Team Chevy Racing News |
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed his outlook on the second half of the 2012 season, the difficulties of getting around New Hampshire Motor Speedway and other topics.
QUESTION: Going into the second half of the season, talk a little bit about being here at New Hampshire this weekend.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: “I just like racing here. I always run really well here and we had the good fortune of tire testing with Goodyear a couple of months ago and that went really well. We were happy with the way that went. I’ve just been looking forward to coming here for the race. Like I said we have had some really good cars here and I feel like this is one of my better tracks. I just hope to eventually get to victory lane one day. This weekend is as good as any.”
Q: A lot of people struggle with this track. Why do you think this is one of your better tracks? What is it that you like about this track?
DEJ: “It kind of lends itself to the short track mentality and the style of racing is a bit like you find at short tracks. I enjoy racing at short tracks, have a great track record at all the short tracks we run at. I kind of feel like that’s a bit in my wheel house and this place short of fits toward that.”
Q: You are wearing the National Guard colors today; I wanted to get your reaction to when you heard that the Army was pulling out of car sponsorship for next year and your thoughts on that?
DEJ: “I was disappointed to hear about that. They have been a part of the sport for a very long time. It’s just unfortunate, but I feel like that our program is really productive. Apparently, they don’t feel like there’s was productive, but I feel like ours is successful and marketing in any business is hard work. I feel like we do a good job of it, always have. I feel pretty good about the relationship I have with the (National) Guard, but it was just disappointing when any company or big entity like that leaves the sport entirely.”
Q: During the Chase era, four times the champion has won one of the two races here. Would winning a race here kind of stamp you more as a contender? Does it mean more because this track is so difficult and so unique compared to the rest of the tracks?
DEJ: “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, it is different. It’s not really a short track and it’s not your typical mile and a half. Yeah, it’s different and it’s fun. The race here, I think, is the perfect length and just everything about it is enjoyable. Coming to a race track that is not like every other track you run on and the race is a bit short so there is urgency all the time, which is fun. There is excitement all the time inside the cockpit which is fun. Every lap and every car you are around is important because the race is so short. You have to race really hard all day long because every position, even in the first hundred laps, is the one you might not get back in the next two hundred laps. It just goes by so quick so you can’t really be too patient you kind of have to work every lap. You wouldn’t think the corners are very fun because they are so flat and basic, but for whatever reason how the seams and how the groove lines up and where you run kind of moves around and changes a little bit. It’s a bit of a drivers race track in that regard, where if the cars not really turning you can use the apron a little bit in and off the corner. There is a seam above the groove that is just a foot above the groove that you don’t want to have nothing to do with because the car just takes off and pushes really bad if you get the right-front into that. You’ve got to be mindful every lap to run into the corner as hard as you can, but just not so hard that you get into that seam there and lose the nose. It’s a driver’s race track and I just really enjoy it. I really enjoy running here, always have.”
Q: Matt Kenseth was in here earlier and said he would be shocked if NASCAR didn't have a rock solid case before suspending a driver. I was just wondering how you feel about that and your reaction to A.J.'s (Allmendinger) situation?
DEJ: “I think that is what I tell myself to make myself not as nervous about it. Anytime somebody gets in trouble regardless of what it is when you don’t know the true identity of the crime or don’t have a real understanding of the chain of events, everybody gets curious, nervous whatever. I’m certain that as big and structured an organization as NASCAR is and the agency they have that works with them on their drug program, they can’t make any mistakes. They can’t afford to make any mistakes. I assume, although I don’t have any answers or don’t know anything about this particular incident. I have to believe that they are making the right calls and the right choices and there is a reason to make the call they made. Even though you don’t get what you want in terms of details you have to believe that the program is true and it’s definitely a good thing to have. You just have to believe in it that they are doing what’s right and they aren’t making any mistakes. I mean they can’t afford to so you just have to assume the best.”
Q: When you get to Indianapolis, such an iconic place, and even optimistically the place might only be half full. Do you notice that? Do you care as a race car driver on race weekend if that is the case?
DEJ: “You care that the grandstands aren’t full. You want full grandstands everywhere you go. I’m not sure I personally particularly take notice each weekend or at a place like Indy where I wouldn’t particularly take note of where the fans are and how many are there. I don’t know Indianapolis well enough to really notice what a full Indianapolis looks like versus what we will see when we go there, but I do recognize things like when we go to Daytona. I remember one particular even in July where the race fans were upset about the race ending under caution and they littered the back straightaway with seat cushions. Then when we ran there this past weekend there wasn’t anybody in the back grandstands. You notice things like that.”
Q: Given the record heat we have seen across most of the country, is it sometimes amazing that people will sit in these metal grandstands at race tracks given how hot is has been?
DEJ: “Yeah, when I was younger before I was driving I would sneak out of the condos at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and get into the grandstands and watch from the grandstands. That is about all the experience I have of watching a race from that point of view. You definitely have to use precaution as far as hydrating and drinking plenty of water and wearing enough sunscreen at some of these places.”
Q: You talked about being curious and nervous because of maybe a lack of details so far in the A.J. (Allmendinger) situation. Do you do anything? Do you ask NASCAR questions or do you ask them about that situation or about anything that you might be taking or do you just stay curious, nervous, hoping nothing happens to you?
DEJ: “I go ask questions. If you are curious about anything I think the policy to be able to go up in that hauler and ask anybody what you want to know is been always pretty good for me. I’ve never been turned away, never felt like I didn’t get an honest answer or feel better when I walked out of there. I mean everybody is just kind of nervous about not knowing nothing. Everybody is curious about it and nervous I guess, I don’t know.”
Q: Are you nervous because you are worried about something happening to you when you get tested or are you nervous about wondering what is going on with other drivers?
DEJ: “Not really either one. I’m more nervous about it being a mistake or the agency making a mistake and it being a big problem for the sport. Just knowing all the guys that I race against, I wouldn’t have never guessed. I don’t look at anybody in the sport and have any worries about them or any curiosities about anybody’s activities away from the race track. Everybody to me looks up and up. I feel rock solid about myself too. It’s just you don’t want; you just don’t know how that could happen. It’s just hard to wrap your head around anybody making a mistake or a driver making a mistake or the agency making a mistake, you just don’t know. It’s hard to wrap your head around it.”
Q: Here you are sitting in the standings second with eight races to go before the start of the Chase. How do you feel about your position right now as opposed to the other times when you have been contending for a Chase spot? Second part, you had Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne, two teammates, go out and do a sprint triathlon after Daytona. Did they try to convince you to come join them?
DEJ: “No, I mean I think Jimmie (Johnson) knows better than to waste too much time on that (laughs). I feel pretty good about our position in the Chase right now or position to make the Chase. I feel pretty good, I feel like we can get more comfortable with these races and what to do and taking some risks. We have been the team that has kind of played it really careful in a lot of these races. Using Pocono as an example where everybody stayed out and we came in to make sure we could make it on fuel. It was obvious by the end of the race everybody was fine. I think in the position we are in now, I know it’s just a few weeks later, but we feel better about our position to make the Chase. If we are in that situation again we can gamble. I like that. Hopefully, we can win some more races doing that. We have had a great year, I feel awesome to be in second in points. I feel like we have made a good statement on how strong we are as a team. We just want to keep preparing for the Chase. We are not ready for the Chase, we want to learn more, know more, feel more prepared and do everything we can in the next couple of months to be ready. We feel like we have a solid idea and a solid foundation as a team to do well and try to win the championship.”
Q: Is it a time of the year to try and gamble on certain things or do you want to just continue just to be consistent?
DEJ: “No, I think we can now. I think we feel with the lead we have on 11th-place in the points and the amount of races left, I feel like we can. We aren’t going to gamble foolishly, but we can go the opposite route that we went at Pocono the past race. We can do what everybody else did and maybe try to win that race instead of making sure we had enough gas to finish in eighth. We could try to win that race. I like what we did up to this point and maybe now we can take some gambles.”
Q: How much different does it feel now from a year ago? This was the time of year last year where you kind of slid from third down to 10th in points. How does it feel versus a year ago, and even two years ago?
DEJ: “The summer feels a whole lot better because like you said we are having some good runs and we had some bad luck last week. I never know what I’m going to do when I go to Sonoma so we just kind of look at the other races Pocono and Michigan and coming here. Last year we struggled a little bit through the summer and this year we are doing better. We feel good about it. I think is has a lot to do with the team getting a lot better, Steve (Letarte, crew chief) getting a lot better. Me and his relationship in particular getting a lot better, us understanding the set-up’s and the patterns that we are seeing and the things that I like and what I’ve ran well with and having sort of understanding what to put under the car. We show up to the race track fast, instead of having to sort of dial it in when we get here. We show up really close. The team is just doing great. I’ve been in this sport and had teams at times where everybody is just getting it and everything is working and the cars show up ready and fast and that is happening for us. I just hope we can keep it going. These things sort of cycle around and teams come and go as far as their strengths but hopefully we can keep this going longer than just this year. I think we’ve got a good thing going on and we just going to keep together and see how long we can keep it going.”