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February 15, 2020

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

David Elenz

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by members of the race‑winning team, which is the No.9 Bass Pro Shops BRCC Chevrolet. We have crew chief David Elenz and team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Q. Having the opportunity now to win this race a couple of times with your drivers in your role, how does that compare to your days as a driver? Does it hit the same way? How is it different?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: It doesn't feel the same at all, but it's a great feeling. It's just a different type of satisfaction.
I think as an owner, you certainly understand a lot more about what the company has done to put themselves in that position. As a driver you might not get to see everything that encompasses the effort to get there, right. You just kind of think about your guys, your team, your car.
But this whole company works as one really to get ready for the season, and it's just impressive that we've been able to sustain the success and the speed and competitiveness in our cars year after year. You never assume it, and you never know when you've just won your last race.
It's just‑‑ but Dave and those guys did a great job, and Noah has worked really hard. We ask a lot of him as a young guy to mature and keep his head on straight, and he's not really allowed to be a kid. He has to walk a tight line for us, and he's put in the work to get this opportunity and finally get to Victory Lane. Last year was a tough year for him, and it's good to be able to finally‑‑ he's so relieved, and this is Daytona, the biggest place you can win at and win your first day.

Q. Dave, it worked out in the end, but it got a little messy on the last restart. It sounded like you had a plan to work with the 8 and then you guys were drag racing down the backstretch. What happened with the plan, and how nervous were you watching that kind of not go according to plan?
DAVE ELENZ: Yeah, we had a plan to work together with him, and it's hard to work with teammates. You've got two guys pushing behind you that don't want to be a part of your plan, so it's very hard to execute. We failed on that execution. And then when we lost the lead there, I was a little worried because that 98, he did a pretty good job blocking and side drafting all day, so I didn't know if we were going to get back by him. Then the caution happened. I felt pretty good about our chances again at that point.

Q. For either of you guys, this is the third year in a row that you guys have broken out of the gate and won the first race of the season. What does this do to the organization? Does this give them a little pep in the step around the shop knowing that you broke out the first race of the season and got the job done?
DAVE ELENZ: Yeah, I think it gives us a pep in the step. We've worked incredibly hard this off‑season, especially on our intermediate program, and our guys have put in a lot of hours, a lot of stuff to get all that stuff ready, and then the big push to go to Daytona. It's going to make everybody smile a little more when we get back to the shop. I think that's the best part of it; get a little reward early on, keep the guys motivated.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I can't add much to that. We had a brand new partner on the car, Black Rifle Coffee, and association with Bass Pro Shops, Johnny is in Victory Lane, super excited. Any time you can make your sponsor that happy and you've got people that are that‑‑ enjoy being a part of the sport, sponsoring several different cars across various different series, to be able to go to Victory Lane, take your partners to Victory Lane, it's a great feeling.
And yeah, we always have a beer toast. That's our ceremonious kind of thing we do when we win a race. I know the employees will look forward to that and everybody gets to speak a little bit. Dave probably doesn't enjoy that part as much, but Noah certainly will. He loves to talk, and he'll have a lot of fun, really celebrating this win and giving many opportunities to thank the company. It's a great experience when we have victories within our programs.

Q. Dale, you mentioned earlier talking about kind of working with Noah and really seeing him mature, helping him with that. I can't help but think back a little bit to the early days of your career. Have you been able to kind of mold him a little bit, knowing some of what you went through at the start of your career?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think Dave really is the guy that has so much time with him. Also Josh Wise. He's got a lot of great people, Brandon McReynolds, that are a part of his effort to stay focused, keep his head on him straight and prioritize the things that he needs to in his life to be successful, and he's learned a lot and changed a lot, and I think for the most part he's done everything that those guys have asked of him.
I personally don't‑‑ he'll come to me when it really gets dark and he'll say, look, I need to go to lunch; I can't figure out what I need to do, or there's been a couple situations where he's just like, I just have no confidence and I don't know what my next step is, and we'll get together and hang out a little bit.
But for the most part, him and Dave talk a lot, and I think Dave gives him so much great advice about what he needs to be focusing on.
And we trust Noah when he's not in our hands that he's doing the right things to stay on the right path. He's a very young kid over on the East Coast away from his family on his own, and he stays out of trouble, and that's all we can ask of him.

Q. Kind of to build on that a little bit, he really started to come into his own I feel like the latter stages of last year and then obviously the win today. Was there a particular turning point that you feel like you saw, or what did you see in him that made you think maybe today was coming?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, I feel like that‑‑ he was real consistent last year, and he would find himself in some pretty amusing situations and somehow pull out a top 5 or a top 10 with a tore‑up car or something. He's got a really interesting personality, which is great, but it sometimes can give off the impression that maybe he's not as dedicated as he should be.
But I know for sure where his heart is and where his mind is on his craft and that he wants it badly and that he wants to do what he needs to do and works hard to be successful. And he's just going to be him, and I think we just have to let him do that. He's very young, and I don't‑‑ I was disappointed with last year, and I think he was, too, and we certainly had had a lot of success with Dave and that program, but it just was a tough year for whatever reason, and this year will have its ups and downs just like they all do, and we'll work with Noah to try to give him the best opportunity to succeed.
I think that he's growing up rapidly, maturing quickly, as fast as he possibly can, and that should lean toward giving him some more success behind the wheel as he starts to prioritize those things a little differently and what he needs to do to win.
And Dave is dedicated to it. I've got to give Dave a ton of credit because coming off of two successful campaigns with two different drivers, I mean, there was some tough times with those campaigns, as well, but Dave believes in Noah, and that's really the key relationship, the crew chief and the driver. And if they're not connected and believing in each other and communicating well, there's not going to be anything good that comes out of that. Dave has stuck with it, works really hard with Noah. Every time I walk by their office, they're in there together, communicating, talking.
I feel like Noah spends quite a bit of time around the shop, always making himself available, and so I think they're going to have a much better year than they had last year for sure.

Q. Dale, do you think the win will kind of allow him to maybe feel more comfortable being himself‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Oh, yeah. Y'all better be ready when he comes in here. Yeah, I don't think‑‑ I don't think that's anything you really want to corral or try to limit. You guys let him be himself, and that's going to appeal to some people and maybe not to everybody, but he doesn't have to worry about that. I think he should be himself, and if he's doing everything that we're asking him to do as far as trying to be successful as a driver, then whatever his personality is, that's what it is. That's who he is.
I think he's great for the sport, and if we can get him in Victory Lane more often, that'll be good for everybody.

Q. Can he win a championship?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Absolutely, yeah. Dave has worked wonders with a couple guys in the past, and two completely different personalities with William and Reddick. And there was times in that season with Reddick where I wasn't really sure what was going to happen. But Dave told me, he's like, if we can get to a certain race, we're going to win this championship. I believe we can do it. I am like, okay, man, if you say so, and they went and did it. I'm never going to question Dave's focus or his direction or his plans again after that season because I wasn't as sure as he was.
And so I feel like that Noah can be himself, and that will be good for the sport, and Dave is going to stick there beside him and give him every opportunity he can and help him continue to grow. He still has a lot to learn and a lot to improve, and they're going to have a busy season doing all that.

Q. Dale, it was 16 years ago today you won your first Daytona 500, so you know it comes down to the end, the intensity and the pressure and how you feel in the car. When it comes down to the end and one of your cars is leading here, which hat do you put on, the owner or the driver or a mix of both?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I hate it. I don't enjoy watching those races with our guys out there. I should. I probably will regret experiencing the races that way because it should be enjoyable, but it's really tough. It's really nerve‑racking, and I'm so disappointed for Justin. He's working really hard to try to get back to Victory Lane at Daytona, and Rick Brandt came into Victory Lane to support us. What a great sponsor. The guy, his car crashes out and he comes to Victory Lane and stood there just to be there. Just the incredible partner that he is.
So I feel‑‑ it's tough to watch the disappointment in a few teams, and then other teams, one team wins. It's sort of getting pulled in a lot of different directions emotionally. But it's tough.
Any time we're in the battle, in the thick of it down at the end of these races, it is a miserable sort of gut wrenching feeling that I don't really enjoy, but going to Victory Lane is sure worth it.

Q. Dale, my question is kind of along those lines. I just wonder if you could talk a little bit about Jeb Burton, he won a stage and led the most laps of the race today and was very disappointed after‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Of course, yeah. You've seen the emotion from Jeb in the past couple of years, and I think that a lot of y'all probably know Jeb's story, but he works harder‑‑ I don't know of many drivers that work harder than he does to cultivate relationships and partnerships to create opportunities in races and chances to drive. I don't know that many guys work as hard as he does to attain the opportunity to be in the car, and I think that's why it matters to him so much because he knows he puts so much effort into just being there, just getting into that car, and he knows that he has to succeed to see more opportunities, right. He has to win. He knows that he can't sustain this work ethic and not have results. He has to get himself into Victory Lane to realize a full season in a car or an opportunity in Cup or whatever it is, whatever his dreams are, right.
So he's living and dying by every lap, and he's very emotional about it, and he wants it so badly. He grew up in the sport and wants to go out there and be a winner like his uncle and his dad. We're trying to help him do that. He's a great, great guy. Such a good guy.

Q. Dale, you've mentioned Noah's personality a couple times already, and you also mentioned the past drivers who David has acted as a mentor towards. Are there any similarities between Byron, Reddick and Noah in terms of personality or driving style? If this question is more suited to David‑‑
DAVE ELENZ: I don't know what to think. They're all a little bit different. William definitely is prim and proper all the way through and was a little easier to understand and know earlier on in the season. Both Reddick and Noah took a little while to understand how they work and how they think and what they were trying to do, but I don't think you can really compare Noah and Tyler on the same hand. They're just both their own kind of individuals that have very unique personalities.
But I think the one thing between all three of them is they all know where they want to be and what they want to do, and they're going to work as hard as they can to get there. Been fortunate to work with those guys.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I think William is going to be a rock star in this sport. He's got such a great opportunity with Hendrick. He's buttoned up all the way through, the marketing side, the appearance, the talent. So I think he could be a very, very popular figure in this sport for a long time.
Reddick is very aggressive. I love his driving style. He's going to be so much fun to call races for in the booth over the years, so I'm hoping that he's successful just so he can provide us with all that entertainment on a weekly basis.
And Noah is just this young kid just trying to figure out everything and trying to‑‑ he's not quite got a style I don't think yet. He's still trying to figure that out. We're trying to figure him out, you know.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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