NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DUCK COMMANDER 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 4, 2014
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media and shared his thoughts on the reduction of power in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, if he is attending the Final Four this weekend while in Texas and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING TO TEXAS THIS WEEKEND AND WHAT YOUR EXPECTATIONS ARE?
“We have had a lot of good runs at this track. The surface is really good it’s real wide and gives you a lot of options as a driver to find speed and find a good balance if your car doesn’t work on the bottom you can move around, try different entrances and see if you can help your car and maintain some track position before you get a chance to work on it again. It’s just a fun track, great market for us. The promotion and energy that Eddie (Gossage) and his group show year in and year out is a good standard for other tracks to really follow. They do some unique things to get people excited about races here. A lot of times it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great market and people in this area have latched on to this track and really supported it over the years. It’s a good success story for the sport. You would like to come out here and run well, being that it is not one of the traditional south eastern facilities that have been on the circuit for so long. So you like to come out here and do well and we have been able to do that. I’ve had some really fast cars the last couple of races here that I can remember. One thing or another led to us not winning, but we have had some top three cars here so we are excited about practice today and excited about getting the opportunity to get to work on the car again tomorrow and hopefully put a good car on the grid for Sunday’s race.”
WITH THE FINAL FOUR TAKING PLACE RIGHT DOWN THE STREET AND NASCAR GOING TO AN ELIMINATION PROCESS ONCE THE CHASE BEGINS THIS SEASON. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IS GOING TO AFFECT MAYBE THE AGGRESSIVENESS AND MAYBE EVEN THE DESPERATION THE DRIVERS FEEL IN THOSE LAST 10 RACES?
“I don’t really know. I don’t think anybody really knows for sure exactly what kind of mentality you will have when you wake up in the morning before them races. It just kind of matters what side of the bed you get out of. We might be extra cautious trying to navigate those races up to each elimination. We might be extra aggressive. I just really don’t know for sure. You just want to finish as good as you can, obviously try to win. We were able to do that last year. The way we ran last year I thought in the Chase would be real profitable to a system like this. Maybe we won’t change a thing. I just think you go out there and you try to be smart. You try to make good judgment as a person, as a driver. You just do the things you have been doing, whatever you think is working and hopefully that will get it done.”
NASCAR IS TALKING ABOUT REDUCING HORSEPOWER NEXT YEAR TO MAKE IT A LITTLE MORE COMPETITIVE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT LESS HORSEPOWER? HOW WILL THAT CHANGE YOUR DRIVING?
“I don’t think they are trying to make it more competitive. No matter how the horsepower is I think we will have competitive racing. I think the racing is competitive any way you slice it. I can enjoy a race where a guy laps the field just as much as I can enjoy one where they are side-by-side across the finish line. There is something to be appreciated about both ways of winning and how a race plays out. I like the idea of going to a smaller motor and allowing us to engineer through that package instead of choking down what we currently have with a plate. I think choking the motor down with a plate is the easiest way to go and the laziest way to go.
“When you can go to a smaller engine you preserve some throttle response. You preserve some reaction in the gas pedal and give the driver a few more tools to be able to use out on the race track when he is driving his race car. When you take and put a plate on those cars you take tons of throttle response out of the car and setting up a pass, particularly on a track that is worn out like this is a little more challenging with a plate rather than an open engine that is smaller.
“I hope they will go the way I want to go. Whatever way they end up going whatever decision they end up making, there is not a wrong decision, there is an okay one and a better one in my opinion. They are going to do it. It’s kind of like the (number) 3 coming back. A lot of people didn’t want it to come back. A lot of people were upset that it came back, but it’s coming back. I think the reduction in power is coming whether you like it or not. I chose as an individual to get on the side of being productive in that discussion instead of saying we don’t need to do it and trying to fight it, let’s try to make sure when it does happen we do it the right way and give ourselves something to grow into and something to engineers and something that is productive for many years to come. It’s coming either way whether we like it or not. You can have both sides arguing against and for, for however long you want, but it’s going to happen so we might as well start thinking about how we want it to happen and trying to have those discussions on making sure we make the best choice we can make for the sport.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A GREAT NUMBER OF WINNERS OR DO YOU THINK THE SPORT BENEFITS FROM HAVING A HANDFUL OF DRIVERS AT THE TOP EVERY WEEK?
“I think the sport benefits from having a lot of different guys being successful, a lot of guys winning. I don’t want to see a lot of winners. I want to see 10 winners, 12 winners. I don’t want to go back into points racing mode because there is so many winners and we get down to race 26 and we’ve got 20 winners. I’m not worried about if I win I’m in I am starting to worry about where I am in points and going back to the old method of trying to maximize points every race. I don’t think it really affects where I finish. I try to maximize points anyways and try to run as well as I can run and that produces the most points for me. I don’t particularly as a driver want to see a lot of winners. I want to win them all. For the success of the sport I think parity and having a lot of people in the grandstands cheering for a lot of different guys for a lot of different reasons is a good thing.”
ON THE SCALE OF CONSERVATIVE TO AGGRESSIVE WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE YOUR TEAM BE WITH TIRES ON SUNDAY?
“I want to be as aggressive as we can be because there is speed in that and we are going to pay close attention to it. I don’t think we are going to have any problem this weekend. I think that the bumps on the back straightaway at California were a big product of what we saw in California. I had some issues at Bristol that I understand and have no problem with. I don’t think that we will have any issues, we may, I may be wrong. I hope I’m right so we will go out there in practice and really pay close attention to what we are seeing and we will be as aggressive as we can be to produce as much speed out of the car as we can produce. I think just get the car driving good and get the car comfortable. I’m thinking that the pace is going to slow down as the tires fall off here and we won’t really have a tire issue. I don’t think that there is anything to be concerned about myself personally. We are aggressive. Every week we have been aggressive since I started driving cars and we will be aggressive long after this.”
ANY THOUGHTS ON THE SPECIAL CHALLENG
ES THAT SONOMA RACEWAY PRESENTS?
“We kind of just go there and see what happens every time. I don’t have a good track record at that place. I’m not probably the guy to be asking, but I think my best finish there is 11th. That was many years ago. We end up having fun. It’s a fun place to race and if you just forget about investing your emotions in it and how well you want to finish and just go out there and drive you end up having a good time. You can’t be upset at what happens at the end. Because a lot of stuff happens at the end and you might be part of it. I enjoy it. My teammate Jeff Gordon went out there and tested and hopefully we can go there and be productive this year. I don’t think we are going to test actually. We usually test once or twice for road courses. But this year I think we are just going to wing it.”
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER QUALIFYING TODAY AND ARE THERE ANY BIG CHANGES YOU WANT TO MAKE BEFORE SUNDAY?
“Today I was real happy with the way the car drove in qualifying for the Nationwide race. It was a handful yesterday, but I didn’t know how much the track was to blame for that or just being green and slick. We really got the car comfortable for qualifying today. I was looking forward to tonight anyways, but I’m actually a lot calmer about how my car was driving, I was pretty worried. We will get out there today hopefully the Cup car is going to be good. It’s been good the last several trips so I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. We have an odd schedule and should be interesting to see how that plays out if that has any affect whatsoever on the race, which I doubt it will. We’ve got a lot of practice today and a lot tomorrow so we should be able to get something comfortable underneath the car.”
BASED ON YOUR ‘THROWBACK THURSDAY’ PHOTO YESTERDAY I GUESS YOU HAVE SOME KIND OF BASKETBALL ABILITY OR INTEREST IN IT MAYBE?
“I have interest, but that is where it stops.”
ARE YOU ENTHUSED THIS WEEKEND THEM ABOUT BEING IN THE SAME MARKET AS THE FINAL FOUR? ARE YOU GOING TO GO TO THE GAMES TOMORROW NIGHT? IS IT KIND OF COOL TO BE APART OF THAT?
“I had plans to go to the game, but those plans changed a little bit so I’m not going to go. I have Florida winning my bracket so I’m kind of pulling for them I suppose. But they are not my favorite team. I scored two points that year in military school (in reference to the photo he posted on twitter of him playing basketball.) I sat on the bench a lot being the smallest guy. I didn’t have any skill. I only played because you got to leave campus for the road games. Being able to leave even for a day in military school was an amazing vacation just to be able to leave for a few hours because you would go after the game you would get pizza or whatever. You just didn’t have those kinds of luxuries being on campus so that was pretty neat. I had fun. My sister found that picture so I thought it would be fun to share. We played basketball at home and we have a small little group of guys that get together and play, but I’m not skillful at all. It’s fun. It’s a good way to get some energy and exercise.”
WERE YOUR TWO POINTS A BASKET?
“I threw it up with my eyes closed. The only way I knew it went in is because Kelley and everybody that was there, the 10 or 12 people that were there were screaming when it went in. So I knew it went in, but I never saw it. Some guy was jumping at me and I just closed my eyes and threw it up. It was rough back then, but a lot of good memories and a lot of fun practicing and being on a team. I hadn’t played much organized sports at that point in my life so that was pretty fun. Plus like I said being able to get out of military school for a day was great, being able to see the outside world.”
WHAT IS THE TEAM YOU PULL FOR?
“The Tarheels. In college basketball I pull for the (Carolina) Tarheels. I pull for somebody different in every sport.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES