Q and A with Dale Earnhardt in Sonoma

Dale Jr.
Dale Jr.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 MICROSOFT WINDOWS 10 CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the new partnership with Microsoft and Windows 10, his engagement to Amy Reimann during their trip to Germany, his relationship with Jeff Gordon, the new rules package for the upcoming race in Kentucky, road course racing, and more.

YOU HAVE A TREMENDOUS PARTNERSHIP NOW WITH MICROSOFT AND WINDOWS 10

“Yeah, I’m excited about this relationship. It’s awesome that a company like Microsoft has gotten involved in our sport. And they’ve been sort of easing their way into it and this is a great step in that direction to have them on the side of the car. It’s a great partnership for Hendrick Motorsports because we use so many programs and so much software to try to understand what these cars are doing and try to get that information from the race car and try to understand it, is really a challenge.

“A lot of these race teams develop STEM programs on their own. To be able to partner with Windows and have them understand the programs help us sort of grow the programs and develop programs. Just like the STEM program has to get better, just like the equipment does.

“So it’s a great partnership for us to be able to work directly with Microsoft. Windows 10 is a new platform and they are giving away free upgrades. You can sign-up for that now. So, we’re really excited about the partnership and I think that if we can work with those guys one-on-one to improve our software and our programs and understand what we’re doing with the cars, it’s going to have a great impact on our performance on the race track and help all our engineers back home to improve on our programs and just make our company stronger."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF GORDON? HAVE YOU LEARNED A LOT FROM HIM? HE’S THE BEST HERE AT SONOMA, AND THE STATS DON’T LIE ABOUT THAT.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]“Oh, yeah. We got it done right, once. This place is a lot of fun, but you have to temper your expectations because anything can happen. It gets really aggressive there at the end of the race. We’ve had a lot of good finishes that have ended because of either my mistakes or we get run over by some other guys or just getting into somebody else’s mess or creating our own mess. A lot of things happen at the end of the race where it gets just really aggressive and you can basically just run over everybody if you want to. And, a lot of guys do. And I’ve done it myself.

“So, you’ve got to temper your expectations when it comes to results. We’ve had some good cars here. I remember with the Bud car, we’ve run up front and led some laps here before; we’ve had some pretty decent days here; just not really the finishes that reflect as good as the cars were a lot of times. Last year we were real smart with our tires and put ourselves in good position to beat a lot of guys that tried to make their tires stretch a little further than they probably should have. That enabled us to drive up through there near the end of the race. But it was fun. I expect that we’re a better team. We’ve brought a better car and we’ll see what happens. We’ll get out there and try to enjoy the day and try to make good decisions and try to minimize the mistakes on the race track because there are so many opportunities with all these turns and all the shifting and braking to make mistakes.

“But, I don’t know that I’ve learned a ton from Jeff at this particular race track. But you definitely look at what your teammates are doing. We have the information to understand how they’re shifting and what they’re doing and if you’ve got any questions, Jeff is going to be open and honest about everything to try to help you. He enjoys helping his teammates and I expect him to lend a hand if we needed it."

YOU ARE NOW ENGAGED. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLANNING TO DO THAT? WERE YOU NERVOUS LEADING UP TO IT? WHY DID YOU PICK THE SPOT YOU PICKED?

“I’ve been planning on it for several months. I was hoping for years that Amy (Reimann) and I would get married and it just seemed like over this last year, it made more sense to me and that the timing was right. And I picked that particular spot just because I wanted her to feel special. We talked about this trip for a while. I told her about this trip and we talked about it for two or three years and had done a ton of work on the genealogy stuff to understand what we were doing and making sure we were doing the right thing and going the right places. So, she kind of knew how important the trip was. I think to do it at that particular time, at that moment while we were in that church, may make that moment more memorable for her. And I thought it was just a great place to do it. I thought about it. Every other spot that I could think of just didn’t measure up, you know? It just wasn’t good enough or special enough for her."

WAS SHE SURPRISED?

“Yeah, she was blown away! She certainly didn’t have an idea that that was going to happen, I don’t think."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW RULES PACKAGE CHANGES COMING UP AT KENTUCKY AND MAYBE AT SOME MORE TRACKS DOWN THE ROAD? DO YOU THINK THE NEW DRIVER’S COUNCIL HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THAT?

‘I think the Driver’s Council definitely can be a small assist to NASCAR in making those types of decisions, but I think NASCAR made that decision based on a lot of factors. And obviously, they have a great opportunity to learn and to try something different without a huge penalty, I supposed, to anybody. I think the drivers are definitely open to trying something, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it works. It’s a unique venue. It’s a tough track; so I think it’s going to be a challenge to really see what the package is doing what you expect to see anyways at Kentucky. I don’t know that the racing is going to look a lot different just because the track is so rough and slick. So any package is going to kind of look similar. But I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. We’re going to be there for a couple of days practicing. They’re giving us a lot of ample time to practice and learn and understand how to adjust our cars to that package. So, I’m happy about the decisions they made and look forward to it."

WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT YOUR CREW CHIEF SAID YOU’RE GOING TO DRINK THE WINE IN VICTORY LANE HERE? HE’S CONFIDENT AT THIS TRACK. YOUR PERSONAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GERMANY RECEIVED SO MUCH POSITIVE RESPONSE. EVERYONE WAS SO HAPPY AND YOUR FANS WERE SO HAPPY

“I’m glad that you all (the media) don’t get an opportunity to get a hold of him (Greg Ives) too often because he would say all kinds of crazy things once you get to know him better (laughter). So, I wasn’t surprised. I was just surprised that he was in front of a reporter, more than anything (laughter) because he pretty much sticks to working and doesn’t really seek out opportunities to be interviewed.

“Yeah, the positive reaction to our getting engaged has been great. I didn’t anticipate or think about that, or have a vision of what that would be like. I just didn’t even think about that end of it. But it was great to hear. The comments that were the best were the ones where people were complimenting Amy and what she’s done for me. People that are close to me and have seen the change or seen the impact she’s had on my life; it’s good to hear those kinds of things. People don’t really come out and say those things just out of the blue, so it was great to hear all those compliments because I feel the same way."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]WHAT LED YOU TO THE CONCLUSION THAT NOW WAS THE RIGHT TIME TO PROPOSE? WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE STATEMENT NASCAR ISSUED THIS WEEK ON THE CONFEDERATE FLAG?

“I’ve made my comments on the Confederate Flag several times and I stand behind NASCAR’s stance to remove it. I think it is offensive to an entire race. It really does nothing for anybody to be there, flying. It belongs in the history books and that’s about it.

“The decision to ask Amy to marry me; you just feel like you know when it’s the right time, you know? And so I’ve been thinking about it a long, long time. I’ve been wanting to do it and just needed the right place to do it. Everything seemed just perfect for that to happen that day."

ALL FOUR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TEAMS ARE IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS, RIGHT NOW. WHAT’S THE STATE OF THE TEAM COMING INTO THE FIRST ROAD RACE?

“I don’t know. I think that I feel like everybody’s had a week to re-charge and get excited about the rest of the year. You’ve got a lot of races coming up. There’s no testing, so we haven’t been doing the typical road course testing that we do. I feel like that Jeff (Gordon) comes in here with a lot of confidence. Jimmie (Johnson) typically comes in here with confidence, as well. I come in here just to have a good time and see what happens. I don’t know about Kasey (Kahne). We didn’t really talk about it much. But, Greg (Ives, crew chief) is excited and pumped-up and ready to get back to work. I image all the guys on the teams are also equally excited and ready to get back to work, regardless of what track you’re at. So, just to be racing and doing something at the track is fun. The break was good. The trip was good. But, it’s good to be back doing what you’re used to doing and being at the track and driving cars and working on them."

WHAT HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEEN LIKE WITH JEFF GORDON? HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN CORDIAL BETWEEN YOU AND HIM?
“Yeah, I have always had a good relationship with him. We’ve maybe had a few small disagreements on the racetrack, but nothing that is memorable. We have always got along. I always respected him because he and Dad had a pretty good relationship and they did some business together. I figured it Dad thought he was worth doing business together he must have thought he was a pretty good guy. I always had a lot of respect for him. I knew he was a great racecar driver and pretty smart outside the car too. Just knowing some of the things he does on the business end of things today and in the past it’s pretty impressive. It will be fun to see how he handles retirement and how he is in the booth. I think he’s going to do a good job as far as that goes. I think he also wants to continue to be an influence and a big part of Hendrick Motorsports. It will be good to have his expertise and his mind still kind of plugged in helping us."

DID YOU PROPOSE WAS IT AT A CHURCH THAT YOUR FAMILY HAD BEEN TO? DID EVERYTHING GO EXACTLY AS PLANNED OR WERE THERE ANY HICCUPS?
“My sister was asking me what I was going to say. I told her I didn’t have any idea I was just going to go for it. It didn’t have to be perfect and maybe if it wasn’t perfect that was a good thing. I didn’t want to set it up to where it was cheesy I just wanted it to be natural and impromptu. The town we were in was Illesheim (Germany) and my 10th and 9th grandfather lived there, went to church there and that church is the church that they went to. It’s over 1,000 years old apparently, a very old church. The town is very old. There were 300 people living in it 300 years ago and there are 300 people living in it today. Nothing has really changed. The buildings and everything is very old and traditional, as is a lot of what we saw over there in the areas we spent the most time. We didn’t really go to the bigger cities. We wanted to get more of an older authentic experience. I had known all this stuff doing all this genealogy over the years. But you can only trust what you can read on the internet. Even though it is ancestry.com and they do a great job and have a great service, you still have to see this stuff with your own eyes to believe it. Because we are talking about stuff that is 300 years old and there is a lot of hearsay that can get injected into something like that over that time.

“So we went to the city of Speyer and to the archives and actually held the book that this church used to document handwritten documentation of births, deaths, baptisms. I could sit there and read the individual writings of my 10th grandfather, my ninth grandfather when they were baptized and when they died. I could see it with my own hands and I’m holding the book, the original book. So that made me more confident to make the decision to propose to Amy in that church with that connection to that church. I don’t have a church because we race on Sunday’s. I mean I went to St. Mark’s Lutheran in Mooresville when I was a kid, but I don’t have a church. I’m Lutheran and if I wanted to go to church and I could I would go to St. Mark’s. But I just thought that was a place to do it. I hope that answers your question."

WHAT WAS YOUR 10TH GRANDFATHER’S NAME?
“Hamman Ehrenhart too they changed the spelling in the last name. They chanted it over the years, but year."

YOUR ENGAGEMENT WASN’T THE ONLY OFF WEEK NEWS OUT OF HENDRICK DRIVERS WITH KASEY KAHNE ANNOUNCING THAT HE IS GOING TO BE A DAD IN THE FALL. FOLLOWING THAT FORWARD ARE THEIR PLANS FOR A BABY IN YOUR FUTURE?
“Of course I mean you want to have children. I think the greatest accomplishment in life is to be able to raise a child. That would be awesome. I have felt that way for a long time, but it’s just a timing thing. You have to get married first and find that person that you want to spend the rest of your life with. That is definitely in the future. She wants to have kids and I’ve always kind of wanted to have kids. That is definitely something we will be looking at."

WHAT WAS THE MOMENT THAT STARTED YOUR SUPPORT OF JIMMY MEANS?
“My Dad would take me to the races when I was really young and he introduced me to sons of other drivers. He introduced me to Brad (Means). Me and Brad became friends and would run around in the garage together. I learned through Brad the challenges that Jimmy faced as an independent. Hanging around their hauler and hanging around Dad’s hauler you saw immediately the differences in what they were dealing with and the advantages that my Dad had in his equipment versus Jimmy’s. So, I guess just through that relationship, I got a real appreciation for Jimmy and his dedication even beyond his driving career. To continue to be involved in the sport and try to make a living as an owner fielding cars has been a real inspiration."

ARE THERE ANY STORIES ABOUT YOU GETTING RECOGNIZED WHILE YOU WERE IN GERMANY?
“Nothing crazy happened. I just had one or two people recognize me. For the most part I mean I was in some of the older, very small, towns that are not very touristy areas. So people didn’t know why we were walking around in the street, but they didn’t care. They never probably watched a race. I know they show the races over there, but I don’t know how much coverage they actually have outside the city. But it was great. It was kind of fun to be anonymous. When I went to Illesheim and we explained everything to the folks there I don’t think they knew anything about what we were talking about. I took about 10 postcards and I gave a couple of postcards to the people that were in Illesheim. There are only like two places to stay in rooms and they only have three rooms at each place. So we were talking to the inn keeper where we were at. He was feeding us dinner and I showed him the postcards. I had a guy with me Martin that does our IT at JR Motorsports. He is German. He could sit there and interpret for both of us. We showed him everything on the card and told him all about it. He had never seen anything remotely like a NASCAR Cup car. Trying to get him to understand that I was the driver wasn’t registering. That was kind of refreshing to be honest with you."

DID YOU GET TO DRIVE THE AUTOBAHN?
“Surely."

HOW DID IT GO AND HOW FAST DID YOU DRIVE?
“The Autobahn is basically an interstate. If you are on I-77 you are on the Autobahn. If you are on I-85 you are on the Autobahn. In between the towns the speed limit is unlimited. We were in this van that was kind of boxy so it would only do about 195 kilometers because of the aerodynamic disadvantages. But down the hill I could get it up to 210. It’s 160 mph maybe. I saw 120 kilometer speed limit signs for the most part, between 100 and 120. I don’t know how fast that is. 80 mph. It was good and they are very sharp and smart. Even though you are going that fast and there are guys going faster there is some structure to it. You don’t set in the left lane on the interstate if they have three lanes you pass to the left. You never pass anybody on the right. When you go over to pass a guy you immediately use the turn single and get back in the right lane. Everybody stays on the right you only pull to the left to pass. There is nobody that sits there and rides in the left hand lane. Because there is a guy coming 100 mph coming down the street behind you somewhere faster than you are and you need to be getting out of the way. They don’t like it when they have to slow down."

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