NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
WINDOWS 10 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JULY 31, 2015
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 MICROSOFT CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed his Pocono sweep in 2014, the status of his team heading into the Chase and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP WITH MICROSOFT AND HOW PRACTICE HAS GONE FOR YOU SO FAR:
“Yeah, the Microsoft deal is a real awesome sponsor for Hendrick Motorsports. They are really excited about the potential to work with them as far as improving on our SIM (simulation) programs; and trying to find a way to incorporate the technology and experience they have into what we are doing to help our performance. It’s a great platform for Microsoft to promote its new Windows 10 software. I think it works really well. Hopefully, we will see the benefits of this technology and things we can learn and improve on within the company. Hopefully, we will see the benefits on the racetrack soon. I’m really excited about it. I’ve been playing video games and racing online and doing all those things for years. I’ve been through several Windows platforms and software updates. I’ve always enjoyed iRacing and all that stuff through Windows. It’s something I’m pretty comfortable with and I’m definitely a big fan of Xbox and playing their Madden League. It’s a good partnership.
“Our car came off the trailer today with some issues. We worked to try to figure that out. We were in race trim when we showed up. We worked on race trim for two or three runs and really struggled trying to get the car where it needs to be. We had been real competitive ever since they repaved this track. I don’t think we’ve came here and not been quick. I was a little frustrated with this morning and how we showed up. But, we think we learned what we were missing for race trim, but we needed to switch over to qualifying to get some opportunities to make some qualifying runs because time was running short. We felt like what we did to the car for qualifying is what is going to help our race trim stuff and the balance of the car came back in our mock runs for qualifying. So that made me feel pretty good, it made me feel a little bit better.
“They did a great job repairing or improving the bumps and issues they had over in the Tunnel (Turn) especially on the apron. When you are out there making qualifying runs in practice and we are over the temps that we want to see crossing the finish line. You have to shut the motor off. That means we need the apron to get around the racetrack. You don’t want to be in anybody’s way going through the Tunnel (Turn) so we need to use that apron. It was unusable until they fixed it. I appreciate that. Brandon (Igdalsky, track president and CEO) and those guys do an awesome job always trying to not only give the fans what they want, but make this as good of an experience as they can for the drivers too. They have always been real good at listening to everybody. I’ve got to give those guys a pat on the back. The rest of the racetrack is in such great shape it was unfortunate whatever happened, whether it was a bad winter or whatever happened over there in the Tunnel (Turn), but they sorted it out.
“We will see what we have tomorrow. I’m really anxious to get ourselves back into race trim for those practices tomorrow and see how we can sort our stuff out and see where we really are. We’ve always ran good here, there shouldn’t be any issues. We showed up with some issues I’m anxious to get to work on the car and see where we can figure out where we are going to be and be competitive. Qualifying was a struggle here last time. Very frustrating, ended up 19th or 20th or somewhere. I’m hoping we can improve on that today. There are some guys out there with some real speed. We only made runs on one set of tires, meaning we didn’t make a run and then bolt on stickers and make a second run. We probably could have ran a little faster if we did and put up a better time to give ourselves a little more confidence going into qualifying, but we went ahead and re-ran on our first set of stickers to see what the balance change was and get a little information there. I feel like if we can get in the top 10 I will be thrilled. I know we really should be qualifying up in the top three with all the resources we’ve got and all the talent we’ve got in this team. But the way things have been going if we can get ourselves a top 10 I will be pretty satisfied with that and we can build on that.”
YOU HAD A FRUSTRATING RACE LAST WEEK. HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THE FRUSTRATING PART OF IT WHEN SITUATIONS LIKE LAST WEEK HAPPEN?
“Yeah, we had a guy spotting… TJ (Majors) the best spotter in the business needed a guy to help him last week. He is on that Pagoda and can’t be running laps around that thing spotting the whole racetrack. So, we’ve got a guy that helps us at that track on the back straightaway and it’s usually somebody we’ve never worked with before and doesn’t know what we do. He was clearing me down the back straightaway and talked as I was off the gas going down into the corner through Turn 3. I would just rather nobody really be talking if I’m turning the wheel. So, I was just telling the guy that that is a little more information than I need going into Turn 3.
“We did have a frustrating race. Anytime you don’t realize your potential you are going to be upset. If we should run in the top three and we run eighth I’m not very happy about that. We had a pretty good car. I don’t really know how good a car it was, but I think we were good enough to run in the top five. We had good speed all weekend and I think we should have qualified better, but we went out so late that when it came time for us to re-run we didn’t have any temperature out of the tires. For example the No. 22 (Joey Logano) car went out real early in the first round and he got to sit there for 45 minutes to an hour to cool his tires down, it’s a great advantage. We needed that advantage to be able to showcase how good the car was and qualify a little better.
“We had some issues on pit road that were out of our control. Those will get resolved. Nobody in the company wants to have that happen and they will work on that really hard to fix any issues we have there. That is of no concern for me. This doesn’t happen overnight either.
“You don’t fix issues on pit road overnight. A lot of this stuff takes time and we don’t learn about all these problems in Indy and have them tuned out for Pocono. This might be something that we have to focus on for a couple of weeks before we shore it up. I know that the company is aware of it and aims to fix it. That was kind of frustrating, but we did learn some things about that package that might help us at Michigan. We were so far back in track position that we were able to make some pretty crazy swings on the set-up and do some wild stuff that we wouldn’t have been able to do for fear of losing track position if we were running in the top 10. We found some things that helped us that might be able to help us at Michigan. We will see. It was a frustrating weekend.
“Greg (Ives, crew chief) doesn’t let that stuff really get to him. I don’t expect that to be anything that lingers on. We all talk about it. We had a meeting Tuesday and this is something that we do often especially when there are concerns about our performance. We had a meeting Tuesday where everybody on the road crew, all the guys that are here today, are in that meeting together. We all lay everything on the table. Anybody got a problem, anybody see where we can do better, do different, and improve, so there is a lot of communication. We just didn’t go home pissed off and then just show up to Pocono hoping everything was fine. We worked all weekend to make sure everybody was in the right frame of mind and were still on task. Even though that weekend at Indy didn’t go like we wanted we expect to come to Pocono and run really well.”
YOU ARE THE ONLY HENDRICK DRIVER WITH A TOP FIVE FINISH IN THE LAST THREE RACES. IS THERE COMMUNICATION AROUND THE SHOPS AS FAR AS WHAT YOU GUYS CAN LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AND HOW TO GET OUT OF THE CUMULATIVE FUNK?
“I don’t think anybody is sitting there… I didn’t even know that stat and I don’t think anybody else in the team or the company really knows that stat. It’s business as usual as far as I can see. We definitely understand when we don’t perform well. Last week was frustrating. I don’t think we have been too thrilled over the last month about how things have gone for us. From Rick (Hendrick) on down you get the impression that things need to be better and everybody needs to work harder. We have meetings every Tuesday. We had that meeting with the team and then we have a meeting where all the drivers and crew chiefs are together, Rick is there. We have that meeting every Tuesday. Everybody whether we are all running great we talk about how to get better and if we aren’t running well at all we talk about how to get better. I mean there are always improvements to make even when things are going good you see areas where you’ve got to keep working because you know it cycles in this sport.
“It seems like the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys have found some things, found some speed. They were struggling last year, maybe at the start of the season, but they look really good now. They worked hard to get there. We’ve got to continue to work hard. I know that they team and the company knows this and they will. We are struggling at the moment due to circumstances and a lot of things out of our control, but also as a company we always want … We feel like we should show up with the resources we have and be the best team here every week. If we are second that is not good enough. If we are 20th that is not good enough, we are going to work hard.”
FROM AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE, IT’S TOUGH TO TELL WHETHER A LOT OF YOUR ISSUES HAVE TO DO WITH YOU GUYS HAVING GOOD CARS BUT NOT HAVING GOOD FINISHES, OR IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE SPEED YOU HAD EARLIER IN THE YEAR. HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE YOUR OVERALL PROGRAM AS FAR AS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE WHEN THE CHASE STARTS AND BE IN CHAMPIONSHIP FORM?
“You’ve got to be on it with yourself. The Gibbs guys have found more speed. They look like, over the last couple of weeks, to be a lot stronger and that we’re not on top of the mountain any more, by ourselves anymore, at least. So, they’ve found some speed and we need to combat that with speed of our own. I’ve seen it before where we get some competition or somebody gets a leg-up on us and our guys go to work and find out where that speed is and where that improvement comes from and they do a lot of hard work to find it either in the engines or the bodies or what have you.
“But yeah, we had a bit of an advantage last year, particularly on the engines and it looks like a lot of things have changed. We can say it’s partly because of the rules, but you’ve got to give some of these manufacturers credit. It think they actually have just gotten better and are building better motors. And that’s just one piece of it. You’ve got all kinds of components and a million moving parts on that car that can somehow be better, lighter or faster. You’ve just got to keep working and keep finding that advantage. It’s a never-ending pursuit to build the fastest race car week in and week out. And it looks like right now it’s a mad scramble to get ready for the Chase. And I’d love to be sitting here three-tenths faster than everybody and fighting only my teammates for the win, but we need to work a little harder to get a little more and be ready for the chase to be able to get out there and compete.
“It looks like our competition has improved and so I think we can be honest with ourselves. We definitely aren’t where we want to be. But I’ve seen it before. These guys are working on it every single day trying to find that speed and make that difference back up and put ourselves back to having the advantage on the straightaways and in the corners. I’m not too worried about it. We’ve got the best resources. We’ve got the best boss man and he doesn’t quit and he doesn’t settle for second and he’s in there pushing everybody every day.”
KEVIN HARVICK IS RUNNING THE TRUCK THIS WEEKEND. HE HAS OFTEN BEEN CREDITED WITH HELPING THE XFINITY PROGRAM. WHAT DO YOU THINK HE CAN DO TO HELP THE PROGRAM?
“He’s pretty sharp. He can really pinpoint with real good accuracy, where the weaknesses are in a program, whether it’s a department such as an engineering weakness or a like the engines or the bodies or something like that. He’s very good at that and I think that’s what’s made him such a competitive driver and a champion in the Cup series. It’s awesome when you have a guy like that who is not only a great driver, but who is very good at seeing the whole picture and understanding the team from a distance. He can kind of get back and see it all and he can make things better in a short period of time if you trust his opinion. Hopefully he has fun and likes the truck and likes the team and hopefully we don’t have a whole lot that we need to improve on. I think that they’ve done well winning some races right out of the gate and they’ve had strong trucks. So, I just hope he enjoys the weekend and has fun doing it.
“He can run as many as he wants. We don’t want to open up another team or anything and again, I’ve said it before, our main focus is to prepare Cole Whitt and get him ready; but we definitely like racing and like being out on the track and if he can get more opportunities in the truck, it’s just going to help that program.”
YOU GOT THE SWEEP HERE LAST YEAR AND YOUR BUDDY MARTIN TRUEX JR. HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO IT HERE. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HIM?
“No, he doesn’t need any advice from me. He’s pretty sharp and pretty smart and is a good talent. I don’t want to help him any more than he’s already going to be pretty competitive. I thought the last trip here, we had an equal car to him. The No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) was probably the best throughout most of the race. I felt pretty equal and on par with Truex. Again, I’m anxious to get into our race trim tomorrow and working on our car. I wish Martin all the success in the world because he deserves it. He’s a great guy. He’s a real asset to the series and one of the good guys. You like to see those kinds of people enjoying themselves and having success. But we sure would like to get back on track and win some races ourselves.”
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