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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 28, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with us, driver of the National Guard AMP Energy Drink Chevrolet.
Dale, first off, just kind of talk about the morning session, time on the track with this new car, how that has gone.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It was good. The car was real good right off the trailer. You know, we're just kind of working on some things. We ain't really had a whole lot of laps out there because of the weather.
Real happy with how it came off the trailer and how everything feels and how everything drives.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Dale, Jr.
Q. (Question regarding the difference between the old and new car.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Just trying to get a car where it wants to be as far as the splitter. The splitter gets on the ground, goes up the racetrack. So you got to get that splitter off the ground but as close as possible to get the maximum downforce that you can get from the car.
So it's a real fine line right there trying to adjust those two things, having them both. It's hard to have one without losing the other.
So, you know, the other car, it traveled what it traveled. You sort of had an average number that you looked for or average three, three-quarters on the right front, four inches, four and a quarter on the right front, and that's what you shot for.
If you got close to that you were happy, the car is fast. That's all that mattered. Now you got that splitter, it don't go nowhere, you can't grind it off. You need to get the car traveled down as much as you want, but the splitter touches the ground and it's terrible. Blows the whole corner, so it's kind of a challenge.
Q. (No microphone.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really know. I think communication's going good. Me and Junior, he's got my cars prepared good and they drive good. I think he's got a lot more information now to be able to fix any kind of complaints or problems we might have with the car and how it goes around the track. So I think everything's going great there. Should be business as usual for us.
Q. (Question regarding driving for Hendrick.)
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: I don't really know yet. It's pretty new. It's nice sort of being -- it's nice being on kind of the same playing field. It's definitely evened things out for me amongst all my coworkers and the people. We're all trying to work together.
I think that they know there's no favoritism so they don't -- those things just aren't a factor anymore. Those kind of concerns or curiosities about what kind of perks come along with being the son of the boss.
You just got to really mind your own business, do your best job you can do, try to keep the people you're working with happy, try to keep the complaints about you or anything you've done to a minimum and just do your job and do it as well as you can, you know, put a good effort in.
I was doing that before. There wasn't any problem. I didn't really have a complex about it before, but it's just different. It's a different feeling. I'm okay with it.
Q. Dale, I was curious to know, before you made it into Cup, what was your impression of Jeff Gordon? Did your dad give you any indication about how good a driver he was before you actually started racing Cup races?
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: Well, I met Jeff Gordon, the first time I met Jeff, I was at  North Wilkes /PWROE practicing for a late model race I was trying to qualify for. We happened to be there the same weekend as the Cup cars. I had my old late model that Gary  owned over there. We were trying to make that race. I was out on pit road doing something with my car, whatever.
Dad walked up and introduced me to Jeff. Jeff was sitting on pit wall. That wasn't the first time I met him. I'd met him before. Dad introduced me to him when he was in the Busch Series. Jeff was driving for Bill Davis. He introduced me to Jeff. Jeff was sitting on the pit wall at Charlotte one week. I was really young, probably 14 or 15. Maybe older than that.
Anyways, he introduced me to him again at North Wilksborough. Dad, you know, I don't know, he never introduced me to people. So for him to be doing that, I figured there was something important going on, some reason I needed to know this guy.
He introduced me to maybe -- I can't -- the people that he introduced me to in that sort of a situation, in that context, he'd only done that maybe a dozen times. I felt like it must be pretty important. He must have felt like Jeff was really talented and gonna be around for a while, so...
But, you know, Jeff was winning championships when I was just kind of getting started. And I think indirectly he has a little bit to do with guys coming into the sport at the age they're coming in now, because to see him in there challenging and winning races and beating guys five, ten years older than him, it drove a lot of people that were really young.
It drove a lot of people harder. It drove them harder to get there sooner. People were sort of -- had a pace about getting into the Cup Series. Whenever you got there. However old you were, that's how old you were, you know. You just got there however you could.
I think Jeff, being as young as he was, I think he was 26 or so when he started really getting really some good results, you know, that drove a lot of guys, like myself back then, to thinking that we should -- I thought I should already have been in the series and that I was a late-bloomer, got a late start.
I was sort of upset with myself that I didn't push myself to be in the sport quicker and apply myself sooner. When I was in my early teens, to try to apply myself to racing sooner instead of goofing off so much. And I think that's what you really see today.
Q. Dale, a little bit off topic here, but this 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 coming up, is there any way for you to summarize what the history of that race, that track, has meant to racing in general?
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, I've always felt like Daytona was a special place, more than any other track. There's great things about other tracks and whatnot, but Daytona just has a certain, you know, feeling about it. When you get there, there's a feeling it gives you. I don't know. You just know you're around a lot of history and you know you're in a special area that's seen and witnessed a lot of things.
How lucky were we for the way the 1979 race turned out? It really put Daytona on the map. It really put the sport on the map. Ever since then, we've really sort of focused and honed in on the Speedweeks aspect of our sport. We sort of glorified it so much so that any other facility and any other race in the season will never obtain that sort of credibility, that sort of honor that we have for the Daytona 500.
I like it that way. I love Daytona. I love the routine and the layout of Speedweeks. I think it's a great way for us to make a big splash. It's a great big flag we're waving to the rest of the world that we're starting our season. I think it's awesome how we do it, and I'm proud of it. I'm proud of it every time I go down there, to be there and to be trying to make that race. It's just a great feeling.
So hopefully it maintains that credibility and that prestige, that dignity that it has, because it's pretty important to the series as a whole to have it, have a place like that that's so historic.
Q. (Question regarding winning Daytona.)
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: I get asked all the time to explain what it feels like to win in that race, and you struggle really hard. That's probably one of the hardest questions to answer for me, because there aren't words to describe that feeling.
I got an average vocabulary when it comes to Moorseville, North Carolina. I feel like I do pretty good (smiling). It's hard to answer that question. It is hard to try to tell someone that hasn't ever been there what it feels like, 'cause it's just the craziest things. It's a great, great feeling. You ride that for days and days. You know, it's just amazing.
I've won races, and by the next Sunday, you practiced, qualified, things have happened, to where you're back to zero. The emotion and the high is gone. You're proud, but the high is gone. You're just back to zero, trying again.
But when we won the Daytona 500, I carried that feeling for months. I didn't even have to try. It's so hard to win. There's so many great drivers that never won it, that deserve it. So the wave of relief was apparent.
But, you know, the feeling that you have and the gratification that you have -- because we try really hard. I don't know why. You know, the races in the season are so important at every stop. You tell me why we focus so much on that race and why we test so hard and why we massage those cars more than any other car that we'll race the rest of the year.
I mean, spend hours on them damn things, and it don't make one bit a sense that it's more important than the other races. But it is, and it always will be.
I give Brad Keselowski one small piece of advice that went down there to test the Busch cars. His cars is one of the fastest cars down there I've seen in a while. You always have one guy that just stands out above the race when he's practicing and testing. That guy's got the best car. There's no question, and Brad has that car.
Number one, to own it I'm pretty damn proud of it, but that's not the point. The point is that Brad -- I told Brad, I said, you got the fastest car. He's all excited. Really? Yeah, you got the fastest car down there, man. You play your cards right, you got a shot at winning. You got the best car.
But the real - he can't worry about this - but the real situation now becomes what happens when he tears it up. You know, the guys busted ass and spent months and months working on that car to get it right, more so than any car in the garage, in the shop.
Now if he goes down there, gets in some senseless wreck that always happens at Daytona, they'll be so disappointed.
That race means a lot. Those cars they take down there, they mean a lot. You know, I don't know. It's just how it is. I don't think I know quite enough about the history of the sport to really know exactly why the race has become what it is today, but it's a fun spectacle seeing the celebrities and whatnot.
The race itself, being there, having raced in it when -- first Daytona 500 I saw was the first one I ran in. I was in the fourth row. Blew my mind in the qualifying race because we run fourth. I couldn't believe it. I was running behind Skinner and these guys. I didn't have a big amount of respect for Skinner because my dad really didn't, but I was proud enough to have run with him. You know, I'm with the top Cup guys, and there I am as a rookie.
When I started that race, the first one I ever saw was from the race car itself. That was intimidating. It was like being in a fraternity. It was like being in a small, small group of people. 43 guys in the world. 43 guys let alone in this country that get to do that. I was pretty proud to be part of it.
Q. With everything that has gone on in your life over the last 6 to 12 months and everything that's gone on through the off-season, has this seemed like pretty much the longest off-season of your life so far? Are you ready to get in the car and take the green flag for that first race?
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'm not necessarily in a big hurry for the race getting here. I'm having fun testing, doing work. I just want to be working, doing something. The guys have been preparing and preparing for the season, getting the shop and the cars ready. It's good to be here testing. It feels good to be working, driving the car, talking, giving input, being an asset. You know, that's really good enough for me.
The season is very long and it will get here when it gets here. I don't rush the season to get here. I rushed it when I was a rookie, the first couple years. I ended up burning out. Just got so amped up, excited about the season starting. Just coming there with guns ablazing.
Sort of like -- y'all seen Swinger, sort of like that drive to Vegas. You're all pumped up at the start. Halfway through you're sort of losing your steam. Then you get to the end and it wakes you back up.
Yeah, I found a way to be able to keep a real steady pace throughout the year, take it one week at a time, one day at a time. So it can get here when it gets here. You guys know what a grind it is. You really just have to take it all on the chin when it shows up.
Q. I know you answered this last week. You have such loyal fans. I have a hundred emails in my box about the media tour last week. Would you go into detail a little more about where you want your fans to go see your stuff, if your merchandise isn't being sold in certain places, and if you have anything to say to your fans? They're on a letter-writing mission.
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, everybody's got their own -- everybody has different ways of doing things. There's no real right or wrong either way. I don't take it personal that you can't find much of a trace of us over there.
Didn't really bother me because I deal with it and I'm all right. But it hurt my -- I got to thinking about it, and it sort of hurt my feelings. It's sort of a -- even the guys that are still there that worked on that car, to not see the accolades, any sort of appreciation for the work they did, that they're still there. And the Tony, Juniors, the guys that aren't there anymore, that had something to do with the Daytona 500 win, that had something to do with the Busch Series championships and stuff.
But I ain't going to spend any more time on it, because there's just better things to worry about and occupy your time with. Maybe I should have a better, in-depth knowledge of where my fans could go gather up all the merchandise they want. I don't know where they can get it other than the website and at the racetrack. Shoot, they probably know more than I do about that.
I keep telling the same stories over and over, but I don't really have any better way to explain it. But when I first started racing, I worried that you could lose the fans on a bonehead move in any race. You could get fans to trade drivers on just one mistake. You know, you get the emails, you get the letters of people that are with you no matter what. They don't care whether you win another race, a championship, whatever. They just have fun following you. They enjoy who you are and what you do. They have fun pulling for you. They enjoy it.
What I like about it is there's a lot of 'em. I could see where I would enjoy that, you know. If I was a fan, I would have a lot of different guys I pulled for, but I would want to be in the mass of a guy that was just like me, you know, a guy that I could relate to.
It would be fun to go to the race and look around and have a lot of people with that in common. You know, I think that's why they enjoy it. I think the reason they really enjoy it is because they look around and they see a lot of other people. They probably have, you know, a lot of fun being together and cheering as a group.
I don't know. That's too much to worry about. There's a whole lot of reasons why we got race fans. But they are loyal. You know, they stuck with us even when we did things necessarily they weren't wanting to go along with or wanting to do. They've always stuck beside us.
Q. (Question regarding tires.)
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: The tires feel good to me. You know, the car itself is the 800-pound gorilla now, you know, in the room. That's just gonna take a while for us to science out and understand. So I think the tire, Goodyear, could probably take a rest and enjoy it (laughter).
You know, we're just hard on Goodyear because we expect them to be perfect. You know, maybe that's more than we should ask for. But we just expect that side of it to have no variables, not to be different. So they take a bad rap a lot. It's real easy to blame the tires when you didn't have a good day.
Q. Going back to Daytona. When you roll up the mystery and the magic that is Daytona, the history with your father, how much that meant to your dad, how much of that has filtered to your perception of Daytona?
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: It had a lot to do with it. It scared me to death that I would be racing for 20 years still trying to get the win. How many times will you have the opportunity, be in good cars, to be able to do it? I always worried that I would lose all the Daytona 500s in the cars that I should have won it in. That's kind of how it went for him.
The 1990 Daytona 500, when he cut that tire on the backstretch, that was one of the hardest things to understand. I was a sophomore in high school, old enough to really kind of understand what was going on around me. I just couldn't believe that -- I know there's worse things that can happen to you, and there's people that deal with worse, people that have it hard.
But, dang, man, I wanted that race so bad. That was such a rough way to go. I didn't know what kind of person he was going to be when he got home, whether my daddy was going to be different the rest of his life.
You know, he dealt with it. That made me admire him more. You know, that made me hopefully a better person just experiencing that and being that close to him and watching him go through it. When I deal with those type of things, when you deal with losses, when things don't go your way, maybe I'm better off having witnessed him do it.
But, yeah, I mean, I went into my first Daytona 500 with a pretty decent car. After that we just kept getting better. I think I've had cars that should have won that race about every time I've been in it. That would have been frustrating. That's what I was scared of, that I would look back over 20 years without the trophy saying, Dang, I had 18, 15 opportunities, 15 cars that could have won it, and I didn't get it done. That would be hard to live with.
So when I won the race, that was the emotion. You know, the emotion for me was, I got that done. Now I can move on to the next thing that matters. You know, I enjoyed it. I'm proud of it. I brag about it. Winning the Daytona 500 is a tough thing to do, and I'm proud to be part of it, proud to be in that list.
But, I tell you, I didn't think I was gonna win it. I damn sure didn't think I was going to win it in my fifth try. That's crazy.
Q. Being the new guy in the Hendrick garage, do you find yourself listening more? Do you find yourself more as a leader? Where do you fit in?
DALE ERNHARDT, JR.: I'm just taking it in, man. I mean, I'm just listening to what they're saying and trying to find out what kind of drivers they are and how serious about their work they re. Listening to the crew chiefs. I'm just trying to figure out how serious they are about their jobs, what the temperature is, you know. Sort of how to be or how to act around them, what they want from me, what they'd like to know from me and get to where we can get to some kind of routine that's working for everybody.
I ain't had any problem just standing over there being myself. They don't seem to have a problem with that either. You know, I'm just working and doing like I've been doing. Seems to be going pretty good.
You know, I definitely never really was the kind of guy that's a stand-up leader. If I end up leading, that's fine. But I never really try to take those type of situations under my own control. I mean, I think every other week there's going to be a different guy that's sort of helping run that deal, being at the top of it, as far as drivers go. Hopefully we're all sort of enjoying some of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Dale.
We have Sam Hornish, Jr. with us. Sam, just kind of talk about how it's gone so far.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Just like everywhere else we go for the first time, it's a big learning process. I ran a couple laps here last year in a Busch car, but didn't get a chance to race here. It's a little bit about learning the track and where the bumps are.
The wind this morning didn't make anything particularly easy. But just trying to get as much knowledge as we can in the short amount of time that we have.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Sam.
Q. Talk about what you saw in the Rolex. What an interesting race.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I didn't get to see as enough, or as much as I would have liked you. The step I'm making this year put me out of contention for being able to go down out there and run with those guys. The way that Helio and Ryan, and Kurt ran, they did real well. I think there's some things that the team learned over the course of that 24-hour race with the way the radiators got packed up and the car overheated that will be things they'll take into account for next year.
If there's one thing about Penske Racing, the mistakes they made in the past they learn from and they move on from that. They're better the next time that they come, because they're always looking for that next thing that they're going to need to be able to give them an opportunity to win.
Q. (Question regarding the double whammy of new car, new series.)
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, I feel actually, you know, really confident about that because of the fact that most of the racetracks we go to, you're going to run against guys like Jeff Gordon and Dale, Mark Martin, that have 20 plus races at each of those tracks in that type of car.
When they come to these tracks for the first time in this car, it's something they have a little bit less experience with. So it feels like, to me, sometimes it puts us more on an even playing field. I still feel like there's so much we have to learn. I definitely feel this was a good year to be able to come in and do it, because there are other people learning the new car, there's a lot of things that people are going to be confronted with for the first time because of this car.
Q. What do you think you'll miss from the IndyCars?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think probably the biggest thing is being in Indianapolis for the month of May. That was the thing that sparked my interest in racing, was the Indianapolis 500. Kind of once I got to that point where I was interested in that enough, you know, my mind started to wander and started watching other types of racing.
But that was the thing that really got me involved in it. My original goal in racing was to someday go to Indianapolis and qualify for the race. I never had any kind of dream about winning it or winning IndyCar championships or even getting to this point, trying my hand out at a completely different series.
I think that will be something that I miss. Plus having a little bit shorter schedule that I was afforded with in 2006. That last year, with the Busch races that we ran and the Cup races at the end of the year and running the full IndyCar schedule, we ran about 39 weekends last year.
I got a pretty good idea of what this schedule was going to be like, being gone as much as we were. I think definitely the biggest thing is, back to Indianapolis, being there. I've already got some appearances that I'm going to be doing during the month of May at Indianapolis. I'll get to at least go to the track a couple times, see how everything is going.
Q. No way you'll race the Indy 500?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: If it was up to me, I would. It really depends how things are going over here. I think Roger and I have talked about it a couple of times. There's obviously nothing set.
I think if we're to a point where we feel confident with how we're doing over here, it's not going to hurt us, that we would try it. But I would say it's still way more not going to happen than could happen. So we'll just see how the first couple months of this season play out. Hopefully, if I don't get to race there this year, maybe next year.
Q. Have you moved away from Ohio?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I have two houses now. I have one in Ohio and one in the Moorseville area. The big reason, all my family, all my wife's family, all our friends growing up, are still in Ohio. It makes it pretty tough, having a wife that's right now less than two weeks away being due for our first baby. It wouldn't be fair for me having her sitting home alone all week by herself. So she's going to spend some time there while I'm off doing what I'm doing, and she still has the support group of our families there to help her out.
The big thing for us is that we get through the first couple months of not only this part of our life but also being parents and kind of move on from there. We've really enjoyed the Charlotte area. We look forward to spending the part of racing season when we're gone the most down there on the weeks in between, and then in the winter when we have all the holiday stuff, to be able to go home and have a place there, as well.
Q. (Question regarding motivation and moving to NASCAR.)
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that I got to a point in my career where I decided this was the next challenge. I felt that there were still things I could do in Indy car. I accomplished more than I ever thought I was going to. It seemed like this was the time to do it.
We had the opportunity to come and run Busch races and Cup races and had a good idea of how difficult it was actually going to be. I liked the challenge. I liked how much I felt I was learning each time I got in the car and went to the track.
I felt that I was at the right age where I could do it, where I didn't feel like I'm too old or I'm too young in either direction where I didn't feel like I was going to be able to absorb as much as I needed to to be able to do it.
You know, it was a tough decision to make because there were so many things that could keep me over there. Having the Indianapolis 500, a shorter schedule, all those other things, a little bit more free time to myself.
But this, you know, with having the opportunity to run the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Brickyard 400, there's so many things that are new challenges and big races that you can win. Just the point of getting to come over here and see if we can't get to the point where we're successful and winning races, stuff like that. That's really the big reason why I wanted to do it.
I came over, I saw how difficult it was. I felt that if I can get to the point where we're successful and we win, it would feel -- it would give me that same kind of feeling that I had when I first came on the IndyCar scene, where it was something I wasn't sure about, wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it successful at it. Worked hard and was able to accomplish that.
All the race wins, championships, that stuff's all good. But to have that feeling of accomplishment, you know, that we were able to come and do this and be successful is the best part.
Q. Sam, you've been so focused on qualifying to this point in your NASCAR career. How refreshing was it to be in race setup today and have a chance to work on that at the track?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, a lot of people asked me what I got for Christmas, what the best present was. Obviously I'm going to have to say getting the points from Kurt was probably the best present I got. It's a total load off your shoulders to be able to say we go in these first five races of the year and we're in.
Especially when you go to Daytona, you have not only qualifying, but you have the duels. So many things can take you out: a flat tire, running out of fuel, engine problem, getting caught in somebody else's wreck. To have that feeling, satisfaction, of knowing we can go out there, we can work on race setup, we can try to make ourselves really run good in the race to where we can get some good points, keep ourselves from being outside of that top 35 all year instead of having to come in each time and feeling like, okay, we go to a track, you got an hour practice session, you're probably going to get 20 laps.
It's the first time you've been there, try to go out there, qualify, see if you can make the show. We came close a few times last year being able to make it. We did make it at a couple other ones.
I felt the biggest sense of accomplishment this year is to be able to go in and to not ever have to feel like, okay, we had that as an insurance policy that we were in, but we made it anyhow. We would have been able to do it. We would have been able to make the races anyhow.
I feel that coming out here today and saying, you know what, we can spend all day working on the race setup and trying to make the car better over long runs is a lot more relaxing. You feel like you learn a lot more than if you had to go out here just every day straight-up qualifying, and how do we get the exact most speed out of the car for two laps.
Q. Can you talk about the weight of trying to qualify. Also can you talk about your comfort level now compared to last year.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It's something that, you know, I didn't like at all. We went to Loudon, the first race. We went out and we practiced real well. I remember walking out on the grid. Everybody was just, Don't overdrive it. Whatever you do, don't overdrive it. I went down into turn three on both laps. Getting right into the corner, I didn't overdrive it, I didn't come close to driving it hard enough. I just felt I really let myself down. We missed that race by one position, making it in.
I went home and I said, I know what I did wrong. I know what the problem was. When we go next week, I'm not going -- I'm going to tune out what everybody else has to tell me right before I go out and qualify. Only I know what the car needs to be like and how far it needs to be driven. Obviously sometimes I'm going to miss it. But I can't let everybody else weigh in so heavily on what I feel about it.
We went to Dover. We missed that race. That was a place that I'd never been anywhere like. Dover isn't like anywhere else we go.
Each thing, while it was difficult, it made me that much more hungry to come back and try it again the next week, see if we can't get to the point where we're making the races steadily.
I think that once we got to Phoenix, having that opportunity -- I'd been there, not only to that racetrack before, but also been there in a stock car, ran the Busch race. Just having that opportunity to feel like you know what, I know the track already.
Lo and behold, we go and make it into the last two races of the year, the places we'd already been to before. I felt pretty good about that. That's what makes me as excited as I am to go out and go to all these new tracks. I know they're difficult to go to for the first round. But after you get that first round out of your way, you have a lot better idea of what to expect when you go back.
Q. You talk about growing up, Indianapolis 500 was all that you thought about. You accomplished that. Going into the Daytona 500, what are your impressions and what does it mean to you to be racing in it?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It means a lot to me to be racing in it. That was the reason why I started wanting to pursue this side of my career, of running stock cars, was to run the Daytona 500.
You know, like I said, what attracted me originally to racing was the Indianapolis 500. I remember from the time I was probably 12, 13 years old, I mean, I watched every kind of racing. It wasn't just one thing or the other. But the Daytona 500 obviously meant a lot to me. It means a lot to me, the fact that only two other drivers have ever won the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. To be able to put your name next to Foyt and Andretti would be a pretty neat experience.
Then again, nobody's won the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. There are a lot of things that are exciting about this for me. I think the Daytona 500 is a great race. I think it's something that you don't see anywhere else. For as exciting as that race can be, also to have it be the first race of the year, first race of the season, it's like going and playing the Super Bowl first, then going and figuring out what you're going to do for the rest of the year. It's pretty tough.
That's another reason why the points thing is thrilling for us, to get that switched over. You don't want to have to sit there and watch the biggest race of the year. What do we tell the sponsors? What do we tell the fans? How do we recover from having that disappointment, of not making the biggest race of the year?
Q. You talk about your wife being due in a few weeks, the week before the 500. What happens that week if she goes in the hospital? What do you do?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, she's actually due on qualifying day for the 500, on the 10th. I told her, As long as it's not qualifying, the duels, or the race, I'll do everything I can to be there.
I don't know. She told me when we first found out we were pregnant all the way up until about two weeks ago, I really need you to be there. I really want you to be there. All these things. I think she's gotten uncomfortable enough she's like, You know what? I want you to be there, but it really doesn't matter anymore. I just want to be able to have the baby and be done. I know she's not going to try to wait on me at all.
It's something that there's a lot of new things happening for us. I haven't talked to Roger or Tim Cindric, those guys too much about what's going to happen. Hopefully they don't come on the radio about halfway through the 500 and tell me I have a kid. That would be a little bit difficult to keep my mind focused, but I'm looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Sam.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have Denny Hamlin, driver of the FedEx Toyota. On one quick note, Denny was the fastest car in the morning test session. Denny, just kind of talk about how the morning has gone. You set the pace this morning.
DENNY HAMLIN: Our Toyota was really good. It just took a little while to kind of get going there. So far, been pretty impressed with both everything from our side and really NASCAR's side, putting these cars on this racetrack. Seems to be going pretty well. Seems like every time we go to a big track with these things, I'm definitely more impressed with how they drive.
Really pretty happy with things right now.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Denny.
Q. (Question regarding driving the Toyota.)
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, we definitely didn't think going into this year that we were going to have growing pains by switching manufacturers. Had we had the old car where we really don't know the aero advantages, yeah, we definitely would have been a little bit more concerned.
But we know we've got basically the same body as what we had last year. All we're dealing with is different horsepower. Really there's going to be no transition for us, going hopefully to be as competitive if not more competitive in. The way it's looking, we're going to be more competitive than what we were last year.
Q. Is there anything about the Car of Tomorrow that has you longing for the old Cup cars as far as performance or speed? Anything about them that makes you wish you were still running the old cars?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. Other than, you know, it's going to be difficult to pass. It was getting to that point really with the old cars. It was becoming very difficult to pass. Really, you're going to have some of the same challenges with this car that you did with the previous car.
So I really -- there's really nothing. I think our speeds were getting a little bit too high with the old cars. These obviously have slowed down a little bit over that. I'm pretty pleased with everything that NASCAR has decided to do as far as safety, performance-wise with these cars. I'm very impressed with it.
Q. How are things going with your new teammate?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's been good so far. Definitely been able to use a lot of notes from the 18, a lot more than what the teams have in probably the last three or four years.
Really, it's good. Definitely seems like we already have a little bit more communication with Kyle than Tony, but he showed up late, so...
I don't know. I think it's going to be good. I think we really never have had a three-car united team at Joe Gibbs Racing. It's always been -- our cars have been spread out. We've kind of had one up front at times, one in the middle, one in the back. It kind of alternates which car that is.
Really I think this year is going to be the first time you see the three-car team of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Q. (Question regarding having Joe Gibbs more involved.)
DENNY HAMLIN: We really haven't seen any of the benefits yet, but everyone knows how the economy is right now. It's tough to get sponsorship. I think he's going to be a huge asset on that side of things for Joe Gibbs Racing, hopefully bringing new sponsors in. A lot of people like to be associated with Joe Gibbs the person. Hopefully that's able to kind of transfer over to our race team.
As far as the day-to-day operations, running it, I think it's going to stay the same with J.D. I think as far as the sponsors, you're going to have a little bit more of Joe involved in that.
Q. (Question regarding the tires.)
DENNY HAMLIN: Once again, huge strides. It seems like it's really gotten a lot better. Last year I remember when we came here you couldn't even hardly run two laps without about getting in a wreck. The tires were so hard, the surface was new, the speeds were up. It really made it out of control.
With these cars being a little bit slower, I think the tire compound might be a little bit softer and the track has aged. That's really been the biggest benefit so far. So really I think it's going to be a lot better racing than what you saw here the first time after the track got paved.
So really, you know, once again, happy on that side of things, that we can go out there and be more comfortable versus kind of being on edge all the time.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, thanks for coming in.
End of FastScripts