DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – POLE WINNER
POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
TALK ABOUT YOUR RACE CAR AND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR HERE TOMORROW NIGHT:
"The car drove really good in that qualifying run. We have been working over the last two years to improve. We weren't very good last year in qualifying all season. This year we have made some gains, so it feels good to get a pole position and know that we are improving and doing something right there. It gives us a great starting spot for tomorrow we feel pretty confident about the car after practice today. Starting up front is an advantage and we will get us a nice little pit stall too. I'm just happy we are performing well and looking forward to the race."
DO YOU THINK THE BENEFITS OF HAVING SUCH A CONSISTENT REGULAR SEASON WILL COME IN HANDY WHEN IT REALLY COUNTS AS WE HEAD INTO THE CHASE?
"I think that we could have benefited from winning some more races this year. There are teams that accomplished that and performed better in that statistic than we did. I look at those teams as the guys that will be the ones to beat and compete with. The guys that are winning the races this year, but our consistency I think is not matched by many teams in the sport this year. That gives me a lot of confidence that if we don't beat ourselves or make mistakes ourselves that we can continue that and that too will make us a strong opponent in the Chase. I do know that I don't think I can depend on our consistency alone to win the championship. I think the guy that wins the championship is going to have a few trophies in the Chase."
AS STRONG AS YOU HAVE BEEN AT THIS TRACK IN THE PAST ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THIS IS YOUR FIRST POLE HERE?
"I guess so yeah. This place reminds me so much of Myrtle Beach. I ran there so much that it is kind of where I learned how to drive cars. So when we came here and starting racing here with Nationwide Series I felt right at home. We showed that with some wins and good success even in Cup car the first several years here. In the last two or three years I have felt like we have struggled here and I really contribute most of that to the fact that they haven't sealed the track in a long time. When they sealed the race track that sealer… they just need to seal it once and we really start chasing that sealer all over the place for a couple of years. They don't have to seal it year after year. I used to really like trying to find that sealer up in the high groove and really getting that sealer tacky in the race and starting to run a high line that would benefit me. We just really can't widen the track out like we used to since they haven't sealed it in quite some time. It's become a challenging track to me due to that difference. There is really one way around and that is right on the bottom. When they used to seal it we could chase that sealer up the race track. As we wore the sealer away and we would be all over the place really trying to find speed. Going really high in the corners trying to find speed and there were some pretty epic battles at this place. It has changed for me as a race track and become more challenging, but yeah that is a bit surprising that I haven't had a pole here ever considering that I do count this in the top five or top 10 of my favorite tracks."
AS FAR AS THE DECISION ON 'POPS' (TONY EURY SR.) DOES THAT WEIGH ON YOUR MIND AT ALL? YOU TALKED TODAY ABOUT BEING SO RELAXED, BUT HAVING TO PART WAYS WITH SOMEBODY WHO IS FAMILY I WOULD THINK WOULD WEIGH ON SOMEBODY'S MIND A LITTLE BIT?
"Yeah, it was tough. It was a difficult decision that we had to make. As a company we just felt like we wanted to make some changes and I was telling Jeff (Gordon) earlier that the environment for our Nationwide team and I'm sure a lot of Nationwide teams is so different than what we have in the Cup series. In the Cup series you have commitments that stretch over years and you can really map a future further ahead than just 12 months. In the Nationwide series, a lot of our programs are structured over single years and you renegotiate each year. Every year you don't really know what February is going to look like sponsor wise whether you will have one full time sponsor over an entire team, whether you are going to have three or four trying to outfit one car trying to get that car to the race track.
"During this kind of time of transition we felt like we wanted to make some gains or make some changes and try to do something different, try to improve our company, our team. We need to do something directional that is different than what we are doing. This is one piece of that. I think that there will be some more things we will do to try to become a better race team for next year. There are a lot of moving parts and missing pieces that got to fill in, the sponsorships and so forth that have to fill in the gaps to give us a better idea of the direction we want to go. You can't sit here and say 'man we are going to run three cars next year' without three full cars fully funded, you can't just make that decision. You have to wait until all the things kind of play themselves out and people make their commitments to you to decide all right this is what we've got. You look at your employees and you say how we are going to run two full cars or one and a half full cars you know you don't know that stuff until January. So it's really difficult. Even in the last three or four years that series has become more of a challenge, but we want to be there. I enjoy what we do in that series. I enjoy our efforts there and I think the change with 'Pops' was really difficult because he has meant so much to me and my career and me as a person, but at the same time we want to try to see if we can change our performance level and change a bit of the culture in the shop and see if that helps if that gets us going in a better direction."
DOES THIS TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR TEAM THAT WHEN YOU GUYS CAN JUST BE RELAXED THAT YOU CAN DO AS WELL AS YOU CAN WHEN YOU HAVE THE 'EYE ON THE PRIZE' FOCUSED MENTALITY THAT YOU CAN RIP OFF A POLE AT A TRACK THAT YOU HAVE NEVER QUALIFIED FIRST?
"I'm as surprised as anybody (laughs). I knew we had a pretty good car and we ran a really good lap in practice. You just never know until you line them up. We got a great draw going late, but I think being smart and using your head and being a thinking man and staying calm is what is going to suit me the best in the Chase. There will be times on restarts where you've got to get the whip out and get yourself geared up and take advantage of some people in certain situations on the race track. For the most part over the process I think being calm and being relaxed and confident is the best scenario for us. That is really how we feel this weekend since we don't have to worry about points. We really just kind of focused on the car, the components and trying to make the car better. There is no outside pressure that we put on ourselves really at all this weekend."
- Team Chevy Racing News
Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports.
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