MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 21, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed the news this week that he and Amy are expecting a baby girl, the toughness of the track at Kansas with the weather conditions this weekend and many other topics. Full Transcript:
Prior to his traditional media availability, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was presented with several gifts from Kansas Speedway including a contribution in his name of $8,800 to the University of Kansas Health Systems Pediatric Unit, a What to Expect When you are Expecting book for new fathers, a personal video from Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost and a special No. 3 jersey from the Kansas City Royals.
“Yeah that is really emotional. Ned (Yost) has been a great family friend and just so supportive of me and it is really nice to hear his memories and his thoughts and I appreciate the track for the donation within their community here. That means a lot to me. That is really what we were hoping the tracks would take the initiative to do and it’s been great all year to see that happen. So, I’m glad you guys did that and that really makes my heart full. So, I appreciate that. I see a lot of fans here this weekend, signed a lot of autographs walking in here. We’ve got a lot of people that are excited about this race and it’s good to be able to connect with the fans at each race track throughout the weekend. Just really appreciative, thank you so much for the effort that you put in to make me feel really special. Thanks a lot for that and hopefully we keep coming here for many, many more years and we will continue to help the speedway however we can, whatever you guys ever need, I’m just a text or a phone call away. And excited and eager to help. Look forward to many more trips here and enjoying the speedway and the area, especially the barbeque.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW SPECIAL THIS WEEK HAS BEEN BEING ABLE TO TELL EVERYONE THAT YOU AND AMY ARE EXPECTING:
“Yeah, we’ve known since September and it’s just been so…or actually since August, I guess. Oh man, it’s just been really hard to keep that in and not share, wanting to share, with family and obviously this is our family all the folks here in this room, a lot of you guys are very close to me and mean a lot to me. All the people in the garage, I mean, I just couldn’t wait to tell everybody. Certainly, we have a lot of check-ups and we are very thankful and looking forward to the whole process of watching and being involved. I’m just trying to be as supportive as I can to Amy. Making sure she feels well and is comfortable. I’m just trying to soak in all the experiences of going to the doctor and listening to the heartbeat and all those little things that you do. They are incredible.
“I guess the thing that hits me is I’ve watched all my friends, a lot of them, have kids and my sister have kids. I was happy for those milestones in their lives, but I had no idea what that really meant. And as we found out and were going through these little moments through the pregnancy it’s just hitting home how impactful that child has been in all the lives of my friends and family. And I just really didn’t understand or appreciate, I guess, how incredible that moment must have been for them and how their lives completely changed. I saw it from a completely different point of view when I wasn’t experiencing it myself. I look at my friends completely different. I look at my sister completely different knowing what I know now and what I’m learning as I go. And I know there is more to be exposed to and more enlightening and more eye-opening experiences that will make me not only appreciate what me and Amy, what we have, but what my friends and family and folks that I am very close to have and what they have experienced. Because I thought I knew, childbirth is exciting, it’s awesome to have children and everybody says it changes your life and everybody says it’s the greatest thing ever, but you just don’t know until you really go through it.
“One of my friends, Shawn Brawley, when he had his son a couple of years ago he posts pictures of the boy all the time in our little text message we have a bunch of friends in there. And I look at it completely different. I understand he is excited, but I can’t really understand that emotion having not gone through it and his pride in his son and the little things they do. The many firsts that they have and I get it now. I mean I understand where that pride comes from, where that excitement comes from, where that wanting to share those moments comes from. I hate that I didn’t appreciate it as much, but you just don’t until you go through it. That is something that is really eye-opening. But, I’m thrilled to be in this position in my life. I know that Amy has changed my life a lot and I imagine this baby is going to have the same impact and just can’t wait to meet her. I’m just thrilled to meet her and it’s just taking forever.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW CRITICAL EVERY SPOT ON THIS RACE TRACK IS?
“Every track you go to the wind is really important to take note of initially before you go out on the track so you can understand how that is going to effect the car and what you are feeling. Especially, at a place like Kansas when it is blowing 15-20 mile an hour on somedays. If you have a wind on the nose going down the back straightaway but it’s in your back going into Turn 1, I mean the car is just going to have a different balance on each end of the track. So, you’ve got to think about what you are working on, what you are trying to fix, what part of it is the wind and what part of it is not. The wind has a habit of changing 180 from one day to the next. If you’ve got a lot of air on the nose getting into Turn 3 the car is just going to drive down in there really good, you are going to feel so much downforce and side force as you enter that corner, you are going to have the complete opposite feeling into Turn 1. If you are working on those balance issues on Saturday and then the wind changes you sort of wasted your time or you’ve got your hands full with new issues. So, you’ve just got to watch the wind prediction, it’s really critical at some of these places like Kansas where it is quite high on the gusts and stuff. And the track is line sensitive, but not … I love that you can move to the wall.
“As a driver, we love having so many options in the corner and this place just gives you everything. This place just opens itself up to whatever you want to try. It’s the perfect scenario as far as multiple grooves and you know it’s not just fast at the top as the track builds rubber. The middle stays relatively competitive and so it’s not like you just only have one, it’s not like you run on the bottom all weekend and then everybody moves to the top at some point and that is it. The track really stays competitive all the way across the board. It was a great track before they reconfigured it. It is still a great track. I think the asphalt they used, how it’s aged, how well it has held up to bumps and so forth. We have a tunnel in Turns 3 and 4, there is no bump there, there is no frustrating issue like you have at a lot of tracks with bumps in the tunnels and stuff. This place is just built so well and it’s really just widened out. It’s such a fun race track. Really look forward to coming here and racing here, but the wind is a bit of a curveball that you don’t deal with at most of the race tracks or at some of the race tracks. It’s pretty windy out here, so you’ve just got to think about that and what that is doing to the car and are you going to have that same wind, same wind direction on race day, is it going to be less, is it going to be a different direction? How is that going to effect the balance of the car and what do you need to do to work on that.”
WHEN YOU LOOK BACK ON YOUR CAREER AND YOUR LIFE AND JUST ALL THE UPS AND DOWNS AND THE PUBLIC EYE, DO YOU FEEL CHARMED? DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S BEEN A BIZARRE LIFE? HOW DO YOU VIEW IT?
“Lucky. So fortunate. A lot of times you don’t feel like you deserve some of the fortune, just the chance, being born to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. I mean that is… he was a hell of a guy and aside from just the doors that it opened up to me as a driver, it certainly made my progression easier. Just being able to be around him and learn from him and feed off of that knowledge and his way of approaching things was such a good fortune. I am thankful for that all the time. Yeah, it just seems like we had so many… I don’t know if they were lucky breaks or just being in the right place at the right time. A lot of the association with my Dad was a big part of it. We got lined up with Budweiser right out of the gate in the Cup Series, shot us into the stratosphere as far as our name recognition and building our brand. I have no idea what all that was then, but it certainly is still paying off today and the things we did with Budweiser early out of the gate, the Rolling Stone article, Cribs on MTV and all those things that they opened the door to pay off today. Still reaping the benefits of all of that opportunity.
“Yeah, I mean been able to go do things and talk to people and meet people and mingle with folks that you never thought you would have the chance to talk to or engage with. And then you just think about the racing, the success. I didn’t think I was going to win any races. I didn’t think I was ever going to be a Cup driver. When I was a kid before I started racing in the Xfinity series, I thought that I was never going to get a chance and then if I did, I wasn’t going to run well enough to maintain that opportunity and keep progressing. I just didn’t look at myself with a lot of confidence. I didn’t think ‘man I’m a great driver, boy just give me a shot’. From what I could tell, I didn’t know whether I was a good driver or not. So, I just didn’t know how things were going to work out. So, on the racing side it has been … I know there are people that look at our statistics and there underwhelmed because there was so much expectation coming in. Maybe people felt that it might be a given that we would have won a championship at our career at some point at the Cup level, but when I look at the accomplishments, I know I’m disappointed we didn’t win a championship, but I never thought I would even get close. I never thought I would ever win a Daytona 500. I never thought we would sweep Bristol, I mean all the little things. I just never thought any of that stuff was going to happen or be possible.
“So, when I look at my career, it just blows me away that we were able to do what we did and I was able to do it with the people I was with, driving for Rick (Hendrick) now. I looked at Rick Hendrick and all that stuff back when I was at DEI, they were here, they were the best and I would never get a shot to work with a team like that. I had a strong connection, family connection to DEI, but I never put ourselves on the same pedestal as I did Hendrick Motorsports and I don’t think anybody in the sport really did at certain episodes through the 90’s and 00’s. So, I never thought I would have an opportunity to race for a team like that, one of the best in the business. It has been odd and unexpected for sure, but I feel fortunate and just so and I hate to use the word blessed because everybody uses that word a lot, but I just feel lucky as hell. To not have screwed it up somewhere along the line. I wasn’t always the… you know we raised hell and partied and you know in the early 2000’s, Budweiser all that stuff it sort of was… they wanted me to just raise hell and drink beer and it’s a wonder what we could have accomplished if we would have just focused on racing (laughs). But, I’m pretty happy with it to be honest with you. I had a lot of fun and won a lot of races.”
BALLET OR BANDOLEROS HAVE YOU EVEN GIVEN THAT A THOUGHT?
“No, no, man, I am just praying for health you know and I know that is a given, but the few of you in here that have been in this situation before during the pregnancy you are just like … just be healthy and have all your little fingers and toes. Once you get beyond that I think you start thinking and daydreaming a little bit, but we will get to that point after we have a healthy baby in our arms. I can’t even imagine holding my child. I can’t think beyond that.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO HEAR THE HEARTBEAT?
“Oh, I’ve got a little film of it on my phone (laughs). We just busted out laughing. It was great. I mean it made it more real. We are pinching ourselves even still. We look at each other if we’re sitting on the couch or walking around the house or something and just have to remind ourselves we’re going through this pregnancy and we just can’t believe it. So, anytime you hear the heartbeat or go to an ultrasound or something like that, it makes it like hey, it’s happening. You get a little scared. You get excited, you know?
“We went for a checkup and Amy took a couple of tests and the tests were saying she’s pregnant. We went to the doctor and I’m still thinking man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me. So, we’re sitting in there for like 20 minutes. And their talking woman language and I’m not understanding (laughter). They are just talking about things and I’m like well, when is she going to say it? I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth (laughs) that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice. It took them a while. I was scared to speak up. Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, awesome. And then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great. We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.”
“It’s not like a funny ha-ha laugh. It’s more like something just comes out. I’d play it for you. You just burst out like joy. It wasn’t ha-ha funny. It was just a joyful moment. Somebody says your wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit. But man, when you hear that heartbeat it’s like yep, it’s real. This is a real thing in there and it’s here. This is happening. So, just all this emotion just pops out. We have a little photo stream called the ‘blueberry’ because initially it was the size of a blueberry.”
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK AND THE SURROUNDING KANSAS CITY AREA THAT STANDS OUT FROM THE OTHER PLACES THAT YOU GO TO?
“Well, obviously I love barbeque and learning about smoke and barbeque and all that stuff, and this is like the capital. I’m sure there’s people in other parts of the country that would debate that, but for me there’s some amazing places to go eat barbeque. If it’s a hobby of yours, that’s kind of cool. Also, we started cycling this year and we go about two miles from the track to this lake right over here and there’s a 6.8-mile loop on it. It’s dedicated and it’s pretty nice. There’s a park. I would have never cared about this five or 10 years ago, but as we go to some of these race tracks, getting out of here and cycling, you see the area that you don’t take the opportunity to see. And so, it’s really beautiful. Last time we were here I took Amy and the dogs over to that park during the Xfinity race and just sitting there and kind of taking it easy is the kind of thing that that you learn to appreciate, I guess, about certain parts of the country. Kansas, this area is just so cool. The track itself, like I said, is just a fun race track. You can run all over it and it’s a place where you’re not just limited to running one groove like at Indy or somewhere like that, where there’s one way through the corner and that’s it. You make your car work, or it don’t work. Here, you can move around and change how your car drives and the track really widens out really nice. It’s a great trip, man. It’s fun to come here. Some tracks you’ve got nothing to do and nowhere to go. You sit in the bus and go bonkers. But here, you can get out and enjoy. It’s a great part of the country.”
AS YOU NEAR THE END OF YOUR CAREER, HOW IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?
“I just hope people enjoyed me and enjoyed being around me. I hope my competitors thought I was a good driver. I hope they admired my skill and ability and that I raced them as a professional or a gentleman. But, it’s important to me that all the guys in the garage, the crew guys and everybody; I have so much respect for them and I hope they have the same amount of respect for me. I feel the same way about the media. Anybody who travels week to week and is here in this whole thing, whether you’re an official or Mike Helton or a mechanic on car, we all have so much respect for each other for the travel and the work and effort that goes into being here. And I hope that they have the same amount of respect for me. That’s all the matters, I guess, is that people think you’re a good person and fun to be around. The wins and all the successes are great, but at the end of the day it’s kind of about who you are and whether you’re a good dude. People tend to remember whether you were nice or not (laughs). And no matter how many races you win or lose, it comes down to whether you were all right or not very good. So, I hope people enjoyed being around me and enjoyed having me as a part of the sport. I want to continue that. I want to try to do really well with the broadcasting and I want to continue to earn respect and I want the people that work in this industry, no matter what their job is, to appreciate me being a part of it. So, I’m going to work really hard on the next chapter to continue to try to be an asset and be helpful and thoughtful and caring and continue to try to grow the sport and try to keep those things at the forefront of the priorities in my career, my professional career.”
WITH PARENTHOOD, YOU QUICKLY LEARN THAT YOU GET A WHOLE LOT OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE. HAS THAT STARTED FOR YOU YET? IF SO, WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU’VE LEARNED?
“Sure. Well, I don’t know whether I’ve really been able to apply any of it yet to know what the best information is. Everybody says obviously to try to get your sleep now because the first several months are very difficult. But we can’t. We’re lying in bed and can’t sleep. We’re so excited. I want to get some sleep now (laughs), but we just lay in bed tossing and turning all night, both of us. And, I don’t know. You can read books an I’ve got an app on my phone and am trying to get as much information as I can to understand how to make Amy as comfortable as I can. It’s very helpful. I think some of the most helpful advice for me is probably what can I do to make it easier for Amy? And the advice that I’ve gotten is that she doesn’t care what you did that day. She doesn’t care how your day was (laughs). So, don’t try to tell her. If you had a rough day or whatever, just shelf it and try to keep on being an assistant to whatever she needs at all times. And that’s pretty easy to remember because I feel that way already about her. She actually has to kind of tell me to back off because I’m so like, what can I do? What do you need? Can I get you something? But it’s awesome. Somebody said the other day that you thought you were in love with your wife, but you’re just going to love her more with this child coming into your lives. And it’s so true. It’s just like marriage. I’m frustrated with myself for waiting so long in my life to get things figured out.”