2012 NSCS Aaron’s 499 Pre-Race Q&A with Team Chevy Driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.Press Release
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, his season to-date, the Earnhardt legacy at Talladega, Danica Patrick and other topics.
TALK ABOUT BEING BACK AT TALLADEGA, WHERE YOU HAVE HAD A LOT SUCCESS: “We enjoy coming here. This is a great area. Really similar to back home in North Carolina. We always have been treated really well down here. Got a lot of fans in this area; a lot of friends that live here. I have always enjoyed coming here. Even as a child, this was always one of the more interesting places to be due to the size of the track. Just running around here in the garage when you were young was incredible because the cars were always so different than what you see at Charlotte or Bristol or anything else. It was just a totally different atmosphere. It’s always meant a lot to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to win some races, and have some success here and go to victory lane. I think it is going to be a good race. It’s very hot, but that is kinda like how it always was when I was young coming down here. I remember it just being always really hot. We’ve been fortunate the last several years to have pretty decent weather. But, this race is going to be really warm. You are going to have to take care of your motor, and cooling your engine. Different things like that; but I think it will be a great race and a lot of fun.”
DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE BUILDING THAT THIS COULD BE THE WEEK FOR YOU TO WIN BASED ON HOW YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING THIS SEASON AND WHERE YOU ARE IN THE POINTS? “I have never really taken anything for granted. I would say that I don’t do that. A lot of people have said that this week, or this weekend at the race track. But, I don’t take anything for granted. I know how this sport can be brutal; and great all at the same time. You just hope you are prepared; that we try to run a smart race, and hope we can make the right moves and beat the odds and win the race. We are having a good year. We’re trying to concentrate on our momentum, our confidence and the team’s true ability. (We are) just trying to go to the race and unload good cars. I’m kinda looking forward to going to Darlington, and back to race tracks where the car handles because we’re having such a good year. It’s not a slight on Talladega, but we’re having such a good year at all these tracks, and the cars are driving so much better over time, even from last year, the cars are better. I’m kind of looking forward to other tracks as well. This probably is one of our better shots as far as how the drafting has changed with the rule changes they (NASCAR) made before Daytona. That suits me better. As hot as it is, I think that even leans toward us pack racing more than tandem racing. I’m pretty sure that is kind of in my favor. I’m looking forward to the race. My odds I don’t think have increased just because of how well we’ve run this year. We’re just going to see how it goes.”
WOULD YOU CONSIDER THIS MAYBE YOUR BEST CHANCE TO WIN IN A WHILE ON ANY KIND OF TRACK? “I think that is probably true. When we go to Talladega or Daytona, I do feel like those races are…I feel like I have a good chance of winning every time I go because there are less variables. The cars don’t handle; you just hold it on the mat. You just have to make good decisions. You really don’t have to count on the other important things that you do at other tracks; like is the car going to roll in the center? Is the car going to handle good? Be fast? Those things are big variables at Richmond or somewhere else. You don’t have to deal with those here. I feel like my confidence goes up when I come here. I think that any driver should feel the same way when you go to Talladega or Daytona because the cars are all really even. You just have to make good decisions. You don’t really have to rely a lot of the things, or count on all the things that your normally do at other race tracks. I think when we come here, especially with how well we are running this year having run second; I think everything we did at Daytona was a top-five – the Shootout, we wrecked, but we ran second or third in the 125 (150 Gatorade Dual at Daytona), and run second in the Daytona 500. We feel confident this weekend.”
YOU WERE KIND OF RUNNING SOLO AGAINST THAT ROUSH TANDEM AT DAYTONA. DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE IF YOU HAD PICKED UP A DRAFTING PARTNER, IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A WHOLE DIFFERENT STORY AGAINST THE ROUSH CARS? “Well, it is really hard to say. Those cars were really fast that weekend. I’m not sure how much that would have helped.”
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALIZE HOW PASSIONATE THE FANS WERE FOR THE EARNHARDT NAME HERE AT TALLADEGA? WHAT IS THAT LIKE FOR YOU TO SEE THAT PASSION? “I probably didn’t really witness it until I was a driver and Dad (Dale Earnhardt, Sr.) won that one race that they talk about where he came from 18th to win with three laps to go. I don’t really remember anything specific about that moment. When I was a kid, I wasn’t really concerned with how famous Dad was or the reaction from the fans. I was just running around the garage having fun with my buddies. I was in awe about how many brand new spark plugs they would leave laying around the garage. Brand new bottles of brake cleaner and glass cleaner just discarded. Because, when the race started, they didn’t leave their crash carts. They didn’t have crash carts back then. You had one tool box and you took it to the pits, so when the race was going on, the garage was completely empty of everything. There was nothing there. They had cleaned it up, put everything away and took everything they needed to the pits. What they would leave behind would be brand-new spark plugs and brand-new cans of this, that and the other. All kinds of brand new stuff just laying around. Me and my buddies would box it up or carry it over to Jimmy Means’ truck so they could take it home. Like they needed it. I don’t even know if Jimmy cared, but we thought we were doing something cool. That was all we did; we did that, and begged people to let us wax their race cars and whatever we could get ourselves in to.”
DANICA PATRICK WAS ALMOST BEAMING YESTERDAY ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU WERE ASKING WHEN SHE WAS GOING TO BE OUT ON TRACK AND WORKING WITH HER DURING PRACTICE. SHE ALSO TALKED ABOUT NOT DWELLING AS MUCH ON THE TOUGH RESULTS THIS SEASON. HAVE YOU TALKED TO HER ABOUT THAT? DO YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN HER DEMEANOR? IT SEEMS LIKE SHE IS VERY COMFORTABLE HERE IN TALLADEGA
“I haven’t talked to her specifically about that. We talked a little bit this weekend; just saying hello and talking about what’s been going on and how busy we’ve been. I don’t pretend to know her very well, but from what I do know, she seems like the kind of person that’s been through a lot of situations that have seasoned her for this. So I don’t expect her to get worked up over too much. And she understands it’s going to be a struggle. I think she may be enjoying this weekend because of what comes next, being Darlington. I think she understands how tough that’s going to be and she’s probably really trying to get everything out of this weekend that she can and just enjoy herself before she really has to go to work because that’s going to be a whole lot of work to go there for the first time. I’m just guessing.
But I think she knows what she’s doing and what she’s dealing with and how to handle it. She’s really savvy. If I felt like I needed to go talk to her, I would go talk to her. I talk to Cole (Witt) because there’s times when I feel like he needs to be talked to or needs to hear some words of advice. And if I felt like she could use it, I would do that. But I haven’t ever felt that way. She seems to have it all under control.”
THIS MIGHT BE ONE OF YOUR BEST TRACKS TO GET A WIN; AND YET YOU HAVEN’T WON A PLATE RACE SINCE 2004. DO YOU STILL FEEL AS STRONG HERE AS YOU DID BACK WHEN YOU WERE WINNING ALL THE PLATE RACES? OR, HAS RACING HERE CHANGED SO MUCH THAT YOU DON’T FEEL AS DOMINANT OR THAT THIS IS YOUR PLACE FOR A WIN?
“Well, I feel like I’m in the best equipment that’s out there and that gives you a lot of confidence. I feel like I know what I’m doing when I come here. I feel like that if I could create the best scenario for me to come to Talladega and win a race, that this is it. I’m driving the best cars. I feel like I understand how to get around the race track. When we started tandem racing, I really didn’t understand that and didn’t like it and didn’t want to do it. And so, I didn’t wrap my brain around it and accept it and try to learn how to do it as quickly as some. And I almost wished it away and it wasn’t going away. But so, we’ve had some back luck in getting caught up in wrecks, but we’ve always at some point, even when those were happening, we’ve been up front and running well. I haven’t had a race since 2004 here where I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing or I was lost or making bad decisions one after the other; or that I had lost my savvy here or my mo-jo. I look forward to a good race. I feel like if we do what we need to do and make the right moves, we’ll be up there again trying to win.”
YESTERDAY, JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS IN THE MEDIA CENTER AND HE TOOK THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE COIN ON THAT. HE SAID THAT HE DOESN’T THINK THIS IS YOUR BEST CHANCE TO WIN NOW BECAUSE YOU’RE RUNNING SO WELL EVERYWHERE. IS IT KIND OF NICE TO HEAR THAT FROM A GUY LIKE JIMMIE BECAUSE HE THINKS YOU’VE GOT A BETTER CHANCE WHERE THERE AREN’T SO MANY CRAZY THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN?
“Yeah, I maybe feel the same way because when you come to Daytona and Talladega, the cars are so equal; and even though pack racing definitely puts things more in your hands and you have more control of your own destiny when you’re just dealing with yourself and looking out for number one and being really greedy and selfish. There are still so many things. The cars are so equal and somebody could get the right push and a couple guys could do the right thing at the right time, and win the race. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a lottery, really; and I’ve said that before. But it kind of really is when you come to Daytona and Talladega. Trying to win these races is a bit of a lottery. But I feel like we’re really consistent every week. We’ve gone to several different styles of race tracks throughout this year and we’ve been consistently finishing well. We’ve been pretty quick at some, and just competitive at others. I would love to win this race on Sunday, but if our next win happens to come at a track where you’ve really got to wheel on it and get around the corner and hustle the car a lot, that would probably, personally, mean a bit more to me just because of the circumstances of how we haven’t won in a long time. And I guess what the critics’ opinion would be, should we win here and break the streak. Obviously it’s a plate track and go win somewhere else and prove to us really that you’ve got it all turned around, I guess. I don’t know. But that kind of is in the back of your mind a little bit.”
CONFIDENCE SEEMS TO BE A REAL THEME HERE. JEFF GORDON MENTIONED YESTERDAY THAT JUST KNOWING WHAT HE HAS WITH THE HENDRICK EQUIPMENT AND THE PERSONNEL, GIVES HIM A LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE AS WELL. IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THE HENDRICK FACTOR THAT GIVES YOU THAT CONFIDENCE? IS IT TOO EARLY TO BE THINKING ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS TRAILING GREG BIFFLE BY JUST 5 POINTS AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?
“Well, as far as the points go, I’m just trying to put together good races one after the other (and) complete races, finish every lap, finish as good as the car can, steal a couple of spots here and there when we can like we did last weekend, and just total points and keep putting points on the board. The best scenario for us would be to be able to go into the last few races before the Chase, already locked in; so we can try to do some things that we typically wouldn’t do and take some chances that we typically wouldn’t take on the race car itself and learn and understand some new things about the car that we can’t really try yet for fear of having a failure or a bad run with it. So, it would be nice to go into the last couple of races locked in, to be able to do that.
“And, I think Jeff is right about how the Hendrick factor really does give you a lot of confidence. That was one of the things that really kind of got me through the tough years over there, was knowing how good the equipment was, and knowing that if we utilized it right that we would have good success. It is the best stuff out there. We’ve got the best employees and the most dedicated employees. Our boss man is amazing and has put a lot of talent around the drivers. I can’t express how great it is to work there and just how impressive it is. Every time I go over there, everything is in its right place and everybody is doing exactly what they need to be doing. It’s just really incredible. So it’s impressive and I’m proud of it and proud to be a part of it.”
YOU’VE HAD THAT HENDRICK EQUIPMENT FOR A WHILE. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE THIS YEAR IN TERMS OF YOUR SUCCESS?
“I think just me and (crew chief) Stevie (Letarte) learning more about each other and understanding and trusting each other even more and more. And the team buying into Stevie’s system and me buying into the system and us all sort of getting on the same page together. We just get more and more confidence with each other and in each other, week in and week out. And the engineers that put the set-ups together are seeing parallels and patterns in what I like and what the car likes what makes the car fast and we’re sort of taking those certain things track-to-track and improving on our runs from last year.”
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.
Source: Team Chevy, Press Releas
Article Tags: "June Bug", 2012 Aaron's 499, 2012 Aaron's Dream Weekend, 2012 NSCS, Aaron's 499, Chevy, Chevy Impala SS, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Dale Jr., Dale Junior, Earnhardt Jr., Earnhardt Junior, Junior, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet Impala SS, NSCS, Talladega, Talladega (AL), Talladega Superspeedway, Team Chevy, TSS