Q & A with Coke Zero 400 pole winner

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins pole by default
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins pole by default

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE STARS AND STRIPES CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER AS A RESULT OF RAIN CANCELING QUALIFYING FOR THE COKE ZERO 400 AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY.

EARNHARDT, JR. WAS FASTEST IN THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION YESTERDAY AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY AND AS A RESULT WILL START FROM THE POLE POSITION IN THE 160-LAP/400-MILE COKE ZERO 400.

WHEN YOU GO OUT IN THAT FIRST PRACTICE SESSION KNOWING THAT IS GOING TO SET THE LINE-UP FOR THE FIELD IF THE WEATHER TURNS SOUTH. DO YOU PUT ANY EXTRA EFFORT OUT THERE TO PUT UP THAT BIG NUMBER?
“I asked Greg (Ives, crew chief) before we went out to practice what we were trying to accomplish in that first practice and that was the first thing he mentioned was to go out that first run and try to put a lap down because the weather wasn’t looking real good for today. That was his decision. It ended up working out for us."

YOU ARE ONE OF A HANDFUL OF DRIVERS WHO HAVE RACED AT DARLINGTON ON LABOR DAY 500 AND WHEN THAT RACE WAS RUN IN APRIL/MAY. IS THERE AN APPRECIABLE DIFFERENCE IN THE ATMOSPHERES OF THOSE TWO WEEKENDS?
“I don’t think that I’m old enough to tell a difference. I imagine that is a question that a guy like David Pearson or Cale Yarborough could answer, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, guys like that. I don’t think I’m old enough to really feel like a big difference. Every time I’ve ever been to Darlington it’s always kind of felt the same."

DOES IT MAKE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE WHERE YOU START? DO YOU LIKE STARTING IN THE FRONT? DOES IT MATTER?
“When the pole locks you into the Busch Clash it’s pretty damn cool. I wish that was the way we still kind of got elected or locked into the Sprint Unlimited. It really was a much more prestigious race when that was the way you got it. It made the pole a bit more prestigious and sought after as well. I think that the pit selection here is very important. That will be great to have that first stall because if we had a shot to win this race we are going to need to be up on the front row towards those last couple of restarts. Obviously, I think that leading the race at the end is the best place to be. That pit selection will give us an opportunity to be more competitive on pit road trying to get that sought after position coming off pit road that final stop."

YOU GUYS HAD ANOTHER MEETING OF THE DRIVER’S COUNCIL TODAY. CAN YOU GIVE US ANY INSIGHT ON WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT AND MAYBE WHAT YOU FEEL GOOD AND OR BAD ABOUT?
“I felt great about all of it actually. The meetings that we have had with them have been really good, real productive. They talked about the direction they wanted to go a little bit. We talked a little bit about tires, a little bit about the changing they are going to make. What they want to do with this low downforce package in the future and what they want to do at some other racetracks as well. I will let them decide when they want to give everybody that information, but the meetings have been great. NASCAR has to meet with everybody so often and we just kind of get in there and get the information they are getting from Goodyear in the meetings that they have with them. They are meeting with the owners often, all the drivers. They are busy folks and they’ve got a lot going on. We are trying to make some good changes and I’m looking forward to seeing how this works. Whether it works or not isn’t really the question I think the opportunity to even try it is pretty cool. I’m not expecting Kentucky to reveal a lot of obvious answers on the direction we need to go. We are going with a low downforce package that the drivers want, but we are not really able to get the tire we want, the softer tire to really fit with that or work with that. The tire is a bit better, but not quite enough. I think that is understood amongst NASCAR, ourselves and Goodyear. The Kentucky weekend won’t be a weekend we take a ton of stock in as far as what this package is really going to be able to lend us and if it would work somewhere else. I think we will get the opportunity to learn more before the Chase and hopefully understand exactly what direction we need to go in 2016. It’s all good. The meetings have been good, productive. Everybody is well mannered and it’s going good. It’s a good thing for NASCAR I think to be able to even have the communication going on."

INAUDIBLE:
“We discussed in the meeting today that there would be no decision on a unique package other than what we have ran this year in the Chase. I will be at that Chicago test. I think it’s a great idea to go there and take whatever package they would like to try. Because it’s a great opportunity to be there, we will be there three full days. We will need some stuff to do. I think to try the low downforce package there is just a great opportunity and I don’t think that it really would insinuate they expect to try to use that package in the Chase race. From what I heard today in our discussion, NASCAR was apprehensive really to use any other package then what we have had all year in the Chase. They would work with the teams and the drivers before making that type of decision. We will go through and see what happens up until the Chase with these different packages they want to try and then maybe come to a decision to change something in the Chase. But until then nothing in the Chase is really going to change as far as I’ve been told. I feel comfortable about that. If they did want to change something I’m fine with that. We are supposed to adapt. We are supposed to conform to whatever decisions, rules and changes they want to make. If they feel like it’s a change that is going to help the sport we need to adapt to it.

“As an owner I don’t think we are going to get into a situation where we are taking different cars to go with a certain package. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that, but every time you change a rule no matter how small we are going to try to engineer it to death and spend money trying to learn how that can be an advantage of some sort. We have a budget in the XFINITY Series; I’m speaking for JR Motorsports only. We have a budget we work within that budget, we don’t go over it. Where we fall in competition is where we fall."

I SEE YOU WENT TO THE ISC (INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY CORPORATION) ARCHIVES AND I AM WONDERING WHAT YOU THOUGHT WAS INTERESTING THAT YOU SAW:

“One of the things I saw was an old bench from the garage before we had the pull around wagons with all the tools and stuff. You would have a couple of guys carrying your tool box by hand in there and set it up on top of this bench. Those benches are about as long as this table (points at media center interview desk) and they ran through the entire center of the garage and you could basically work and talk right across from the stall of the guy next to you. You could see all the way through the garage through everybody pretty much. The whole leading edge of these benches are all made of wood and the leading edge had all these holes in it where people were drilling holes by making a quick bracket or something. They would just hold it with a vice grip and just drill right into the wood. This was really a piece of the past and having spent a lot of time nosing around the garages, I found that to be interesting to me. Apparently when they came in here to take the garages apart to build the enclosed garage they were tearing those apart and destroying them. Somebody saw that happening and they stopped the crew from doing that and saved about three of those benches. I thought that was cool as hell as a grease monkey kind of guy. Thought that was pretty neat.

“The other part of it that was really overwhelming was the film room. I collect vintage races, old races from the 70s, 60s, 50s and just any footage I can get my hands on. Most of the things that I deal with is anything that was produced and is out there in the trading circles of Yahoo groups and whatever. Lot of stuff that I saw in this room is raw footage that is not produced and not available. It’s one-of-a-kind stuff that only NASCAR has. He said it was all digitized and in Charlotte somewhere so I am going to figure out where the hell that room is. I would like to have all the footage I could get of particular races like dad’s first win at Bristol. I have seen raw footage of that and have seen it in highlights and whatnot on TV, so I know it exists. I don’t own any of it, so it would be cool to have that or whatever I can get my hands on."

REGARDING RACING IN FRONT OF A SKELETON OF THE GRANDSTANDS AND HOW THAT MIGHT LOOK FROM THE TRACK UNDER THE LIGHTS AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON REMOVING GRASS FROM ALL TRACKS INCLUDING THE TRI-OVAL HERE AT DAYTONA :

“Yeah, I think it has been mentioned by several drivers. I don’t know about getting rid of the grass, I think we should get rid of the splitter on the car that digs into the grass. You get rid of the splitter, you save yourself a lot of trouble.

“I really wasn’t prepared to see what I saw when I pulled in here I guess Thursday. My head exploded when I saw all those seats that weren’t there. So I wasn’t ready for that. I guess this was a longer project than was I was led to believe and when it is done it will be an amazing, incredible thing but for now it will be weird. Especially right there at the flag stand, there is nothing. It will be odd but I guess it’s what you pay to get to where we want to be and for Daytona to build the facility they want to build and to give the fans the experience they want. It is just going to take some time and we just have to get through this weekend. I am sure NBC is going to do some camera magic where you’ll never see it but when I pulled in here I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in that they were going to have a race here with no fans."

Leave a Reply