MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
BANK OF AMERICA 500
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 6, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media and discussed, his gift from Charlotte Motor Speedway, his high school sports career, this thoughts on the sticky stuff applied to the surface of Charlotte Motor Speedway, his thoughts on the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race cars unveiled by Hendrick Motorsports last night and many other topics. Full Transcript:
BEFORE THE START OF HIS TRADITIONAL MEDIA AVAILABILITY, CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY ANNOUNCED THE CREATION OF THE DALE EARNHARDT, JR., CONCUSSION RESEARCH FUND AT LEVINE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.
“Well I appreciate it Marcus (Smith). We have known each other a really long time and you know me well. This is a great gift that will impact a lot of lives in this area and make a difference. I appreciate you guys bringing out the (Mooresville) football team, the Blue Devils. I got to go to a game, my first game in a long, long time last year. Great experience. Having gone and graduated from Mooresville that is the team to pull for. We hope you guys have a good season and are having a good season and you’ve got a lot of fans in and around Mooresville that are pulling for you guys every week. But, thank you so much, you know this track has been real special to me. This is one of the few tracks that I probably never missed a race since I was a little boy. Been coming here a really long time, have a lot of memories here in and out of the car. I appreciate, that is a great gesture just going to have such a long-lasting impact, very smart, very creative, so I appreciate that a lot.”
MORE ON THE GIFT:
“Yeah, I appreciate it. We have a lot of history with concussions and awareness and rehab and all that good stuff, so this is something that is actually very close to my heart. I hope to be able to continue to help others going forward. This is a great way to do that, so thanks again.”
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT THAT THE TRACK GIVE YOU IMPACTFUL GIFTS? WHERE WOULD YOU SAY THIS TODAY RANKS FOR YOU IN THE THINGS YOU’VE GOTTEN?
“Yeah, it’s hard to rank them not knowing the lasting impression they are all going to have around their communities, but I try not to really make it a competition. That was the reason, I didn’t need any silly stuff and goofy gifts that I am just going to go take home and put in a warehouse and store away somewhere and never see. Just knowing what my own experiences with working in our foundation and seeing what the sport has done over the years I thought it just was like hey, you know this is a great opportunity to sort of make an impact in each little area in each community and if the tracks can get creative it would be awesome to see what they come up with. So, I just feel real blessed and I can’t imagine there is anything I need that they could come up with that I would be like ‘yeah, I’ve been looking for this.’ (Laughs). And it feels so good to see others get help and be helped. I want everybody to be happy. That is kind of my thing and the way I’ve always been. Hopefully, this season makes a lot of people happy, so that is the deal.”
“Yeah, I went there from the ninth to the 12th (grade).”
YOUR HELMETS, DRIVER’S UNIFORMS AND THINGS LIKE THAT FROM THIS YEAR, WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE? DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING PLANNED FOR YOU FINAL DAYTONA 500 HELMET? THE HOMESTEAD STUFF THINGS LIKE THAT?
“Well, if you want to know the truth, I only have one helmet and I’ve only used one helmet each year for a long time. So, when people come asking for helmets, it is kind of hard to give them away because that is the only helmet I have from that season. And I like to keep it myself and store it away. So, I don’t have a whole lot of helmets floating around. I know that Tony (Stewart) was really smart wearing a different one each week, I probably should have done something like that. The Stilo’s (brand of helmet) I’ve got are $3-5,000 apiece and I ain’t buying them. So, I just wear the same one all year. We get three uniforms at the start of the year and then another three in the middle of the season, they take those and chop them up and put them in trading cards and stuff like that. We get one or two and Hendrick gets one or two, we split them. And I like to keep one of those. I do give them to… usually I give the uniforms away to drivers for their charity events, Clint (Bowyer) called this week wanting one for his and so, we will give him a uniform out of our allotment. We’ve got just all of it cataloged away. So, there is just not a lot of that stuff floating around. And once I get a helmet and a pair of gloves and a pair of gloves and a pair of shoes worked in, I usually wear those every day all the time. I wear the same pair of gloves for half the season and the same pair of shoes until they just bust in two. But, once you get them comfortable it is hard to put on new ones. So, I do have a special paint scheme for Homestead and I will have a helmet for that and I think there is just one of those. If the car makes it through the race, I’m going to take the car and Rick can have the helmet. That is our deal. That is the same deal he had with Jeff (Gordon) is that Jeff gave him the helmet and Jeff got the car. And so, I think that is the same deal I’m going to get with Rick.”
DID YOU EVER TRY TO GET INTO FOOTBALL AND HOW WAS IT TO HAVE THE TEAM HERE?
“Yeah, so when I went to Mooresville I was going into the ninth grade and the dean of the school or superintendent or whatever was showing us around a week before school started. I was really nervous, because I had never been to a public school in a long time. I had been going to christen schools, military schools, all that stuff, so this was a lot of kids. So, I was real nervous. But they were showing us around the property and I was four 4’10’’ tall at the time. I think I was 5’3’’ when I got my driver’s license. So, I was real short and we were driving by the football field well the practice field and they were out there practicing and I said, I want to play football. And the guy said, I’m going to take you down and introduce you to the soccer coach, because I don’t think you need to be playing football, so I played soccer anyways. I got me a letter jacket and all that. We went to State and lost, but it was a lot of fun. I played one year, and I was the back-up, so I sat on the bench all year and I got to play a couple of games. We were a pretty good team, so we would get a big lead, I would get in a couple of games, but I never got to play football, but just was a fan all these years.”
TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED ON THE TRACK THAT FORCED YOU TO A BACK-UP CAR?
“Yeah, I think you guys saw it during practice, the stuff that they sprayed down it has had a bad reaction to the sun or something that has made it really slick. We saw at Bristol, it takes some heat and some activity to work it in and get it to activate and create grip, but we never seen it like this. So, I don’t know… I know it’s the same stuff that they have used in the past that we have not had any issues with here and at New Hampshire and other places, but something about the way they either… when they put it on, the time of day, the sun beating on it all day, I don’t know, but something has made it to where it doesn’t have grip, it’s the opposite. So, when you get in it, you just take off. I thought we broke a suspension part or had a flat or something because it just went straight in the fence. There was no stopping it. We just have to be really careful until that stuff somehow gets activated some way or another. I am a little concerned. This was a race that I was really excited about because it is the first Charlotte race planned to be ran in the daytime in a long time. And I think that this track will do well in the heat of the day as opposed to how the races go at night when the track is cool. So, I was really excited about it. I’m a little concerned. Hopefully, that stuff will activate and we can use it. At least get up there and run in it without worrying about our cars crashing.”
IS THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT RACING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP ALLOWED YOU TO ENJOY THESE FINAL RACES & INTERACTION WITH THE FANS MORE THAN YOU MIGHT OTHERWISE?
“Well, probably not. I think that the fans would be having more fun if we were racing for the championship and then I would be having more fun interacting with them in that manner and their excitement of it. So, I think it’s a little bittersweet for me and the fans and our supporters with the situation we’re in. I only really have fun when we run well. It’s been a difficult year from a fun meter standpoint. We haven’t really moved the needle too much this year. This past couple of weekends, especially at Dover and Richmond, we’ve seen some improvements and had fun driving the car and been quick. And, I think we were good off the truck today. I thought we had something to build on. I don’t really know how to compare the backup car to the primary. And it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, do it might not be quite as good as I was hoping, I guess, initially when we rolled it off the truck today. But, that’s it. I enjoy running well. When I don’t run well I don’t know that anybody enjoys that. And it’s hard to make light of it or to smile through it. And I think the fans would have more fun, and in turn, me having more fun if we were in the thick of the championship battle.”
DOES THE PJ1 NEED TO BE APPLIED THE REST OF THE WEEKEND? RIGHT NOW, JIMMIE JOHNSON IS THE ONLY MULTI-TIME ACTIVE CHAMPION IN THE SPORT. WHO IN YOUR MIND WOULD BE THE MOST LIKELY TO BE THE NEXT MULTI-TIME CHAMPION?
“Kyle (Busch) looks really strong in this particular part of the season. So, I think that he has a really great shot at making that happen this year. But, I wouldn’t apply any more of that stuff (PJ1) for now until we figure out what happened today and why it reacted the way it did. Why the track was the way it was why you couldn’t touch it and why guys were having so much trouble with it, us included. I would try to investigate a little bit before we go any further with that. I don’t think the weekend is lost. I think that we just need to hopefully with the other track activity and so forth that stuff will kind of get worked in and activated. I don’t know anything else that they can do. You can’t remove it really. They can go up there and pressure wash it and carry on, but it’s in there. It’s on the surface and it’s going to just take more track activity to get it off and I think work it in or whatever. We will have something raceable at some point in the weekend I’m sure.”
YOU’VE ALWAYS HAD SKELETON-THEMED DESIGNS ON YOUR HELMETS. WHAT’S THE STORY OF YOUR LOVE OF THAT DESIGN?
“When I started racing in the Xfinity Series in ’98 or ’99, I think, we started getting helmets from Nick Pastura and he used to paint backdrops for rock and roll tours like Guns N’ Roses and so forth, so I figured he could paint a mean skull. So, I just told him to put something on the back that would make everybody think I’m a little crazy (laughter) and make all those drivers wonder about me. And we just never have changed the theme. I don’t know what else I’d put on there anyway. I think it was more about hey Nick, you just have fun with this and do whatever you want to do. I like skulls and pirates and all that good stuff. So, just have fun with it. And he just does something new every time. And he’s done an amazing job. I think he paints for Kevin Harvick and a few other guys in the past and Martin Truex, Jr. in the past too. So, it’s always fun to see what he comes up with. And he’s got a really cool helmet for Homestead that I’m excited about. I won’t usually do too many one-off helmets and we usually use the same one all year. But, I’m excited about that one for the end of the season.”
YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU’VE BEEN COMING HERE SINCE YOU WERE A LITTLE KID. WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF BEING AT THIS TRACK?
“The first thing I remember like an image or a video, we were up in the suites, and I think it was ’82 or ’83 and it was qualifying and I think Rick Wilson was in a black No. 4 if that gives you any idea of the year. But, I remember watching that car qualify, and I don’t know why I remember that, but it’s just an image that I have. And, I know that we used to park on the hill of the road course. The Eurys and the Earnhardts would always park together over there. And I remember watching Sam Ard beat Dad one time in the ’82 or ’83 Xfinity race. And it was my birthday. And I was like man, who is this guy and how is he beating my dad? I don’t know who he is. He ain’t even a Cup guy and I don’t know why he’s outrunning my dad. But Sam was whopping the Cup guys all the time once I grew up and figured it out (laughs). But we used to play with those little plastic cars and all those and roll them down the hill on the road course. And then eventually they built those condos and I think they sold them for $20 grand apiece. You can’t get one now for under $200,000. So, we started watching the races from up there and that was pretty trick. That was a big deal when that happened.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY HERE AT CHARLOTTE? AND WITH ALL THE WORK THAT THE TRACK DOES TRYING TO HELP BUILD THE YOUNGER DRIVERS, THE NEXT GENERATION, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYBODY WHO IS TRYING TO GET THEIR START HERE AT CHARLOTTE?
“There’s a million things you could tell a guy. Obviously our best memory is the win in the All-Star race. That was an incredible experience and a big surprise for all of us. We just couldn’t believe it. And it was great that Dad was in the race and we passed him at the end, among many guys we passed. But, he got to see it happen. He had a great view of the whole thing. So, I don’t know if he wasn’t proud then, I don’t know that he ever was (laughs). But it was a big deal and he was really happy. As far as giving advice to drivers, you just have to talk to them one-on-one and understand their obstacles and help them try to understand how to accomplish and get over those. But, it takes a lot of sacrifice.”
GIVE US A THOUGHT OR TWO ABOUT ROBERT YATES. YOU GREW UP WATCHING ROBERT IN THIS SPORT.
“There are a lot of great engine builders in this sport and there for a while there wasn’t anyone any better than him. And, I think you can admire how he came into the sport as an engine builder and progressed into a car owner, self-made. He wasn’t a man with a business or a multi-million dollar business outside of motorsports. He did it the old school way of becoming an owner through hard work and working within this industry and made that company himself. And that’s rare that people do that. And, he was really a kind person and always was very nice and easy to talk to. He was mild-mannered, and I appreciated that.”
GETTING BACK TO THE COMPOUND. YOU GOT A COUPLE OF LAPS IN AT THE END OF THAT SESSION. DID YOU GET IN IT AND NOTICE IF IT WAS ANY DIFFERENT OR DID YOU AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE?
“Oh, yeah. I’m avoiding it until somebody goes up there and shows me there’s a lap up there. I ain’t going near it (laughs) on purpose. I might end up in it accidently a few times, but yeah, I don’t think anybody is willing to go up there without seeing someone else do it first. It’s obvious that it’s really slick and until somebody goes up there and proves otherwise, I don’t think anybody’s got any ideas to go up there and use it. Luckily in qualifying we don’t run through the middle. But it’s interesting that we cross over it entering and exiting the corners and I don’t notice a big issue there. So, it’s activated whatever happens when the cars run through there and put some heat into that or whatever, it seems to be okay; not ideal, but okay. But if you get into it where nobody has used it or been through there, it’s like ice. And that’s anywhere in the middle of the corner. But the bookends are okay. We just put it in qualifying trim and tried to get a couple of runs in and they weren’t great. We’ve got some work to do. I don’t know how we’re going to qualify. I won’t be real disappointed if it’s a bad result. We’ll work hard over the rest of the evening trying to get this car up to snuff compared to the primary. And then fortunately we have tomorrow to practice some more and try to zero-in on the speed that I had. I was really pleased coming off the truck. So, we know we’ve got a target to meet on performance and grip and comfort and handling. We’ll try hard over the next 24 hours to build that into this back-up car. I’m a little disappointed but all the cars are intended to be great and that’s the same for the back-up. So, it should be fine.”
YOU’VE HAD A HAND IN DESIGNING SOME OF YOUR PAINT SCHEMES FOR YOUR RACE CARS. LAST NIGHT WE GOT TO SEE THE NEW NO. 88 FOR NEXT SEASON. DID YOU HAVE A HAND IN DESIGNING IT AND WHAT DID YOU THINK OF ALEX BOWMAN’S VISION FOR THAT CAR?
“That was definitely all Alex and the sponsors and Hendrick Motorsports working together. This is Alex’s time. There is no need for me to be meddling in his car designs and so forth, or anything else other than just helping him with advice when he needs it. But I thought all the cars looked great. I really do like the Camaro body style so I think that helps improve the look of the car designs, regardless of which one you’re talking about. I like Jimmie’s (Johnson) a lot. I liked that black basecoat, and the basecoat on that No. 24, that black and that blue, was really nice up close. I thought they all looked pretty cool. I know everybody is excited for Chase (Elliott) to be back in the No. 9. That was something I was really pulling hard for when I heard some of the rumors about that. So, that’s very exciting for Chase and I think it’s great for Hendrick Motorsports and the sponsors long-term.”