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Daytona 2012 Media Day: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Transcript


FEBRUARY 16, 2012

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed how Danica has improved his team, how he feels coming into the season and his chances of winning this year’s 500. Full transcript:

SO ARE YOU GOING TO WIN THE 500? "Man we are going to try."

IS IT TO THE POINT NOW WHERE’S IT'S A LEGITIMATE ONE IN 43 SHOT FOR EVERYBODY? "Oh yeah. Everybody I think. At least 35 have a good shot at it."

AFTER TREVOR (BAYNE) WON IT DID THAT CHANGE THE THOUGHT PROCESS THAT IT REALLY WAS AN OPEN FIELD? "No, I kind of knew it was a lottery for a while. Take nothing against Trevor I mean he did what he had to do to win the race. He made some great moves and won that race on his own. He was very smart about how he drove his car. You just don't know who is going to come off of turn four battling for this thing anymore like before. When Dale Jarrett was in the No. 88, you knew they were going to be strong. You can guess this that and the other and make some predictions that would always come true but now not so much."

YOU WERE PRETTY FRUSTRATED WHEN YOU LEFT HERE IN JULY WITH THE RACING, ARE YOU ENCOURAGED WITH THE THOUGHT IT COULD BE LESS TANDEM? "I'm encouraged with the work we tried. I don't mind failing but I was happy that we tried and made a lot of changes to try to fix it and try to change it and try to get some things back in the driver's hands."

DO YOU THINK IT WILL WORK THOUGH? "Well I won't know until this weekend is over with or I won't know until the Daytona 500 is over with if we worked hard enough."

WILL IT BE A BIGGER WIN FOR YOU IN THE 500 OR DANICA? "Me, me! She don't driver for me in the 500 so it wouldn't matter to me if she won it. If I win it, it would be a big deal for me! As far as what everybody else thinks, everybody is going to have a different opinion about that."

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THAT SHE ACTUALLY BRINGS TO THIS RACE BEYOND THE MARKETING THING? "I don't know." THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR HER AS DRIVER AS OPPOSED TO LETTING HER HERE BECAUSE IT'S A GREAT MARKETING BONANZA FOR THE SPORT. "I think she does great driving. I've watched her in the Nationwide Series and thinks she does a great job. People may need to watch more Nationwide races. People comment without having any knowledge. They can make ignorant statement just based on what they want to believe. What they want to accept and not accept. I've watched her race and I think she does great and I've enjoyed watching her race. She made my team better and I didn't even think about that. We've been asking the question for so many months of what she would do for this sport and what has she done for the sport but one of the things I didn't anticipate was how she made my team better. As a person she's good to be around. She's engaging and fun for Tony (Eury) Jr. and the team to be around. They enjoy going to the track with her and working with her. So my company improved working with her. We didn't take a step back. As the year went on our company progressed. So that was great. I was real happy about that because I own the thing."

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT HER BEHIND THE SCENES THAT OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW OR THAT YOU FIND PERHAPS SURPRISING? "I don't have anything. She goes to the race track and races. I don't really dig into her personal life. Nothing about her was an ‘oh shit' moment for me, it was just she's seems normal, she works hard, she shows up to race, there's nothing about her that's quirky or weird, different or surprising to me. I kind of knew her a little bit before and its basically what I imagined it was as far as being around her more often once I got to be around her a little more and what was she really like as a driver and how dedicated and focused she was. She's pretty intense."

HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING INTO THIS SEASON? "I feel pretty good. I'm frustrated that we didn't win last year, we came close. I'm ready to get back to that. I'm ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can't do that without racing and we haven't been doing any so it's been a little frustrating. Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here. This is going to be a fun experience but I'm looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races."

ANY CHANCES THIS CAN BE A SINGLE-FILE RACE? "No." WHY NOT? "Because everybody is going to be on top of each other. It just won't happen. The track, it just won't happen no way. I will be so, so, so surprised if that is what ends up happening." DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE TWO-CAR DRAFT? "No, I don't know. I don't know if tandem is going to work or not. I know we tested; tandem's was hard to do. It was doable but it was hard to do and you run hot. Guys went home and studied. I'm sure people did their homework and some people figured some things out. So some people will probably get the tandem to work again and it will be lights out and they will be gone."

THIS PLACE HAS BEEN SO SPECIAL FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, DOES IT LOSE ITS LUSTER A LITTLE BIT WITH THE RACING THE WAY IT IS NOW, YOU TALKED ABOUT BEING READY TO GO TO PHOENIX ALREADY? "That's not what I said; this race is going to be fun. This weekend will be enjoyable but I am looking forward to going to Phoenix because I know I have better odds of winning there. That's what I meant. I look forward to going to tracks where I'm driving the car, where I can make a difference. I don't know what is going to happen in the Daytona 500, I don't even have a clue what the race is going to be like now and that's frustrating but that's just the way it is. We'll go through Shootout practice tomorrow and get the chance to practice a little bit and see what works and doesn't work. Then we'll run the Shootout and really see some people play their hand and see what we're capable of doing and after that race we'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect the rest of the week. Right now I have no knowledge and it's frustrating as a driver to go in a situation like that. Everything we're going to have to learn, we're going to have to learn really fast in just a few hours of practice. Just waiting to get that going, waiting to get that practice started and see what kind of racing we are going to be doing."

IS THAT SOMEWHAT STRANGE FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU USED TO COME DOWN HERE AND EVERYBODY TALKED ABOUT YOU BEING A DRIVER TO BEAT HERE AND NOW LIKE YOU SAID ITS LIKE A CRAP SHOOT? "That's just the way it is. We did a lot of work this off season. To NASCAR's credit they've been working really hard trying to put it back into the driver's hands and give the driver's control of their destiny instead of pairing up and having to take care of each other out there on the race track all the time. You want to be stubborn and looking out for yourself only, that's how you want to do it so they are trying to go in that direction. I give them a lot of credit for trying really hard and hopefully we made a lot of good changes so we will see. Everybody is really gotta be anticipated, it's got to be exciting for everybody, fans, media anticipate what's going to happen tomorrow and the Shootout Saturday night. There should be a lot of people glued to the action."

YOU MENTIONED HOW DANICA HAD IMPACTED YOUR TEAM IN A POSITIVE WAY, HOW DO YOU SEE HER IMPACTING THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AS A WHOLE IS THERE ANY SORT OF AN ECONOMIC BENEFIT MAYBE SOME TEAMS ARE GOING TO GET BECAUSE SHE IS RACING FULL-TIME THERE? "I don't know. I'm sure she brings exposure and exposure will get the notice of corporate America and pay pull a few triggers but I don't really know. It's a good thing; it's not a bad thing. Obviously everybody knows it's that but I don't know how you measure something like that."

IN YOUR OPINION THE RACING IN THE DAYTONA 500 WILL HAVE BEEN A SUCCESS IF … "If it's like anywhere from like the 2000, look at all the Gatorade races from 2001 and 2 002, 2003, those races were awesome. That's the kind of racing we want."

IF YOU HAD KNOWN THIS WAS THE KIND OF RACING WE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN WITH THE TRACK REPAVING WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN SO VOCAL ABOUT THE TRACK GETTING REPAVED? "Yeah, Carl Edwards was right. He's the one that said they shouldn't repave it. Maybe they should have just fixed a few spots. I didn't like it as rough as it was but I really, really loved the lack of grip. I wouldn't have minded it being smoother. They changed the ratio of the mix and when they come down here, not only when you pave on the Eastern Seaboard you get a lot of seashells. Darlington used to use a lot of seashells and Rockingham would too. They changed the ratio and they put rubber and stuff in asphalt now and all kinds of different things to make it really last a long time. That Charlotte track kind of scares me because they paved it a while ago and it's still like it's freshly paved. It hasn't worn, it's not gotten slicker and that worries me a little bit." FOR THIS PLACE? "For every place they pave. What if none of them wear out, that won't be good at all."

BESIDE FROM WINNING, WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF SHOWING YOUR HAND IN THE SHOOTOUT? "You've got to point. Some people probably won't show their hand in practice. Practice might be just a small taste of what is going to happen. I think in the Shootout it will matter enough to everybody. Once you get out there and you get the drivers out there, nobody is going to hold back. Nobody is going to put anything in their pocket and save it. We're all pretty ignorant out there, we want to win. We want to do whatever it takes to win and you forget about who is watching, who is listening and all that stuff. Maybe your crew chief might not put things on your car that don't need to be on there for that race that he might save for the 500, that might be smart for your crew chief but they are smart enough to do that. But the drivers are going to show whatever they can do."

IF YOU KNOW THERE IS SOMETHING YOU CAN HOLD BACK, YOU CAN POTENTIALLY KEEP IT FOR THE 500, THE SHOOTOUT IS JUST AN EXHIBITION RACE, WON'T DRIVERS SAY TO THEMSELVES HEY I'M GONNA KEEP SOMETHING IN MY POCKET? "I don't know man because we want to win the race. I don't know man. Too much ego, I don't know. You get out there and you want to win, everybody's watching. It's a show you know."

WE TALKED SATURDAY BEFORE QUALIFYING IN TALLADEGA AND YOU MENTIONED YOU WANTED TO GET IT BACK IN YOUR HANDS AND YOU WANTED TO BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR DESTINY THEN YOU GO OUT IN THAT RACE AND YOU AND JIMMIE GET WAY BACK IN THE PACK, DID YOU BECOME EVEN MORE VOCAL WITH NASCAR AFTER THAT HAPPENED AS FAR AS DOING SOMETHING TO CHANGE THAT? "I don't remember getting vocal with NASCAR. I told Mike (Helton) if they every did go to test to work on things aside from just testing tires that I wanted him to know that I was volunteering to go, wanting to be one of the teams to be a part of it. If they would think about me if they did that, I would appreciate it and they did. They offered us the opportunity to come so we wanted to come down here. I don't think I was too vocal I think I just reached out and let them know I was available."

WILL WE SEE TANDEM WAY BACK LIKE THAT AGAIN OR CAN YOU NOT DO THAT ANY MORE? "I don't know how the race is going to be. I don't want to make any guesses because I don't have a clue. I'm sure as long as you can draft guys will lay back. As long as the draft works, guys will lay back and save their cars. Some will probably still do that."


AS FAR AS YOU BEING AN OWNER DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK AT ALL-ON RACING OR LIFE? "Being an owner, sure. I think it makes you respect things more. Respect your crew and what they go through, individuals. You become more respectful of all the individuals that put your car together and work on your cars because you get a little better view on it and see it from a different angle."

WHAT DOES KASEY KAHNE BRING TO HENDRICK? "I think it's more important what Kenny (Francis) brings to Hendrick. Kasey is a great driver and he's going to come in here and do great things and have probably the best years of his career but his crew chief Kenny is a really smart guy and I think that's where the difference is going to be as far as where the rest of the company will see advantages because he will bring a lot to the table. He's a really smart guy."

- Team Chevy Racing News


Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports.
Media Relations | No. 88 AMP Energy / National Guard Racing


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