MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
ISM CONNECT 300
NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) and discussed making his final start as a full-time Cup Series competitor at NHMS, his take on post-race burn outs, traveling commercial and many other topics. Full Transcript:
Before starting his formal media availability, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was presented with several gifts from NHMS, including a custom musket, a tricorn hat, a donation by the New Hampshire Speedway by their division of Speedway Children’s charity to help purchase bicycle helmets for children. His thoughts on the gifts:
“Well, first off the musket that is really pretty awesome. I don’t have one of those in my collection. I think that is something I might have a one up on (Martin) Truex. Me and him are hunting pals, so I will have to see what he thinks about that. Also, the donation stuff like that we have talked over and over throughout, mainly the back half of the season, about how we really appreciate the tracks doing something within their community and helping folks in this area means a lot to me that the track went that direction and that is a really great idea. I just got finished riding 32 miles with Jimmie (Johnson) and Matt (Kenseth) and Daniel Suarez, so I was a little sad to see the chair wasn’t here when I walked in because I was certainly ready… I’ve been waiting to sit down. But that is going to buy a lot of bike helmets and that is critical. That is going to save some kids from injury, I’m certain of it. It also will promote to those kids to continue to cycle throughout their lives to do it in a safe way and will promote that to their friends as well. So, this will make an impact far beyond what we can imagine. I really appreciate the track doing something like that. It means a lot to me, so thank you very much.
“The track has been great to be honest with you. I really have enjoyed racing here and the New England fan base is so passionate about their racing, the modifieds and their heroes that have raced up here and a few that have raced in the Cup Series. They have just really embraced the racing and they are proud of their heritage and what they do and when we come up here it’s almost like we are guest of the modifieds. They are such an honest bunch and we’ve come to know a lot of those guys because we have worked with a lot of them over, you know, a lot of the mechanics that were at DEI (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) came down from the northeast. Steve Park brought a bunch of guys in and so, I had a good understanding of what the drivers are like from up here and what the racing was like and how passionate the fans were about it and even how passionate the people that do it are. So, when we come up here we know that people are here to see a race. They support the track really well. The track particularly is a lot of fun to drive, quite a difficult track to describe to be honest with you because of the various banking and so forth. And now with the new grip that they are putting down it is a moving target which is fun. It’s a good challenge, but I really love racing here, always have. It’s one of the races as far as length, it seems just about right. You know you guys started out with a perfect length and have kept it that way for a long time. It’s just enough racing. It’s just the right amount. I’ve always appreciated that too. The facility has always been great. You guys are always upgrading and improving and putting a lot into it. There are a lot of things outside the race track to entertain the fans throughout the weekend. We have the stage outside, we will be on there tomorrow night, it’s going to be great for the fans and exciting for us as well to be a part of that. And I will be coming back. It’s going to be great to be able to come back here and be a part of the race weekend next season. I won’t be disappearing.”
IF YOU LOOK AT YOUR NUMBERS FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE DO YOU THINK THOSE NUMBERS REALLY TELL THE STORY ON HOW YOU HAVE DONE HERE?
“I don’t know. I don’t think that the numbers on a page really tell the story well about anything. So, you just have to have lived it. You know there have been a lot of memorable moments here for me. A lot of close almost wins. I had some cars that should have won probably on a few occasions. Led some races here, run well, the times we had really great cars someone just had a little bit better race car. And we’ve got a pretty good one here this weekend. I’m pretty excited. The car came off the trailer real comfortable and fast. We went to the (Chevy) simulator and tried somethings that we really think are going to help us. Brought some of the ideas that seemed to make our car good in Richmond here, hopefully that is going to… I can’t wait to get into the car tomorrow and get to work on it some more. But, initial feeling about it is we have made the car better than we had here in the first race. Yeah, I don’t think that the numbers do tell the story and I don’t know that they have very often for me. I don’t know how other drivers feel when they look at their statistics on paper. I don’t think that tells the story at all. You know there are a lot of things that happen in races and you can’t see that by just looking at the results, but certainly have had some great cars here. It’s a good track that I find challenging, but it’s a fun challenge to try to figure out how to get around the corner.”
DO YOU THINK WE COULD EVER SEE YOU IN A MODIFIED CAR AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?
“I don’t think so. You know I’m retiring from Cup driving, so I don’t think I’m going to be surprising anybody by showing up to any other races. I have talked to L.W. (Miller, brother-in-law) a little bit about it. He raced modifieds down around home and talked to (Ryan) Newman about it and modified guys are certainly a different breed. I don’t know whether I’m cut from that cloth or of that mold. But, I marvel at the cars and the way they race and how hard they race, but never had much interest to drive one, but certainly enjoy watching those guys race. Have come to admire a lot of the guys that raced in modifieds all up and down the East Coast. A lot of legends.”
AS THERE IS MORE FOCUS ON KEEPING A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IN THE SPORT WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ABOUT THE BURNOUTS AFTER THE RACE FOR POST VICTORY CELEBRATION WHERE IT CAN BLOW OUT TIRES AND DAMAGE QUARTERPANELS? IF YOU WIN WHAT IS YOUR BURNOUT GOING TO BE LIKE?
“Well that would be like all the other burnouts, I have never blown out a tire on purpose. But, we have been doing burnouts for 30 years it seems like. It just seems like the Gen-6 car once everybody started figuring out how to trick the underbody and things like that everybody blows the tires out. It is just hard for me to see the logic in suspending a crew chief, car chief for some tape flapping on the spoiler when the winner drives into Victory Lane with the rear of the car tore all to hell. I don’t see how that doesn’t come across anybody’s conscious or common sense. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense to me. And it never has, I have been kind of waiting all this time for NASCAR to eventually say look you know we would just rather you guys not blow the tires out. They talk about not wanting to be the ‘fun police’ being the ‘fun police’ is not on the radar of their damn problems. You know, I don’t think they need to worry about… that is a cop out in my opinion. But, I think that you can do burnouts without blowing the tires out. That happened for years. But, with the Gen-6 car maybe even with the COT, but I don’t remember it too much with the COT, but I mean can anybody tell me who the last guy is who didn’t blow his tires out?
CROWD: “(Ryan) Blaney”
“The first Pocono race. I mean will they blow them out at the end of every race during the Playoffs? Is that just the new norm? It didn’t really bother me until I thought about it and I’m like ‘the No. 24 is going to get suspended crew chief, car chief for this tape mess and the winner of the race is riding into Victory Lane with the damn rear of the car tore all to hell. You can’t even tech it.’ And I love Martin (Truex, Jr.) and it’s not about Martin. I mean every guy out there has done it. I don’t know that will be a very popular opinion about it, but that is how I feel.”
WHY IS IT A COP OUT?
“I just feel like that they should step-up. They’re the governing body. It’s obvious it’s done intentionally. It’s not unintentional. And you cannot tech the race car. They have to jack it up and put tires on it. If you’re watching the video of these crewman trying to fix that tape on that spoiler of the No. 24 car, imagine what the hell’s going on with the car that gets to jack it up and put tires on it before it can go across the LIS. We could go on and on about it. It’s something I don’t really got to worry about no more after the end of this season (laughs). But, I’ve been feeling this way about the blowouts for a long time. It’s like damn, why don’t they just tell them to stop. You can do a damn burnout without blowing the tires out. Look at pretty much every win in 2000 all the way through the CoT, you know? There are a lot of burnouts. You have to deliberately do that. It’s not like oh, my bad, blew my tire. I mean it’s deliberate. So, it tells me there’s some purpose behind it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for NASCAR to say, look man, do some donuts. You can do donuts without blowing the tires out. But, you don’t have to blow the tires. But until they tell them not to do it, it’s fair game. But, it just upset me with what happened to Chase (Elliott) and how they sort of got zeroed-in on when all this is sort of going on right under everybody’s nose. It doesn’t make sense.”
YOU HAVE FOUR CARS RUNNING FOR THE XFINITY TITLE AND THEY’VE ALL SAID THEY WANT TO WIN THE TITLE FOR YOU AS MUCH AS FOR THEMSELVES.
“Oh, that’s good. I’m the boss. I’m glad they said that (laughter).”
TO THAT POINT, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE SUCH LOYAL EMPLOYEES?
“On the Xfinity side, it’s a smaller company. It’s still, even though we’ve got 150 employees plus, it still has that family feel to it. So, I think eventually you get to big it’s hard to hold onto that and it becomes more of a business and you see less and less of everybody because it’s just so damn big you can’t get around to everybody. We’re still in that bubble where it’s still feels like family. There is a lot of family there and a lot of relatives that work there. And, the drivers that I’ve got, we’re all friends. And, I hope they want to win it for me and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller). You know, Kelley, for sure, because she’s the day-to-day. She’s grinding through all the heartache and heartburn and dealing with every mountain that we have to climb. She has to figure out a way up it. And, I could just go on and on. We’ve got some great people working there. I’m glad that they think about me or anybody else in that company because that means we’re doing something right. We’ve got our people feeling good. When there’s a driver out there that don’t have that connection to his owner, there’s something wrong, something missing. So, I guess we’re doing something right. We’re treating our folk’s good so they want to do well for you. That’s the way I feel about Rick (Hendrick). I have a love and a relationship with him that makes me want to go out and do right. When I don’t do well, I want to apologize to him even though it’s not necessary it’s just a feeling you have. You just always want to make him proud.”
LOOKING BACK ON YOUR PAST AT NEW HAMPSHIRE, DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE RACING MEMORY HERE AND ALSO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS MOST ABOUT NEW ENGLAND?
“Well, I’m going to keep coming back. I know it’ll be in a different perspective for me, and it will be fun. I’m going to see it from a different angle and experience a race weekend at all these tracks. I’m going to see and experience this race differently. It’ll be fun. It’ll be enlightening. Every time I’ve been in the booth or around those guys I’ve been blown away and overwhelmed and it’s more fun and exciting than I could imagine and all those things. So, I’m excited to come back and go through this process next year and go to all these tracks. What I will miss is just being in the garage working on the cars and working with the guys and trying to get through the weekend and get the car fast. The racing here is really fun to be honest with you. We have a pretty good time out there trying to figure out how to get around racing everybody and trying to catch a guy and figure out a way of how to get around him. This is one of those tracks where it’s hard to pass, but in a fun way, which is rare. Usually at a lot of tracks where it’s hard to pass, you’re not really enjoying that too much, but you can get to people and catch them. You just kind of work your way around them and it’s like old school. It’s has that old school short track feeling. The straightaways are forever.”
ON A PODCAST, YOU SAID GOING TO CHARLOTTE DOUGLAS AIRPORT AND YOU LIKE FLYING COMMERCIAL. CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT BECAUSE THE REST OF US (MEDIA) MIGHT DISAGREE?
‘I’m sure. So, of course I don’t fly commercial that often to be honest and up front about it. So, when I do, I’m like man, this is going to be neat. And Amy’s like oh no, it ain’t. You’re not going to like it. Wait until this happens or that happens and she’s just naming things that happened. But, I don’t mind doing it. I like to do it. Especially flying in and out of Charlotte we get to go by Whiskey River. I don’t really get a lot of time to go by there to see what’s going on. But sitting around and waiting on the gate to open and all that stuff, I’ve not done it enough to hate it. So, that’s really where it is. And I guess I’m spoiled would be a good way to put it. Certainly, as I go into this new chapter in life, and get further down the road, I don’t know that owning a private plane is a long-term situation for me. So, I’m understanding that there are going to be some more commercial flights in my future. So, maybe one day I’ll grow to hate it. But, for now, I don’t mind it too bad.”