the end. We want to be in that conversation. We want to be part of that as well, and we’re going to have to step it up over these next four or five weeks to give ourselves that opportunity.
Byrnes: It seems like you and that entire 88 team have confidence almost the entire year. Is that something that helps moving forward, even if you didn’t have a good day?
Earnhardt, Jr.: Yes, I think we’ve run strong all year, and you’re not going to run… the car is not going to do everything you want it to do every single week. There’s going to be weekends where, for whatever reason, the car just doesn’t drive like you want it to, and you just aren’t able to run as competitive as you want. You have to get past that. This past weekend in New Hampshire wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been, and we sacrificed a couple of points. But we feel we salvaged a decent finish and can move forward and still feel like we’re in the hunt. We’re one race away from being right in the mix. That’s the way we have to treat it.
Byrnes: How do you watch the Washington Redskins when you are busy on Sundays? Do you DVR the games and watch them back?
Earnhardt, Jr.: I typically don’t, but I normally just read all the articles. I have an RSS feed that gives me tons of information about the Skins, and I just kind of read up on everybody’s take and opinion on the game, and on how the team played. Mainly, I’ve been reading a lot about injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s been kind of tough to stomach because the team was really expected to have a solid season. They have their backs against the wall defensively with some holes to fill.
Byrnes: Who’s been your huge performer in fantasy football?
Earnhardt, Jr.: I have three teams. I’m 2-1 in two leagues, and 1-2 in the other. Jamaal Charles was great this weekend. I have him and he had an awesome week. I don’t really have an (consistent performers) for me just yet, but I do have a variety of different guys. I have (Martellus) Bennett, who’s the tight end for the Giants, who’s been pretty nice. He’s been a nice surprise all three weeks this season.