NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
BANK OF AMERICA 500
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 9, 2014
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed his outlook for this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his surprise birthday party and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET COMING INTO CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY, OBVIOUSLY A BIG WEEKEND FOR YOU AND THE RACE TEAM:
“I’m really excited actually. I was thrilled with how we ran last weekend. Super-fast car, this place is a bit similar. I feel like as a team – the last time we raced at Chicago was a while ago and everybody in the sport has learned a tremendous amount since that race. You can’t come into this race going ‘alright, well we ran good last time we were here, so we should be good this time.’ You kind of got to look a little shorter down the road and that was our best opportunity to really look at a track that compares is last week. I feel like we should be competitive this weekend. We obviously know what the situation is with the points and how important it is for us to come in here and win the race. I have been winless at Charlotte in a points paying race since I started my career, so it’s bound to happen sooner or later. I always win at the weirdest times in the oddest circumstances. So I feel like everything is lining up and feel real good about this weekend.”
WHAT DOES TURNING 40 MEAN TO YOU?
“I think that 40 to me mean, whoa, I’ve still got a lot of fun stuff I want to do, slow down. I’m like aging in literal years faster than I am physically and mentally. I feel like I just have a lot of things that I’ve yet to accomplish, not only in racing, but in life in general, lot of fun that I’m not done having. I feel great. You kind of reflect a little bit and you think about how lucky everything has worked out and how fortunate. What a hell of a deal… I mean I’ve had so much fun. Done a lot of great things and been a lot of crazy places and have had some fun times. Hopefully, the next 10 will be just as good and we will just keep going.”
IN WHAT WAYS HAS THIS FORMAT CHANGED THE WAY YOU APPROACH THINGS? DOES A BAD RACE HURT YOU MORE IN THIS FORMAT THAN LAST YEAR’S FORMAT? DOES IT CHANGE THE WAY YOU APPROACH IT?
“I think so. Like you say last year if we had hit the fence last year in one of those races you would pretty much of written yourself off at that point because you are competing against some guys that are so consistent. Like the way Joey (Logano) is running, if we hit the wall we were pretty much out of it last year at that point. We still feel like we have a shot, there is a chance. That is all you want to be able to go out there with a good attitude and try to make it happen. There are two races left, but I would like to make it happen this weekend because like I say I haven’t won a points paying race here. That would be just amazing for us to go ahead and get that done with the circumstances that we’ve got. With this system we still feel like we are in it. Feel like if we believe in ourselves and believe in what we are doing we can go out there and get in the mix.”
GIVEN THE POINTS SITUATION AND THE NEW RULES IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S A MUST WIN IN EITHER OF THESE TWO RACES DOES THAT MAKE IT EASIER OR HARDER ON YOU?
“Well when you say it’s a must win that doesn’t sound like it’s easier, but I knew as soon as we had trouble last week. There are two kinds of approaches and they are both equally as nerve racking. The one approach is to run well and hope that nothing bad happens and the other approach is if something has happened you can really just kind of go for broke. I feel less pressure now I think than I did before the race at Kansas. Even I think if we had run in the top five last week I think today still under the circumstances now I still feel less pressure for some reason – it’s weird. I just think that we have a shot and I feel good about it. I think our team is good. I think we are good enough. I think we should go out there and win. I believe we will.”
SURPRISE PARTY, GETTING GIFTS AND MAYBE PROBABLY SOME MISCHIEF GOING ON FOR TURNING 40 FROM SOME OF YOUR FRIENDS:
“Why is there mischief?”
WELL MOST PEOPLE HAVE MISCHIEF WHEN THEY TURN 40. IS THAT A NICE DISTRACTION TO POSSIBLY ANY FRUSTRATION FROM WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND?
“Definitely being 40 has been an awesome time. This week has been full of surprises and pleasant stuff happening left and right. I think that probably has a little bit to do with my disposition. I felt like as soon as what happened last week happened I think that I sort of had to switch into this mode and get ready for our opportunity here this weekend. I just was so happy with the way that car ran last week and how fast we were. I feel like we have a great opportunity this weekend. I think I would feel that way no matter what week it was. No matter whether I was having my birthday or not, but we have had a good week. I guess there are still some surprises to come, but we will hopefully win the race and that will be the biggest surprise.”
HOW DID THEY GET YOU AT THE SURPRISE PARTY? DID YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA?
“Yeah, I didn’t have any clue. I was trying to look at my calendar. I’ve got something going on just about every single day. I don’t have any days off this month. That was really the way they got me. I couldn’t figure out what day they might surprise me. We had an appearance get cancelled and I started getting some ideas that maybe that was all together fake to begin with. Amy (Reimann, girlfriend) had a practice over here at the race track and she had her suit and her helmet and we were getting in the truck. The garage door was going up and we were getting ready to drive down here so she could practice.
“She said ‘I had gotten you something earlier today’ and handed me this little bag and it had a koozie in it. She said let’s go upstairs and change clothes and go party. I was like I’m confused. What is going on? I walked downstairs in my basement where all my family and friends. They got me man, it was good. It was real good. Amy and everybody did a great job putting that thing together. It was a fun time. I think a lot of people there I hadn’t seen in so long, a lot of drivers that I raced with. It’s awesome when your peers come out and support and celebrate your life with you like that. That meant a lot. Jimmie Means was there, which was great. Just a lot of people were there that I hadn’t seen in so long.”
WHERE YOU ARE IN THE STANDINGS JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) ARE BACK THERE WITH YOU. DO YOU FEEL THAT ONLY ONE OR TWO OF YOU REALISTICALLY IS GOING TO RACE BACK INTO IT?
“Well those are two of probably the most successful guys with championships and how they have run over the last couple of years. I can’t worry about them. I can’t say what are my odds and what are Jimmie’s and what are Brad’s. I just have to go try to win this race. I know that is what they have to do. I’ve got to just kind of throw them into the mix with every other driver out there because it’s really not a matter of who is going to climb out of the hole. It’s just who is going to show up Saturday night and win the race. You can’t really go into Talladega with the same confidence because it’s such a lottery there on how in the hell you are going to finish. I want to make it happen now. I feel like I’ve got a better chance today, this week than I do in Talladega even with the success we’ve had there.
“We are only three. There are four guys that are going to get cut off. I’m not even counting points or worrying about scenarios and numbers and figures. I’m just going to go out there and try to help Steve (Letarte, crew chief) put together the strategy that gives us the car that is out front when it needs to be at the end of the race. We have been very good at doing that this year. He has been amazing at that. When we are in this situation where nothing matters is when we are doing that the best. When we won the Daytona 500 we could be so risky and aggressive on our calls and it paid off all year long to do that. When this Chase started we reverted back toward being reserved and calculative on our choices and it netted us average results. We are back in a situation we have our backs against the wall, but we are in a situation where we can be aggressive again, as hard and crazy as we want to be on pit calls and fuel mileage and all those things. That is where Steve is at his best. I’ve got a lot of confidence that if the car is competitive and we do the right thing as far as getting the set-up in there we can be around at the end of this thing with a shot.”
WHAT IS AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST WHEN YOU GET FINISHED WITH RACING?
“Oh, well, I would like to race late models and just have fun every other weekend whenever I felt like going. If I’m lucky enough financially to be able to do that I would love to continue to drive. I had a lot of fun at that level. I was so nervous at that level that I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I would love to go back and enjoy that more, just racing at Hickory or somewhere. I got the dealerships that I think that I want to be a big part of those. I don’t know how ownership kind of fits in. I know that as a driver I can help fuel our program at JR Motorsports, but once I’m not a driver anymore how well I’m able to fuel that effort I don’t understand that yet. If I can keep JR Motorsports successful and continue to race cars out of that shop in the Nationwide Series I would love to do that. I love finding new talent trying to help people get opportunities and go places. That is a big reward for me, so continuing that business would be great.”