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January 20, 2011

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.


THE MODERATOR: Pleased to be joined, finishing up here in the media center today is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drives the No. 88 Amp National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Talk about the test so far. I know you tire tested back here in December. You've been on the track a little bit this morning. Talk about the No. 88 car, how you're doing.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's going good, I guess. We just made about four or five runs, nothing real serious yet, I guess, just getting a little bit of data and making a couple little changes here and there.
But the track is in pretty good shape, and looks like the 24-hour test and just a bit of time that it's been since the tire test we had in December, the track is starting to change a little bit. It was smooth as glass when we first tried it in December, and it's starting to become a little more rigid in places and change color in places.
You know, it's not much else to report to be honest with you in the first half of this day, just went out and cleared -- took the clearances and got the ground clearances and everything good. They changed a couple things, see what it did, made some notes and sit down and eat some lunch. That's about it.

Q. Two years ago in the media center here I asked you when you roll into this place how much do you think of your dad, and do you think about him every day, and you answered me yes, I think about him every day. Is that still the case right now, and what would your dad have thought of the new paved speedway?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think he would think they did a good job. He would think the obvious things, they did a good job, and it looks -- it was probably time for it to happen. I was surprised they didn't pave the infield. I didn't know that until I talked to somebody that tested here for the 24 hours. But I'm sure they threw away more asphalt than it would have took to put some asphalt down in there.
You know, you think about your parents all the time. I think about him and my mother all the time, especially getting back to racing. I guess you think about them just as much in the off-season, too.
But I think -- I don't know, I think that he would appreciate what they did with the paving and the job they did. Hopefully the track puts on a good race and it holds up well. I mean, it's going to get the bumps back and it'll get -- over the next several years it'll age a little bit, especially being down here next to the beach and the sand. It'll get slick and become the old Daytona that a lot of people appreciated. It'll get some of the bumps back that make the racing dicey in spots around the corners.

Q. The Redskins have had a lot of coaches the last few years and a lot of changes and you probably get optimistic every time a new coach comes in. Similarly you've had a few new crew chiefs here. For your fans that are skeptics or doubting things, what have you seen so far that you could tell them, give them hope that it's going to be different this time or that there's something that's changed or something along those lines?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I think that's a good analogy to be honest. Every year as a Redskins fan you sort of go through this. I've got an app on my phone that pretty much pushes anything that if they're mentioned on the internet I get the news. You're just waiting on one of those articles to tell you about some big free agency pickup or what their plans are in the draft. You know, and you piece everything together before the season starts and start to form your idea whether you think they're a better team or not. And whether I -- sometimes you think, yeah, this is a better team, sometimes you think this isn't the right way to go, but you're still a fan. You still decide regardless of whether you like their quarterback or you think they've got a good receiving corps or not, you still as a fan decide to go into the season just as devoted and ready for success or the same failure.
But with our team, it's a new deal, and I was joking with somebody in the truck earlier, I was sitting in a seat up in the lounge, and they asked me if that was going to be my seat, and I told them I'm not exactly sure where my seat is yet, it's sort of floating around. That's the way I feel about my team. Everybody is still learning, the guys are still learning who does what, what their personalities are.
It's been fun getting to know Steve more. He's got a great personality, a lot of energy, and hopefully I can depend on that energy in certain times throughout certain races, when you need somebody to gear you up and let you see it -- see things a little differently than you see at the time. Maybe he can keep me on my toes, be a cheerleader or whatever you want to call it.
They seem focused and they seem ready to go. I'm really sick of how we've ran over the last several years and ready to see something different, ready to get to the track and see different results. We'll just have to see how it goes.
The toughest part about all that being a race fan or a Redskins fan is the waiting. Fortunately for NASCAR you don't have to wait very long.

Q. To help with the football analogy, I'm from Green Bay and they sucked for 20 years and now they're back in the playoffs, so hopefully they'll progress on from there. I want to ask you if you know what it is that you need yet, and do you need a crew chief to drive you? Do you need improvement here or there? Denny Hamlin was saying he didn't think about NASCAR during the off-season. Did you think about it a lot during the off-season, were you able to cut yourself from it, and do you know exactly what you need?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You know, I don't know exactly what the perfect match is, but I'm game for trying anything out and moving around and shaking it up a little bit and changing the scope of the team however they want to change it. I'm pretty much up for any of that.
You know, I don't know how much -- I don't really break it down that much, you know, whether I think about -- I assume I think about racing in the off-season because it's what I do for a living, and everywhere you turn it's what you're looking at.
Yeah, I don't know. I don't know how you could call the last 20 years of being a Green Bay fan too rough. You haven't been a Redskins fan. It's quite difficult. I'd give anything to have a quarterback like you've got.

Q. I was listening to a tape of an interview I did with your dad in January of 2001. He said after he and Billy, Jr., were gone that he didn't think that the sport would change, would just go on without him. What dramatic changes have you seen since your dad passed?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I think the sport has gone on just fine, been very successful, more successful than I think any of us ever imagined. There's been a lot of good changes. There were a lot of changes in the sport prior -- during his reign as champion and through the years that he raced here. There were a lot of changes related to him, unrelated to him. And the same thing after his death.
You know, I'm real proud to be a part of what the sport represents, and I'm proud to be associated and connected to everyone involved in the garage, in the media center. This has been a hell of a trip, and hopefully it keeps going. Hopefully we stay successful.
The environment changes all the time financially, and we just weather the storm however we have to. But I think we're in good shape to be honest with you. It's been kind of tough the last couple years with the economy, but for the most part, this sport is pretty resourceful or whatever. I feel pretty good, pretty comfortable where I'm at and how I'm involved in it.

Q. Earlier obviously you mentioned about thinking about your dad every day. We're all shaped by our parents. What take-away influences do you have growing up and what your dad meant to you and how he shaped who you are now?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, I don't really -- he was a lot of things to a lot of different people. You know, I just wanted to be -- he was intimidating, like they say. He was like that as a father when he was at home. You wanted to please him all the time, make him happy, and you wanted to -- whatever you did, you wanted it to -- you wanted it to somehow get a response from him.
I think as I was growing up, you know, you tried to get away and do your own thing as have fun as a kid but at the same time you wanted to make your parents proud, and you sort of found your direction by listening to them inadvertently, whether you wanted to or not. They sort of helped you find whatever it is you wanted to achieve in life. My dad was there to guide me in a lot of good directions that helped me out a lot. I think that I tried to -- I tried to have some of the same good qualities that he had. The qualities that I enjoyed about him, I tried to emulate those as best I could and keep those qualities, as well, because I felt like it made him a good person.

Q. Dale, last season Rick had sort of -- he said that last year it wouldn't fail, it couldn't fail, and ultimately it didn't work. Does that in a way relieve the pressure or the expectations of this year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don't know, I guess. I'm sure a lot of people expect nothing more than we did last year. And last year we were kind of out of the radar, which was kind of fun. A lot less garbage to deal with when you're not in the radar.
But you know, I don't know, I just feel like that -- I don't know what the reasons were for me and Lance and that group as a whole not working out. I really enjoyed Lance, and I think we're still great friends today, and I think he has a lot of talent. But it just didn't work for whatever reason.
I feel good about the position I'm in now, and I feel pretty confident about it, and I'm looking forward to going into the season and working hard for it. We'll just see how it goes.
When you're running good you can put up with about anything. It's not fun being on the radar when you're running like crap. But last year we sort of fell off the radar altogether.
I don't know, you know, I want to be in racing for a very long time, and I know that I can drive good enough to run well. You know, I'll stick around until I get it right. It's just eventually going to have to happen.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thank you so much. Good luck in your quest to win the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.

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