Team Chevy Racing News |
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media today at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a test session to learn more about the 2013 car. He discussed how the test has gone so far, how the car feels, what his expectations are for 2013 and other topics.
QUESTION: Talk about how the test has gone so far and the new Chevrolet SS.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: “Our test is going pretty well so far. The cars drive really well. I know everybody is probably real curious about how we think the racing is going to go. It’s real early in the game, this is the first time I’ve driven the cars at all. I’m really impressed. I really like the balance of the car, the downforce seems to be relatively good. The car has driven well for us today. We will just move through the next couple of days here and keep tuning. Trying things and see what the car likes and doesn’t like. Hopefully, get some more testing in before the season starts so we can continue to understand. A lot of the rules and decisions that NASCAR is going to make on this car, some are finalized, some are not. It’s still a little bit of a moving target for the teams. I’m real encouraged so far.”
Q: Did you get any sense of whether passing is going to be any easier with the new cars? Did you do any dicing out there?
DEJ: “No, we didn’t. We didn’t get a chance to run any cars together or around each other too much. That is kind of what I meant by it being early in the game. It’s just we only run for four hours, just by ourselves. From what I could see nobody else was really in a competitive kind of atmosphere out there with other race cars. I think that the car has really awesome potential. I like it already leaps and bounds beyond the COT or the old car we ran. This car really gives me a lot of sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran four years ago or however long ago it was. It’s still early. I’m trying not to get too excited or form too big of an opinion or too solid of an opinion of the car. We have got a lot of things to learn about it. There are still some rules and things to be finalized and still a lot to learn. I think it’s important for us as the drivers and the teams to try and help NASCAR as much as we can. We are all sort of working toward the same goal this week, trying to put a good show on.”
Q: How does the car feel different? Do you notice the weight distribution differences? The camber differences? The rear suspension differences?
DEJ: “The rear camber is a big deal. I haven’t driven a car today with the old stuff and the new stuff, but I do know that it’s going to provide a ton of grip being able to camber the right-rear tire any more than we had in the past. I know that is a big advantage to adding grip to the car. The body on the car itself I think behaves better aerodynamically. For the most part you still have a splitter and you still have similar geometry and what not. We have a gigantic rear spoiler on the car. You can’t see out of the car very well, but that spoiler is doing a lot. NASCAR seems to think that spoiler is the one that is going to provide the better package for better racing. It definitely gives the car a lot more comfort and it does resemble what we ran many years ago. Those were some pretty good race cars back then. The car really drives down in the corner, turns in the corner and turns off in the corner good. I really don’t miss all the stuff we were moving around in the back of these cars last year, I don’t miss any of that stuff. It did make the cars go faster, but they were a little bit more of a challenge to drive. The sensations that you got going off in the corner crooked weren’t a lot of fun. This is awesome for me personally I kind of like going in the corner with the car going straight, like it’s supposed to. I’m enjoying this.”
Q: Can you compare and contrast the car that you are driving today with the one that you drove in 1999? What kind of advancements have been made since then?
DEJ: “Well, we were talking about the horsepower. There is about 100 to 115 more horsepower under the hood that is a huge difference. That is 10 mph maybe at the end of the straightaway. That changes everything about how a car is going to run a lap when you change the end of the straightaway speed that much. We are running bump stops as opposed to; we weren’t coil binding back then, but as opposed to running a conventional set-up in the front-end. That really changes a lot of things in how the cars drive. Back in 1999 we were just straightening the rockers out. In 1998 and 1999 on the Nationwide cars we had those old rolled under rocker. We didn’t have anywhere near as much side force. We really didn’t have moving the rear bumpers down to a science like we do now and getting the side force and the quarter panels straight on the cars. Just a lot of different stuff, a lot of changes, the tires are tremendously different. Now there is a lot less tread on the tires, we have a lot harder tire, a tougher tire, more durable tire.”
Q: You talk about the feel of the car being more like the old car. Are you saying you never really adjusted to the new (COT) car because you seem to be much better driving the old car? Also, can you give us an update on where you stand with sponsors?
DEJ: “I don’t have any update as far as our sponsorship situation goes. I thought the COT was just frustrating for me. I had good runs and good races in it. I had races where the car drove well and was comfortable, but I never really connected with that car from the very beginning. Just personally I didn’t like the car. I didn’t really appreciate it for what it was. The cars that you see in the garage, you will stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets. It’s great because everything looks different. Everything is recognizable, instantly recognizable. You don’t have to think about the driver and the team itself to associate with a manufacturer. You look at the car and you can see it instantly. That is a great feeling for me. I can appreciate the cars for that fact. I know all you guys probably understand it, but I’m not sure a lot of people realize how important that is having that instant recognition on a manufacturer for our sport. How much healthier our sport can be with that happening. I can of like that when you see a car and you can recognize it instantly. The cars for me the cars feel like they have a ton more downforce, but these are perfect conditions. It’s real cool, the track has a great surface; this is a tough tire that is going to get ahold of it real good. So we are just flying out there and the car feels great. If we got to Texas or Homestead which is worn out and you wear the tires out and start sliding around it may feel a lot more similar to the COT. Today’s feeling good and driving well. I think there is good potential for this. The car looks great; it looks like a race car to me. I can get excited about that. I can get behind that.”
Q: You had a really consistent season in 2012. Are there after effects of all this going into 2013 or do you just start over?
DEJ: “Well, you would like to believe in momentum and things like that. In this sport you can be a hero one week and a zero the next. There is so much competition out there. There are a lot of variables too with the new car, completely new; the sport is going to be revolutionized again with this car. There are a lot of things that are unknowns, but I’m with a great company that sort of does really well under those kinds of circumstances. When there are a lot of unknown variables they are really good at figuring those variables out and figuring out how to be competitive given a certain working space they can kind of figure it out faster than most people. I’m fortunate in that regard. I feel like I can be confident. I can go into next year confident that we are going to put good cars on the track and I’m going to like the way they drive and I’m going to enjoy the races that we have. Again, I think the first 10 races of the season are the most important races as far as making the Chase, putting down a good foundation of points. If you end up after those first 10 races around eighth or ninth or 10th that kind of seems to be where you end up fighting all year long. Just try to stay in the Chase. It’s a real tough mental battle and it wears on the team, it wears on the drivers that are in those positions. It’s nice to get out there and get up front early and stay there. That is our outlook and I think that we are in a good position.”
Q: Is it possible with so few cars to really get the feel of the car and know what it will do racing around others? Will some drivers just take to this new car more than others?
DEJ: “Yeah I mean if you get excited about it you will kind of dive into it a little more aggressively and speed up the learning curve a little bit. If you don’t have a good attitude about something then you typically don’t have a good outcome. I don’t know if there are enough cars here to really… I don’t think that we are all out there seeking to be in racing conditions to get out there and run around each other. Everybody is bolting on parts, going out and running, seeing what that does, repeat, rinse and do all that good stuff. You just keep on doing that over and over and nobody is really out there seeking each other out trying to race. That has to be kind of manufactured by NASCAR for us to say ‘hey man six of you get out there and race each other’. That probably won’t happen until May here in Charlotte anyways. I like the car and I think it has good potential, but again it’s just real early I don’t want to put words out there. I don’t know enough to really make a good enough guess on weather this thing is going to do everything everybody wants it to do. I’m excited. I think it has good potential.”
Q: You said that the visibility was difficult out there because of the spoiler. Is that correct?
DEJ: “Well we have had that kind of deal before when they had the wing on the back it was just different. You would like to look out the back of your car and not see anything, but other cars. The first race I ran in Japan I think we had gigantic seven inch spoilers on the back of these cars. I mean it’s nothing new. You think though what drivers and fans and NASCAR want is for the guy that is running second, third, fourth to have good downforce to be able to drive up to the guy in the front without having an aero push. You know big giant spoilers you would think that would negate that idea. We have had them before, ran them before so we will just have to see.”
Q: It was okay though?
DEJ: “Yeah, I mean it’s not dangerous or nothing. I can see.”
Q: If you had to guess, would those drivers end up being the most successful in 2013 be those with teams that are most able to get a grip on this new car this season? Also, do you think some teams are ahead of others in that regard?
DEJ: “Yeah, it’s too early to say whether anybody is ahead of anybody yet. The guys that have tested the most are the guys that are going to have the most information, the most data. The people willing to do the most work. The teams with the most resources obviously have to feel like they have a comfortable advantage knowing their resources outnumber the next guy. I am with the best team I think in the garage when it comes to resources and work ethic. I feel good about that, but I know there are some other guys out there that are willing to work just as hard and aren’t short on resources either. A situation like this where everybody is kind of scrambling to learn as much as they can there are some teams that will stand out I’m sure.”