NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed his 3rd place run at Chicago, the Talladega rule change, and his position in the Chase along with other topics. Full transcript:
ON HIS CHICAGOLAND RUN, HEADING INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE AND HIS NEW SPONSOR PAINT SCHEME FOR 2012: “We were able to unveil the car this week. Knock out our photo shoot for next year, at least one of them. We had a good week last week. Looking forward to racing this weekend. Looking forward to getting on the track and practicing a little bit and seeing what we’ve got for a race car. See what we need to work on.”
HOW EXCITED DO YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET HEADING INTO HERE ABOUT YOUR STRENGTH LAST WEEK AND CHASE CHANCES: “I think we made a pretty serious impact last week and we just kind of need to keep that momentum going. I like the race track and I like coming here racing; but, you never know what you are going to get. These races are always real competitive and the racing is always kind of aggressive. You kind of have to hope that you can put together a full day and the car will run well and track position is real important. It is difficult to pass here; but that is no real difference from any other place. We just have to work on qualifying that is the most important part that is hurting us. If we can get some better qualifying efforts and start closer to the front we would not have to work the whole race just to get in position to run well. As good as we ran the last run at Chicago, if we had of had track position all day long, we might have been able to win that race. Those are the opportunities that we let get by us because of how we struggle in qualifying.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TALLADEGA RULE CHANGES? “I think it will make us go faster which is something we needed to change the way the racing is. I think the racing was exciting nobody can argue that the finish on that last Talladega race was not exciting. I like the different style of racing that we used to have. Where you did not have to have a partner, you didn’t have to be pushing each other every lap. It is just not what I prefer and that is my own personal opinion. I think we will go a little faster, I am not sure it will break up the two car drafting or not, but I hope it does. I think it was a great move. The track has new asphalt, new surfaces, the cars were making qualifying runs under a 190mph, around the 187-185 range, that is just way to slow. We are drafting at 195 to 198 mph, so to have such a big difference between what a car will do by itself and what a car will do in the draft is a little bit dangerous because the closing rates are kind of crazy when you come up on cars that aren’t hooked up. Hopefully that will even that out and make it a little more fun too.”
IS THERE A COMFORT LEVEL THAT YOU’RE BUILDING BETWEEN YOURSELF AND STEVE (LETARTE, CREW CHIEF) ON THE TRACKS THAT YOU RETURN TO FOR A SECOND TIME?
“I hope so. We sort of got off a little bit and have not run that well. The cars have not felt like I want them to feel, we have had some platform issues with the cars in the last 8-10 races and they worked really hard before Chicago to fix that and they did. The car was really good and it was similar to how we had ran earlier this year, and how they felt and drove similar which I liked. I was glad they were able to accomplish that. That is not really easy to find, some of those things. Fixing a platform is pretty difficult to do. They did and the cars felt real similar to how they felt earlier this year, and how we were more competitive. I am happy about that. I trust in Steve and believe in Steve and believe in the team. I never ever have any doubts about what the team wants to do, what they want to achieve and how they want to go about it. I am on board with what we are doing and feel confident that we are all the right pieces of the puzzle to make this thing work.”
IS THIS THE HAPPIEST YOU HAVE BEEN IN TERMS OF BEING IN POSITION AND CONTENTION FOR THE CHASE? DOES THAT REAFIRM YOUR DECISION TO STAY WITH HENDRICK MOTOR SPORTS?
“I never doubted that I was in the wrong place or need to go somewhere else I felt pretty good, I felt lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity to work at Hendrick Motor Sports. When Rick (Hendrick, Owner) makes a commitment like he made with me. It makes you want to go out there and work hard and do the best job you can. Makes you want to make him proud. He is a good guy to be around; I learn a lot from him that is going to help me down the road in my life to make the decisions I have to make in life going forward. He is teaching me how to make those decisions. I think it has been a real positive thing for me to be around him, and to be around his employees and understand and learn how they do business and see how they go about doing what they are doing. It has had a good affect on me personally.”
WHAT WAY HAS IT INFLUENCED YOU TO BE AROUND A GUY LIKE JIMMIE JOHNSON?
“I’ll know more about that once we get further into the Chase. Every shop has a different culture. Everybody rules a different way. Chad (Knaus) and Steve (Letarte) rule a different way then what I had seen in the past. Every idea has its positives and negatives but they do a great job. It has been fun to be in that environment, it’s been fun to work with those guys and see their dedication. They are dedicated equally across the board to both teams and they load up some really, really good looking race cars every weekend. They are fun to drive and fun to put out at the starting grid for the race. It is just neat to be in that environment and see how people do things differently or how they approach things differently.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE IN A COMFORTABLE SPOT, GIVEN THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T EXPECT A LOT? “Yea, I think we are in a real good spot. I think there are eleven other guys with nothing to lose either. They have the same attitude. That is what being in the Chase is about. It is time to put it all out there and see what happens. You have the rest of the field that is not in the Chase to have a lot to prove or maybe a chip on their shoulder for the fact they didn’t make the Chase. Everybody sort of races in a different way during these races, it gets a little more intense. I feel good about our position. I thought we did a good job last weekend, we were really smart about how we went about the weekend and I was real happy with how we were able to finish up and put together a complete race.”
WHEN YOUR CREW CHIEF COMES ON THE RADIO AND SAY’S “START SAVING FUEL”, WHAT’S THAT LIKE? “You just start doing whatever you think you need to do to save. We talk all the time about fuel mileage races and how they seems to be part of the norm, more than they are the exception. There is nothing really you can do to get rid of them. Even if you change the size of the fuel cell, the way you race is, you pit as soon as you get inside the pit window. However, you want to call it fate or whatever it seems like all them cautions seem to come out at that particular time, right on the edge of making it to the end. They are part of the sport and they come around with more regularity than you would imagine. We all sort of study about what to do, what would be the best way to save gas, whether it be just lifting off the gas, simply lifting and just coasting into the corner, lifting earlier than you normally would, weather you need to turn it off, clutch the motor, whatever, there are all kinds of techniques that guys have and think it’s good. Thinks their method works best. Everybody is sort of doing something different out there.”
WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE COMING UP SHORT IN QUALIFYING, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FIXING IT, AND THIS AFTERNOON WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE RAIN AND START FIFTH? “Of course, yea, fifth is a good starting spot. It is something as simple as a variable in the set up like wedge or cross or something like that, that is holding us back in qualifying. We went to Chicago and we were trying to make qualifying runs, we thought we had done a good job getting the car in good race trim and we started making some qualifying run and we were just not good, not fast, and really slick, up out of the race track and could not get any speed out of it. We cranked about 3% of wedge in it, the car got a lot better. It was one of the easier cars to drive in qualifying trim we have had all year. We didn’t run a great lap, but we had improved. That day on Friday in Chicago I actually took all my qualifying runs for the year and wrote the down on a piece of paper just to get them right there in front of me to see how poor we were doing. Every one of them was all in the 20’s we have qualified 22-28th every week, except for the Michigan races, where we were 7th and 11th and the plate tracks. Every other one has been in the 20’s and that’s terrible. When you go put your car into qualifying trim you have fundamental things you do, you drop the track bar, add some wedge, we don’t change a whole lot from the race set-up, our approach to that has got to change to get to where we can find the speed. We are not going far enough to try to find the speed in the car. We’re not making short cuts but we are lacking a lot of cross or we need to do something different with one of the variables in the set up. It is probably a really simple thing. “
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