CHEVY NSCS AT FONTANA — Dale Earnhardt Jr. Press Conf. Transcript

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TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

MARCH 23, 2012

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Auto Club Speedway and discussed the NASCAR appeals process, possible modifications to Bristol Motor Speedway and other topics.  Full Transcript:

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE APPEAL BEING OVERTHROWN FOR THE NO. 48 TEAM? “I thought it was interesting.  As an individual in the sport it makes me feel good that NASCAR has such a good appeal process that both sides have the ability to get a fair shake.  It’s nice to know that, that is out there and that it is working as designed.”

AS A TEAM OWNER WOULD IT MAKE YOU TAKE MORE APPEALS TO THE FINAL ARBITRATOR NOW THAN BEFORE? “No, not really.  You know when you are right or wrong and you fight your battles on that intuition.”

DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS A BLACK EYE THAT NASCAR LOST THIS ROUND? “No.  I look at it as a good system that gives both sides the opportunity to present their case and present it well in a good balanced argument. I don’t feel any different about NASCAR than I did before.  I think they themselves provide the appeal process and I think it is there for a reason and does a good job.”

DID YOU TALK OR TEXT WITH JEFF (GORDON) AT ALL ABOUT LAST WEEK (BRISTOL RACE)? “We talked and I feel pretty good about how that went. We should have no problem going forward.  It was an unfortunate situation, especially for him.  I’m sure it stings a little bit for him and the team.  We will just see.”

WHEN SOMETHING AS ‘FREAKY’ AS THAT HAPPENS, DO YOU LOOK BACK AT THE REPLAYS AND SEE WHAT IN THE WORLD DID THAT?  BECAUSE YOU SAID THE CONTACT WAS NOT THAT MUCH. “It was just a freak situation and you kind of got to remember that, you know, and not really beat yourself up too much about it.  Jeff (Gordon) has a good reputation in this sport. I’ve got a lot of respect and enjoy being his teammate.  I’ve learned a lot from him even before we were teammates, just racing him over the years.  He has been here a long time and I think we will be able to race each other without any problems.  I think he respects me and I respect him.  We will be able to move forward without any problems.”

WE SPOKE TO YOU LAST WEEK AFTER THE RACE (AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY) ABOUT ALL THE GREEN FLAG LAPS AND THE TRACK SURFACE.  THIS WEEK BRUTON (SMITH, BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY TRACK OWNER) SAID HE WAS GOING TO TAKE A POLL FROM THE FANS TO SEE WHAT THEY WANT AND HE QUITE POSSIBLY MIGHT REDO THE TRACK AND PUT IT BACK TO THE OLD WAY.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “Well, if he does make changes to the track, there are some drivers he ought to talk to about it. If he wants to move back to the other race track or the other surface the way it was designed he should talk to the drivers as well about what made that work, what they liked about that.  Because there were some things about that race track before that I liked.  One of the reasons why it was so good was because the yellow line was about a foot off the apron and they actually sealed underneath that yellow line. That provided grip for the left-front tire on the banking.  That made a world of difference at that race track, being able to get down there and use that.  There was guys not smart enough to use that and there were guys that were and that made a difference between comers and goers and made for great racing.

“It’s not just the banking; it isn’t ever just one thing. Whatever he decides to do talk to the drivers, man, we are the ones out there running on it and can provide some insight.  We don’t have all the answers, but I’m sure we can give him some things that they can improve on the situation if that is what they want to do.”

IS THIS A GOOD PLACE TO GET THE WIN?  IS IT IMPORTANT TO QUALIFY WELL TO HAVE THAT CLEAN AIR UP FRONT? “I like this race track.  It’s wide and I enjoy running on tracks that give you the opportunities to run different grooves.  I am just worried about qualifying.  I want to qualify well.  We struggled here in the past. It’s really difficult trying to get across the seams down in turns one and two, turning into the corner.  Juan (Pablo Montoya) got the pole running the top, running the third groove in (turns) one and two last year.  You really don’t know what to do.  You don’t know what the best option is.”

PLUS ONCE IT GETS STRUNG-OUT, IF YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PACK IT’S REALLY HARD TO PASS. “It’s not hard to pass because the track is really wide, but it’s just very competitive.  You will be running 19th around guys who have winning cars but it’s just a real competitive field.  If you don’t start up front it’s really hard to get there.  If you qualify mid-pack it’s hard to get out of that.  You will end up running there all day even if you have a better car you will end up running there all day long.”

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOUR CARS TO WHERE THEY ARE RELIABLY GOOD ALMOST EVERY WEEK, LIKE YOURS ARE RIGHT NOW? HOW MUCH OF THAT GOES BACK TO DRIVER COMFORT LEVEL AND DRIVERS COMMUNICATION WITH THE CREW CHIEF? HOW MUCH IS THAT ON YOU TO MAKE THE CARS AS GOOD AS THEY HAVE BEEN FOR YOU THE LAST FEW WEEKS? “I think all the credit to having consistent cars goes to the crew chief and his ability to work with his engineers and the talent level of the engineers. Those guys see patterns and see techniques within their set-ups that are repeating that are providing them with good race cars and good speed.  They will continue to build on what seems to be working and start producing that every week.  No matter the type of track they are going to.  That is really where all the drivers in this series can pretty much run competitively at any race track, but the consistency comes within the depth of the organization and the engineering department.  As well as the crew chiefs ability to feed off of that information that engineering department gives them.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF THE TIGHT PIT ROAD AT MARTINSVILLE? “It’s not that bad.  It’s a short-track so things are kind of slowed down.  The speed on pit road is pretty slow.  You don’t see quite as many accidents as you would imagine on pit road.  You get boxed in a lot and that causes you to lose a lot of time on pit road to somebody who boxes you in.  They did a good job at that track to provide a decent place to get your pit stops done at such a small event.”

WHEN WE GO TO MARTINSVILLE  D.W. (DARRELL WALTRIP) ALWAYS SAYS IT’S LIKE A LAMB OUT AND A LION IN.  HAVE YOU EVER HEARD HIM SAY THAT? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? “I don’t know what that means.”

DO YOU LOOK AT THE RACE AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR AS THAT WAS THE BIG SIGN OF WHAT THIS TEAM COULD DO OR DO YOU STILL LOOK AT IT AND SAY ‘MAN WE LET ONE SLIP AWAY’? “Not really let one slip away because Kevin (Harvick) just flat out whooped us and won the race.  We didn’t screw up.  He just came on and drove by us.  I kind of got over that part of it, because I don’t know how I could have beaten him.  He was so good.  It gave us confidence. But, we are still not satisfied with what we are doing and how we are doing.  We are doing good, doing decent.  We made the Chase last year because we ran consistent and we minimized a lot of mistakes that I would make in the past or that Steve (Letarte, crew chief) might make in the past.  That is something we have to maintain.  Like last week I gave up 10 points because of my speeding penalty.  We can’t afford to do that.  10 points might be the difference between making the Chase and not making the Chase at the end of the season.”

BACK TO MARTINSVILLE, IT’S KNOWN FOR ITS HOT DOGS. IF SOMETHING WAS AN EATING COMPETITION HOW MANY HOT DOGS COULD YOU EAT AND DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO WIN? “I could eat, if we are going to Martinsville, I don’t know.  I can eat 10 or 20 whatever you need me to eat. They are good.”

WOULD IT BE ENOUGH TO WIN? “No, probably not.  I’m a midfielder I think.”

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