American Muscle


March 18, 2011

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the change in crew chiefs, Danica Patrick, upcoming races, racing this weekend at Bristol, and more. Full Transcript:

Q. (Question about upcoming races.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: A couple tracks I need to run better at. It just gives us a chance to sort of get some better footing and try to improve on what we’re doing.

Q. (Question regarding Lance.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Lance had some times where we did have good chemistry and we did run some good races. I’m real excited about what’s happening right now, real positive about it. I think it’s realistic to be patient about your expectations. I mean, my expectations are really the same. It’s just early in the season and we got a long, long way to go, a lot of tracks to go race at, a lot of different setups to be working on, ideas that will come and go. It’s just a long season.

Q. You said during the off-season you liked when you were under the radar. Now there’s a buzz around you. Are you comfortable with that buzz?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think we just got to temper our excitement over what we’ve seen so far. You know, there have been some positive results. We should have run good, and did at Daytona. Phoenix, I don’t know how well we would have finished had a lot of guys hadn’t had trouble like they did. We weren’t strong. It’s hard to pass.

The car was getting better and faster. Would we have been able to make up track position the way the car was? I don’t know. Some places it’s really hard to pass.

I don’t know. You got to temper your mood a little bit and just keep working hard, keep staying focused, realizing how much further in the season we got to go.

I’m comfortable with whatever buzz that creates.

Q. (Question regarding the off week.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: They’re all good. I love off weeks (laughter).

Q. Do you get the feeling that Stevie wants to be there?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR: I don’t really think that Lance had any times where he didn’t want to be there. It’s a real tough job where Lance was put in a very challenging and tough position. He did a really good job being put in that position, how he handled it. We got along good. I think me and him did as good as we could under the circumstances. I wish we’d have done better. I know he wishes we would have done better. But, you know, it’s the clean slate, the different personalities. It’s just such a great slate starting for this season. It’s allowed me to sort of reboot a little bit. Me and Steve are getting along really good, and the environment around the garage and trailer and stuff is good. Hopefully we can maintain that. That’s going to be the challenge really, is me and him maintaining, you know, the positive attitude, maintaining the communication and the consistency of how it’s working right now. That’s going to be the part that is the hardest and that will determine whether we will succeed or not, is whether we can keep that going over the entire season. The season is long. You get pissed off. Things don’t go right. You get pissed off. You just got to get through those points when they happen, whether it be in a practice or whatever. The littlest thing, you got to be able to manage it and not let it ruin things. I have a hard time not letting things ruin my day, get pissed off at everything around me. I’ve always had that problem.

But, you know, that’s going to be the tough part, I think the hardest part, just trying to keep the relationship as it seems and it is right now, keeping that throughout the season.

Q. (Question regarding Stevie helping that situation.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think that’s what he’s great at and that’s what he’s doing right now. I mean, he gives you the impression that when you get yourself in a hole or the car isn’t quite going like you want it to go or the car isn’t responding like you think it should, you get the impression that you’ll get it fixed and (indiscernible). As long as he doesn’t fool me too many times, yeah.

He does a great job at, you know, just keeping you in the game. You’re part of the puzzle, and everybody needs to be pulling in the same direction. He’s good at what he does. Ain’t no doubt about it.

Q. (Question regarding Danica.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think she’ll do fine. She was up to speed rather well in the first run. She’ll do fine. You know, it’s not a real challenging place to look at and say, Well, there’s a line, I need to go out there and run there. With the new banking and stuff, you can be off a couple feet in the cars and relatively still be in the line.

Once she hones it in, we got 24 hours of practice, so by the end of all that, she should have it nailed.

Q. (Question regarding Danica’s progress.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: She’s done a pretty good job. I expected her to do well. Watched the races last year pretty well. Saw some flashes. Watched all the laps she ran. Were physically out there watching it on the racetrack. We saw there was some great potential.

She started to realize some of that potential like she did in Vegas. I thought that was a great race she ran. She was real competitive, raced guys hard, getting comfortable being around the cars, being around the other guys, making moves.

Q. I’m doing a piece on Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. I was with Kevin Harvick the other day. He said he got a laugh out of it. If somebody else gets in it, everybody is picking at them. What did you think of that?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don’t think Burton had much of a choice. We’ve seen Jeff, he’s upset with you, he’ll let you know. We saw him do that with Burton and Matt. I wasn’t at all surprised at what I was watching.

But it was exciting I think, a race story for the week. You know, sometimes, man, you just get so mad, you got to go handle it. You got to go handle your business.

Q. (Question about the four races coming up.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Basically here at Bristol, I just want to try to maintain my consistency, get a good car under me, take care of it, manage a good race. We’ve been able to do that a lot at this place.

At California, I’m excited to get there and work with Stevie and see what his package drives like. Hopefully we’ll sort of, you know, have the same success we had at Vegas.

Martinsville, same thing about Bristol. Take a good car there, qualify rather well, use good pit strategy, manage a good race, put yourself in position for a competitive finish. That’s how you short-track race. If the car hauls ass, get to the front. If you need to work on your car, manage your track position, manage yourself so you don’t lose track position. If you lose track position in them races, it’s really hard to get back.

Talladega just is what it is.

Q. Texas.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Texas is the other one?

I feel pretty good about Texas. We run good there the last couple times. We could improve, but I feel pretty confident going there.

Q. Is the next big thing for you is to have a good car the entire weekend?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I guess. I mean, you know, I don’t know that you can expect to show up exactly tuned in. It’s nice when you do show up and you’re in the top five in times. But, I mean, these damn cars are so finicky, and you dial it in and out throughout the series of a practice, you know, it might look like you’re good all weekend, but the driver’s never satisfied. There’s always a run or two that doesn’t feel just right, something the crew chief changed that you just didn’t like. The weekend goes up and down even though it looks steady on the chart.

But, you know, it would be nice once we get to that point. We’ll get that opportunity I’m sure throughout the season to get to that point.

Q. The new Bristol or the old Bristol, which do you like better?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I really like ’em both. I don’t prefer one over the other. This one has so many different characteristics versus the old one. The old one, you ran the bottom. There wasn’t a second groove. You moved guys out of the way. You know, it was a fun racetrack. A little tougher on cars, a little rougher.

But this place is really smooth. There’s more grooves. It makes it harder to pass because the guy on the outside can hold you off if he wants to be hard-headed about it.

I think, you know, there’s good things about both of them.

Q. (Indiscernible.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. The plate is really one of a kind.

Q. What are your expectations for this weekend?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Just get a good car under us in practice and start the race, manage a good race, work ourselves into the top 10, try to work ourselves into the top 5, try to work ourselves into the top 3. One step after another, see how competitive we can be.

Q. (Question regarding the NCAA basketball tournament.) What would a win by you do? Would you make a dent in the headlines?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: There’s some pretty passionate basketball fans out there. Yeah, I mean, I think they deserve some of the headlines. Pretty good stuff.

Q. Do you think you’re inching closer to a win?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. I feel we’ve made some steps that have helped us. We got a long ways to go, though. We have to temper our expectations and just try to maintain our focus on what that job is that day, that moment, just do what we need to do, do it as good as we can, try to get competitive, stay competitive, try to do a good job in the races. We’ll see.

Q. Fontana is down to a 400-mile race.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: That’s awesome. Hell, yeah. That’s great. They should look at Pocono. The only race that lasts 4 hours. All the others are ones are in the 3 hour to 3:15 mark. We go to Pocono, it’s 3:58. They should cut about a hundred miles out of that one, too.

Q. (Question regarding the NFL lockout situation.)

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I’m upset as a fan. I hope we get to see some football. I don’t know what I’ll do, how I’ll replace my Fantasy Football league. Really, I mean, I look forward to it. I don’t know what I’ll do with my time. It will be disappointing not to have football, especially when our season’s over. We got a couple more weeks still in the regular season.

As a racecar driver, that’s one thing I look forward to about the end of the season, watching football, watch my team on Sunday. It will be disappointing that we might not have a season.

That happens to be an opportunity for us. I just hope we get some football.

Q. You blame one side or the other?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don’t know enough about it. I don’t know enough about their problems.

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