MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 25, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE PATRIOTIC CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed having PFC McClamrock’s name on his car windshield for this weekend, the 2018 Hall of Fame Class, what it would mean to win a point race at Charlotte in his final season and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WE HEARD YOU HAVE PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JAMES MCCLAMROCK ON YOUR CAR THIS WEEKEND CAN YOU TELL US THAT STORY?
“Yeah, it’s a real honor to have him on the car. He is from Huntersville (North Carolina) and its real meaningful for all the drivers and the teams. We get to meet the family of the individual and represent that person and their family throughout the race and the race weekend. It is just a great opportunity, I think, to get to know one of these guys. We often thank the troops and send them messages and celebrate the military in many different ways, but it’s rare when you really select an individual that you focus on. It’s a great program that I think we have unique to our sport and something I really enjoy seeing unfold throughout the weekend. So, we will meet the family here this weekend. It will be pretty exciting to talk to them and hopefully, I mean, all the drivers take a little bit of a responsibility to try to win the race and take that name to Victory Lane. That is a little added pressure in a good way.”
HOW MUCH DOES THE HISTORY OF THIS RACE AND HOW THIS RACE ENDED IN 2011 WITH YOU RUNNING OUT OF GAS COMING OUT OF TURN 4, HOW MUCH DOES THAT WEIGH ON YOU SINCE THAT NIGHT?
“I couldn’t have told you what year it was. It doesn’t really weigh on me that much. It was tough to get over for a few weeks, but I believe Steve Letarte might still talk about it today, but a lot of things, a lot of water under the bridge since then. I grew up here and went to all the races here when I was a little kid. Some of the first memories of being at a 1.5-mile race track that is here at Charlotte. I used to go to the dirt tracks with Dad when I was very small, but the first memories of actually being at a Cup event were here. The Eury’s and the Earnhardt family would park up on the hill of the road course, about the tallest peak of elevation there. And we had these plastic cars, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough, and we would roll them down the hill of the road course and spend the whole weekend there watching Dad race the Xfinity race and the Cup race. So, been coming here a long time and have never won a point race here. I thought, considering we’ve had some decent success in the sport, I would have guessed I’d have got a win here in a point race at some point, but it just hasn’t happened. We’ve had some close ones, but the way we ran out of the gate as a rookie, we ran pretty good. We led a lot of laps that night and came up short on the victory, but I thought that this would be a good track for us, but since the repave, for whatever reason it’s really been tough for me. We just really haven’t been able to hit on how to get around here. Either how to set the car up or what I’m looking for or what I need to be doing with the car driving it. But, we will keep digging this weekend and see what we can make out of this weekend.”
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN STEVIE WALTRIP STARTED GIVING YOU BIBLE VERSUS TO PUT IN YOUR RACE CAR? HOW MUCH HAS THAT MEANT TO YOU?
“I’m not very superstitious, but there are a couple of things that I have to do before the race starts. I always really appreciate the MRO (Motor Racing Outreach) guys coming up to pray before we get in the car. The scripture, taking the scripture and putting it in my car. I don’t know, you know, there has only been like one race where I think we didn’t have it and it is just a weird feeling. She did that for Dad. I was really pleased and happy that she continued to do it for me. It meant as much to her as I think it meant to me. She actually… I think she was the kind of… she was the glue in the relationship between Dad and Darrell (Waltrip). Maybe she is the glue with the relationship between me and Darrell. I don’t know what kind of relationship me and Darrell would have without Stevie in the middle. She is an incredible person and I appreciate her looking after me, giving me the scripture. She feels like she is sort of keeping us safe and I can buy into that.”
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU AND GREG IVES WORKED WITH CHAD KNAUS AND JIMMIE JOHNSON THIS WEEK TO PREPARE?
“a lot. We did. We totally eighty-sixed all that stuff we ran last week and we put in Jimmie’s set-up we just like him. I was just asking Greg (Ives, crew chief) how are we just like him if he ran a flat and we ran a 30 in practice. Greg and Chad got real close this week and me and Jimmie have been in communication and Jimmie has come by the car a couple of times in practice already looking at notes and printing out our driver traces and trying to figure out whatever we can do to help me. One of the things about Jimmie that I’ve always thought was pretty cool was he was always open to looking at other drivers traces and adjusting how he drives. If he sees a guy go through the corner and does something different with the gas or the brake he will try it. And he encourages me or any other teammate to do the same thing. He comes over with these print outs and says this is what I’m doing with the gas and this is what you are doing and this is where the time is getting lose and maybe try this and that and the other, he is a super teammate. I’m lucky to be able to work in the same shop with him. He has certainly been an influence on my success and my enjoyment in the sport. Yeah, we are leaning on them pretty hard this weekend considering how we ran and how they ran last weekend at the All-Star race, we are leaning on them pretty hard.”
YOU MORE THAN ANYBODY APPRECIATES THE HISTORY OF THIS SPORT. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE HALL OF FAME CLASS?
“That is a great question. I was really pleased to see Mr. Yates get in. Ken Squier, nobody has called a better race since the ’79 (Daytona) 500, many guys have tried and came close, but I still feel like that is the standard. You know (Ron) Hornaday getting in, I thought that he deserves the credit and certainly the Truck Series wouldn’t be the Truck Series today without guys like him. I really was pleased with it. I have a habit of looking at the drivers. I’ll admit that I look through the list of all-time winners and look at the ones that are in the Hall of Fame and look where my name is and see how many guys are in front of me and how many are probably going to get in, will I ever get in and all that stuff. You know it must be a tremendous emotional piece of relief and satisfaction to get that kind of reward. I watched really closely when Mark (Martin) got going in there last year and it just seemed to really validate all the work. Even the stuff he did before he got to Cup. It really just kind of sealed… it brought some closure I guess to his career. It’s got to feel the same way for these guys. Really emotional for Robert (Yates), you know I think we all saw how his illness has affected him. It’s incredibly hard to see somebody so nice and such a big part of the sport go through that. So, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to celebrate him and he is more than deserving.”
IN THE PRACTICE SESSION, HOW MUCH DID YOU GET INTO THE UPPER GROOVE, INTO THE TRACTION COMPOUND? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT IT BEING APPLIED TO AN ASPHALT TRACK? WAS THIS A DESPERATE MOVE AFTER LAST WEEKEND?
“Well, they’re going to run that road course next year, so that tells you how desperate they are. I got in it by accident. I got loose into (Turn) 3 and ended up there. They say it takes some heat to activate and for it to really get grippy. You don’t really sense it when you’re up there today in it. But, I’m sure in the race some guys will get up there and start running through there, it’s going to improve the speed in those grooves. Hopefully it does. If you look at Kansas and if you look at this track and Kansas was repaved afterwards, Kansas has really aged well. It’s very gray. We move all over the place looking for speed and grip. It’s a lot of fun. This was the first track they’ve paved with the new polymers, that new technology of using rubber polymers in the race show; and boy, they much have really poured the coal to it because it’s like tire on tire. It’s just like so much grip. It doesn’t feel like asphalt. It’s like hard rubber out there. We just run right on the bottom because that’s just the fastest way. There is really no other way about it. I’m really excited to see how this race runs later this season that will start in the afternoon. If we get deep into that race, like 250 or 300 miles, that place is going to be slick. This track changed so much just in that bit of practice we ran. You saw guys starting to get in the fence there a little bit late in that practice, that track got slick right there at the end. So, running this race during the day is probably the best decision. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out for the track. I certainly think that’s a good thing so we’ll see how it works out.”
YOU SEEMED A LITTLE UNHAPPY WITH HOW YOUR PRACTICE WENT. WAS THAT A LITTLE DISHEARTENING AFTER COMING OFF THE ALL-STAR RACE? DID YOU EXPECT IT TO BE A LITTLE BIT BETTER?
“No, I didn’t expect it to be anything because we were so bad last week. And I didn’t really have references as to how good we had made it throughout the week working in the shop. We started out not too good. But when we all went out there and saw all the rubber they put down and all that, the whole track looked completely different. It took me about three or four runs just to kind of get the line back down and understand what I needed to do as a driver, regardless of what the setup in the car was. We finally got some decent speed out of is. We ran that thirty-five and we got on the splitter real bad in (Turns) 1 and 2 and it cost us two-tenths down there. If we get it right, we can get in the top 15. That’s a start. That ain’t good enough, still. But that’s progress compared to last week. And I’m really looking forward to getting in race trim. We’ve got some practice time. We really ran short last week on practice time, so I’m anxious to get in there and practice and see what we can do. We’ve got a completely different set-up. So, hopefully it doesn’t go like it did last week. It shouldn’t. And let’s hope it doesn’t.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE STEPPING STONE SERIES, LIKE TRUCK AND XFINITY, TO BRING THESE DRIVERS UP TO CUP? IS THERE A POINT WHERE IT GETS CRITICAL FINANCIALLY? THESE GUYS MAY NOT HAVE A PLACE LIKE THAT. HOW DO YOU DO THOSE CUTS AND MAKE IT AFFORDABLE BECAUSE YOU AREN’T IN THE TRUCK SERIES RIGHT NOW?
“Yeah, we moved our Truck team up to the Xfinity Series to make another team there. When I was in the series we went to South Boston and places like that and I miss watching those races. They were great races. I don’t know if the business model works to be able to go back and undo everything we’ve done, but I’d rather tune-in and watch them run the beach or the fairgrounds. Man! I’d love to go run a Xfinity race at the fairgrounds, in our cars. That would be at the top of my list if it was on the schedule. I run Richmond and Bristol. That’s the only ones I’m running this year because that’s the only short track action you can find. But, the 1.5-miles just aren’t that fun. We run too many of them for it to be fun. We rarely run the short tracks. So, you try to get as much of that as you can. Not everybody is the same. This is just me talking. I don’t know if all the drivers like short tracks that much. But, I would certainly tune-in. I’d tune-in and watch them trucks run at South Boston or the beach or the fairgrounds. I’d rather tune-in and watch them do that than a lot of these other tracks they run on.”
NEXT YEAR YOU’LL BE IN A DIFFERENT ROLE IN THE SPORT. WHAT IS YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM THE SCHEDULE CHANGES THEY’VE ANNOUNCED FOR 2018, ALONG WITH THE ROAD COURSE HERE AT CHARLOTTE?
“I’m not a big fan of the roval. But you’ve got to be open-minded to it because what if it does do really well? I anticipate it will be more spread out than what we see at Sonoma and The Glen. Once these cars come out of the road course and go onto the track, they’re just going to distance from each other and so I don’t know, really, what a race like that is going to look like for stock cars. But, they’re going to try it. We’ve got a lot of other race tracks that are rovals as well, and if it happens to work, there are opportunities for them other tracks to do the same. As far as how they move these races around and stuff, that seemed to be all decent ideas there. And it’s a little unfortunate for the New Hampshire folks because there are tons of race fans up there and a lot of die-heart short track modified racers and families up there that like to come to the Cup race and it’s unfortunate that they lose an event. But, Vegas is certainly a great market for us; and one of the West Coast markets that works really well. And I like the Vegas race track. It’s a fun 1.5-mile.”
LAST WEEK $60,000 WAS RAISED FOR THE NATIONWIDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
“Oh, yeah. We’re helping the Nationwide Children’s Hospital as often as we can due to the relationship that I have with Nationwide. They’re heavily invested into that hospital with millions and millions and millions of dollars. Right now, they are currently doing some add-on buildings and so forth that they are a big part of funding. Through their relationship, they’ve taken me over there and I’ve really fallen in love with the place. And we love to go over there and visit the kids. They gave me the number one serial number for I guess it’s the bestselling diecast of all time, our race win version of the 2014 Daytona 500. I guess they’ve never given a number one serial number to a diecast before. They keep them all in this room. But for whatever reason, they wanted to give me that. So, I’ll hang onto it forever. That’s pretty cool.”