CHEVY NSCS AT LOUDON TWO: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Press Conf. Transcript




American Muscle


DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at discussed his outlook on being at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Tony Eury Sr. and Jr. leaving JR Motorsports, the Chase field and other topics. Full transcript:

ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE: “I was a little bit disappointed with finishing eighth last week (at Chicagoland). We’re going to need a little bit more than that to win the championship. This is a track that I feel like owes me one. We’ve been running here for a long time. We’ve had some good cars here, and we’ve had some cars capable of winning races. We just haven’t been able to finish the job. So, I kind of feel like it’s got to happen sooner or later, and I feel like that it needs to happen now. There’s a bit of urgency. Not a whole lot, just enough to keep us motivated and real positive. I feel pretty positive. I mean, this is a good race track. When we came here (for the July, 2012 race), I was without my main engineer (Kevin Meendering), who was having a child that weekend. We joke about it. Even though he was at home and trying to participate, it’s just not the ideal situation. That was something totally unavoidable, and we were happy for his situation at the time. We have him here this weekend. I’m really to attack, and go work on the car in practice. Try to find a great balance. We had a real good car when we tested here, quite a few months ago. But, still, I know what the possibilities and the chances of us having a good run, and winning the race here. I feel like we are really close. Hopefully we can hit on a few things in practice, and really get the car moving.”

IS IT A REFLECTION OF HOW FAR YOU HAVE COME THIS YEAR THAT YOU CAN FINISH EIGHTH AND BE DISAPPOINTED? “Yes, I think so. We just know how well we’ve run at the mile-and-a-halfs. And, I do enjoy Chicago. Really enjoy the race track, and thought we had a good car in practice. And we had a great car when the race started. We just ran into a lot of issues. Got caught a lap down on a caution, pitting early. Lost a couple of spots on pit road in another situation. The track position for us just never did really materialize at any point in the race to give us a good shot at getting the kind of finish the car was capable of getting.”

CAN YOU COMPARTMENTALIZE WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE DAY-TO-DAY AT JRM (JR MOTORSPORTS), AND WHAT YOU NEED TO DO THESE FINAL NINE RACES? YOU HAVE A GOOD STAFF AND LEADERSHIP WITH YOUR SISTER, BUT THE EMOTIONAL TIE TO THE EURYS HAS TO WEIGH SOMEWHAT ON YOU: “It doesn’t really weigh on me when I go work. It’s something that I can easily put aside when I’m at the race track this weekend, or any given weekend. It has been difficult to see these changes. It was not easy at all to sever the working relationship with Pops (Tony Eury, Sr.) or Tony, Jr. (Eury). But, you know, we’re a company that wants to improve over what we’ve been doing, and we’re making some changes to see if we can make that happen. I do like to have heavy involvement in the company. And, I do have general concerns about the company, even when things are going good. I like to be plugged in to what is going on, and direction we’re going. At the same time, like our Whiskey River businesses basically run themselves with the people we have in charge. The production company doesn’t require a lot of my attention; it runs itself with the people we have in place. We make changes in both of those situations from time-to-time to improve. The Nationwide program kinda needs to do the same thing for me to able to focus on my main priority which is driving the Cup cars. It needs to be fluid, and work as flawless as possible. Just as I said about making personal investments in it financially is something I never want to do, I’m not in a position in my life to invest my focus in it with everything else I’ve got going on. Driving race car cars being the priority. And I won’t never do that. I won’t overload myself or take away. Especially with the opportunity I’ve got right now to win the Chase, win the championship. I won’t let anything take away from that.”

AFTER THE CHICAGO RACE, DENNY HAMLIN TWEETED “THIS IS WEEK ONE OF 10, WE WILL WIN NEXT WEEK’. WOULD YOU EVER GO OUT THERE, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE AND SAY WE’RE GOING TO WIN A WEEK BEFORE A RACE? DO YOU CONSIDER THAT TOO BOLD? IS THAT JUST NORMAL? “I don’t think it is too bold because of how he competed here the race before. I think he had an outstanding race car. Should have won the race had they made a little different strategy at the end. I feel like he has…I can understand the confidence from that statement because of how he ran. It doesn’t surprise me.”

WITH THE STRENGTH OF THE CHASE FIELD, WHAT KIND OF SETBACK IS JEFF GORDON FACING NOW? “Definitely, I know he would rather be in a different situation. It’s not insurmountable. It’s not something that they can’t overcome. It could easily happen to everyone else in the field at some point in time during the Chase; and maybe it will. You just have to keep going and running as hard as you can, and trying in case the opportunity presents itself. I think that they’re probably not panicked. They probably know it is a steep mountain, but they’re probably confident in what they can do, and confident they can overcome it.”

BACK TO THE JRM CHANGES, IT WAS PRETTY CLEAR WHAT HAPPENED WITH TONY EURY, SR., BUT WAS THERE A CHANCE THAT TONY EURY, JR. COULD HAVE LEFT? DID HE LEAVE OF HIS OWN VOLITION? DID YOU GUYS MUTUALLY DECIDE THAT? HOW ARE THINGS LOOKING FOR SPONSORSHIP NEXT YEAR? ARE YOU STILL PLANNING ON RUNNING TWO FULL-TIME CARS? “The Tony, Jr. deal was mutual. He and me and Kelley all sat down and talked about it, and it ended with us deciding to not move forward as a group. I want to run two cars next years. I want to run two full-time cars competing with the championship with both, and I would like to run three to five races on my own with a third car whenever we do that. Whatever that is. That is our plan. That is what we would like to do, and that is what’s in our proposals that we’re taking to people at this time. We don’t have agreements financially to run those cars yet, but we are in the process of putting those together, and talking to people who have interest.”

SO THE SITUATION WITH TONY, JR. DIDN’T BECOME INEVITABLE WITH THE SITUATION WITH POPS? YOU CAN’T DRAW A LINE FROM ONE TO THE OTHER, CORRECT? “No, not really. I thought Tony, Jr. and us were going to move forward past the decision with Pops. I wanted Tony, Jr. to stick around. I think part of him wanted to too. It was a real tough decision. It was one that wasn’t easy to come by. But, it is what it is. For us to get to get better, we’ve have to maximize our relationship with Hendrick (Motorsports). Those resources are there at our fingertips. The companies that we compete against have those resources. The companies we want to beat, and are running up front in the series have those kinds of resources. We needed to improve on that. That was becoming clearer, and clearer as we ran the last couple of years that we needed to improve that relationship. That was really why decided to make the move of Ryan (Pemberton) is because there is a great relationship between Ryan and my crew chief (Steve Letarte) and Hendrick as well. They have a lot of trust in Ryan, and belief in Ryan. I felt like he could come in there and bridge that gap a little bit. That ultimately led to us having the conversation with Tony, Jr., and him not quite agreeing with direction, and us deciding to go in different ways.”

DOES THIS PLACE (NHMS) OWE YOU FROM ANY RACE IN PARTICULAR? IS THERE ONE THAT GOT AWAY FROM YOU? “No, not really. I’ve just had some good cars here, and I really like running here. I’ve felt that…this is the kind of…you go to certain tracks, like Bristol and Atlanta, you are like ‘Man, I want to win here. This is track I enjoy racing on’. You have really have fun racing on the track. I’ve really loved running here. It is so much fun to race here. It is so challenging to pass. Just how the car has to roll the center. You work so hard trying to get that to happen all day. It is just a fun place to race. I enjoy short-track racing, and the corners and the speeds here kind of lend itself to that style. It’s just a little bit frustrating that I haven’t won here because I feel like it’s a track that I should be capable of doing that.”

TALK ABOUT THE CHANGES THAT WERE WRITTEN ABOUT IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ABOUT IN YOU, PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, THIS SEASON: “I had some conversations with Lars (Anderson, writer). When you…I would say, if I had known then what I know now, that I could have put forth a better accountability and a better account of myself overall as a competitor. At the time, you don’t realize what kind of opportunity you have got, and what kind of… And, there’s a lot of trappings, and things that you want to do that don’t involve racing. Just go have fun, so you goof-off a lot. I don’t know. I can’t really sit here and have regrets about opportunities and chances gone by. I do find it a bit unfortunate that it took me this long to realize how much more work I could have been doing. And how much more I could have invested in the overall schedule of events, and just what you do on a weekend. We had a lot of fun back then, and we didn’t have as much success as we probably should have. Those were the reasons that I felt like were the case. Now, I enjoy working harder. It’s not like it’s a burden. I enjoy the relationship I’ve got with my crew chief and my team. I enjoy how things are going. I see a big contrast in that now, and the way things used to be. I was just kind of, you know, kind of making the…talking about the differences in those. Contrasts. I guess we all get a little smarter, and get a little older. That’s all that has really happened.”

HOW HAS BEING IN BETTER SHAPE HELPED YOUR ON-TRACK PERFORMANCE? “I don’t know if I’m in much better shape, you know. I’ve been trying to get in better shape, but it’s not easy. I don’t think I’m in bad shape. It’s just real hard. It takes more work than I am accustomed to doing on that front, just on that front in general. I’ll be honest with you. But I think I’ve been…that in combination with eating better. I’m always learning how to improve my diet. I’m curious and I ask questions about that to people, and change what I hear I need to change, or what I think I need to change. I think that accompanied with a couple of other things improves endurance, and improves your overall well being. How you are feeling in the car. How you deal mentally when you are kind of physically taxed. When you get tired physically, you can get lazy mentally. So I think that being in a little bit better shape. Being in a little bit better conditioning has helped me quite a bit because some of those races are really tough. The Sonoma race, the races at Bristol, those are really tough races. Think I need get tougher to be able to do what I need to do out there.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM TEST IN MAY? WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE TIRE HEADING INTO THE JULY RACE AND FOR THIS RACE THIS WEEKEND? “I didn’t really learn anything about the tire in particular. We had just such great speed over the people that were here. There were some decent cars that were here to compete in the test, and our speeds were really, really good. I was real happy with the way the car turned in the middle, and some of those things I know are going to be important in the race. I was real pleased with what the car was doing. That just had me real excited. I was anticipating coming here and being dominant, and being one of the guys up front. We ended up finishing well, but we just kind of struggled all weekend. The involvement of the head engineer, and wishing he was here. It made not have made a difference, him not being here, but I feel like I depend on guys being there. You just depend on him being there, and you want them to be there. He was at the shop on the laptop and on the microphone and understand what was going on through practices, and helping us with ideas and stuff, but it is so much better when you are here in person to understand what is going on . So I know he is glad to get our opportunity to maybe this weekend try to win the race.”

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