MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
FIRST DATA 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 28, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed writing a book, the potential of other drivers outside of NASCAR hopping in a JR Motorsports Chevy, why he feels blessed and many other topics. Full Transcript:
Before starting his traditional media availability, Clay Campbell, President of Martinsville Speedway presented Dale and members of Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) with a check for $10,000 to support the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Honorary Scholarship Motorsports program. This scholarship is to help students at the college who are in the PHCC motorsports program further their education and ultimately reach their goals of working in motorsports.
“I appreciate it. That is a great idea for something that will make an impact in the community and give somebody and opportunity and I hope that they take that opportunity and use it well. I know you guys will give them the chance to do so, give them the tools and the environment to do so. Thanks so much for everything you’ve done for my family. For everything that you’ve meant to this race track and this place is very special to me. We love coming here and being a part of everything that you have going on every weekend and you do such an amazing job and have for so long. Thank you for that and certainly nice to meet you folks and I’m thrilled to be a small part of this and appreciate the speedway for their efforts to make it happen. So, thank you.”
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED WRITING A BOOK TO KIND OF DISCUSS YOUR CAREER?
“Oh yeah, I wrote that book with Jade Gurss, Driver No. 8, about our first season. A lot of great stories in there behind the scenes stuff that either doesn’t make it into some of the interviews that we do with the media or things that we think fans would be interested in hearing about. I have interest in writing a book about my recovery and my experiences last year trying to get well and then coming back and running this final season. I think it’s a bit assuming to think that well you just write a book anytime you want or about anything, but I think that would be a good read. And there are a lot of things in there that, again, didn’t come up in interviews. There is a little bit deeper that the story goes that I think people would be interested in and the interest for me there is if it would help someone going through the same experience that I went through. Other than that, I mean, we will see what kind of interest there is in that and move forward. There are a lot of little projects that are on the table and topic of discussion in the office amongst our brand team and that is certainly one of them.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE YESTERDAY WITH KIM HOMME FROM THE FIRE DEPARTMENT AT THE CHARLOTTE AIRPORT? SHE EVEN TOOK YOU FOR A RIDE IN HER TRUCK?
“Yeah, she has been part of the fire department for over 25 years. She actually retired from where she was at one station and the day after she retired she started working at the fire station at the airport and she has been there for a while. She is a cancer survivor. Very impressive, strong individual that it was such a privilege to meet…”
DID SHE KNOW YOU WERE COMING?
“She had no idea it was a surprise to her and her co-workers and colleagues helped sort of set it all up. Basically, Goody’s put this together in conjunction with Goodyear to give her a set of tires for her vehicle because apparently, she really needed a set. Also, there was a year supply of Goody’s donated to the fire station and they will disperse that amongst… there are several on the grounds around the airport. And they will use that up pretty good they said. And she is also going to come to Homestead and enjoy that race weekend with us. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate Goody’s for putting it together and allowing me to meet her. We did get in one of their more… they’ve got some older traditional fire trucks that you and I would recognize, but there are some new stuff vehicles that are about a year old that look like futuristic like they would be on the moon somewhere. And we went for a trip around the taxiways in one of those, which was kind of fun because it felt like we weren’t supposed to be out there in the first place. But, they explained it to me that there had been a rush of planes taking off and there was a little bit of down time to be able to do that. So, that was pretty neat. Side note – there are a lot of things going on at the airport construction, new runway coming in, that place is growing like bonkers, so it’s crazy. But, those folks there they were amazing and again, Goody’s put it all together and I have to give them credit and appreciation for making that happen.”
DOES IT EVER GET OLD SEEING THE LOOK ON PEOPLE’S FACES WHEN YOU SHOW UP LIKE THAT?
“No, of course not, that would never get old. You just wonder exactly what their reaction is going to be. Hers was awesome. She gave me a hug and was thrilled about just the opportunity to meet. So, it was great that she was excited about that because then I knew the benefits and gifts and so forth were going to be exciting for her as well. Her opportunity to go to Homestead, she couldn’t believe that… she is like ‘I’m going to be in the pits?’ I’m like ‘yeah we are going to give you the grand tour.’ So, she was super appreciative and just considering her character it was really impressive how appreciative she was. I mean she has seen and done everything and then some, so it was awesome to meet her. I had more fun meeting her than I think she did meeting me for sure.”
WHAT IS THE POSSIBILITY OF MARCO ANDRETTI RUNNING AN XFINITY RACE FOR JR MOTORSPORTS?
“We’ve got four teams and they are all full. So, it’s probably not got any life, but we are friends and we’ve talked about it for two to three years. He has some interest in coming over and running some road courses and so does (Graham) Rahal and a bunch of other guys. If I had a field full of race cars we would have a blast, all our buddies racing, but it’s just hard to do. We are really thankful to be in the position we are in to have four full cars racing for a championship in each one of them. As fun as the all-star idea and car is and as many races as we won with (Kevin) Harvick, the real goal is to have a team running for the championship. So, we are really thrilled now to be in the position we are in. But, if we did have those opportunities, that is what would probably end up happening with them. I mean, (Ron) Fellows when he ran our car he comes to us and says ‘hey got a little money, you got an open race somewhere?’ Awesome, let’s do it. That is as simple as that. And so, if we did have those opportunities we certainly would entertain it and I think it would be great for the sport to have an Andretti out there running in stock car no matter where it is at, it would be awesome.”
YOU TALKED LAST WEEK ABOUT YOUR CAREER BEING BLESSED, BUT YOU’VE HAD DOWN TIMES, THE 2001 DAYTONA 500, YOUR FAMILY DRAMA, YOU’VE HAD LONG SLUMPS, AND HAVE SUFFERED SERIOUS INJURY, SO HOW DO YOU BALANCE SAYING YOU ARE BLESSED WHEN YOU’VE LIVED THROUGH ALL THAT?
“Oh, well, I’ve been able to make a lot of money and live a lifestyle that I never dreamed of. And I’ve been able to provide for my family. I met an incredible woman (wife, Amy) that I’m married to, and I just feel blessed. I don’t know how else to explain it. Amy believes in Law of Attraction, like if you want something to happen, you visualize it and you bring that into your life. And I’m the opposite (laughs). So, I just sit there going oh, what’s going to happen? So, I guess it’s because of all those experiences, I’m just assuming there’s some big hurdle coming up down the road because there always seems to be something. But, I think having that mindset of not having expectations and then great things happening to you, you’re just overwhelmed and feeling fortunate and blessed. And that’s the way it is for me. I waited around a long time to get a lot of things figured out in life as far as my personal life and my professional life, so I feel lucky that I had enough time and an opportunity to drive for Rick (Hendrick). There were a few years where I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had let me go or moved on to something else or made a change. To have the opportunity that I did for him to hang on and us to get back to Victory Lane, those are blessings, man. I know not everyone gets that opportunity. And I know that I’ve got to be thankful for that chance to get an opportunity to win again. I didn’t know whether I would ever fall in love and get married and I waited a long time to figure that out and how to do that and how to treat somebody the way they needed to be treated and all those things. I just feel lucky to have figured some of these things out early enough in life to enjoy them. And so that’s what I mean, I guess.”
WHEN MARTIN TRUEX JR. CAME UP INTO THE NATIONAL SERIES, HE WAS A TEAMMATE TO YOU AND KIND OF GOT HIS START WITH THAT. BACK THEN, DID YOU SEE THIS KIND OF SEASON IN HIM? WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEEN LIKE THROUGH ALL THOSE YEARS?
“Oh, man it’s been great. We’ve stayed close. Amy and Sherry (Pollex) have been great friends for a long time and Amy actually worked a little bit in her store, so they were really close and spent a lot of time together. And that kept our bond tight. There was a particular time when I think when Rick (Hendrick) was making a change on the No. 5 car, whether it was before Mark (Martin) or after Mark, I’m not real sure, but I like begged Rick; I was like telling you if you get Truex in here, he can do anything that any of these other guys in your company are doing, myself included. I think that he’s got that kind of talent. You’d be surprised and how well he’ll do. And he didn’t have the track record or statistics to be in that conversation, but I tried to push him into that conversation. So, I believed in him since the first race we ran together back at Chance 2 (Motorsports). The way he ran in our cars in those two seasons when he won the championship and knowing the equipment that he’s been in his entire career and how he performs in it and to me, he’s always overachieved and always at least gotten everything out of the car that the car was capable of getting, if not more. And so, also, I think he had a lot of years there where he could have allowed himself to get frustrated. I think his ability to remain professional, his ability to be strong-willed and see opportunity down the road says a lot about his personal character. He is a guy where if you get a chance to go hang out with him, go deer hunting with him, he’s a tough, tough person, mentally. And so, I think that has served him really well. I’m not surprised by his success.
“I think I’m more surprised by the team and how far that team has come. I think that’s an incredible story. As hard as it is to come into this sport and create a team out of thin air and be an owner that succeeds amongst the teams that are solidified in this sport, it’s so impossible to do that. It’s so hard. There are so much financial resources that have to be poured into it and I think that team should be commended. They found an incredible crew chief and he’s done an amazing job building great chemistry and it’s just incredible to watch. Personally, I’ve pulled for Martin to have this chance and this opportunity. And when he went over there I thought this could be the start of something great. And I know I’m not the only one to feel that way. It’s awesome to see. It makes it harder for me because I want my teammates to do well. I’m a company man. I want them to win the championship and here’s one of my best friends, regardless of racing, we’re incredibly good pals and it’s hard not to want to see him win it too, you know? I’ve loved seeing him win and celebrate his success. They’ve had such a difficult journey over the last couple of years.”
WAS SOME OF THE NON-TRADITIONAL THINGS YOU DID AFTER THE DRIVER #8 BOOK BY DESIGN TO STEP OUT OF THE TRADITIONAL NASCAR COVERAGE? “Those things, I had nothing to do with all of that. Those things happened because of our relationship with Budweiser, and then Jade Gurss’ work ethic and his ability to get us into those doors and into those conversations with those publications. That happened because of a really dedicate, professional person that sees opportunity and does it just as much for himself if not for the person they are working with. I have to give Jade just a lot of credit. He worked really hard to get those opportunities for us.
“Me, I was super shy. I’m going to tell you that there is no bigger fear than going to the MTV music awards and introducing Linkin Park. I don’t think I have experienced fear like that ever since. For me…if it was up to me, I would have never done those things. I would have said heck no, I’m not doing that. I don’t want to do that, that is scary. He has a knack for helping me try and understand why we should do it. What the response, and the repercussions would be from that, and the positives and the opportunities that would follow that. He would say like if this happens, then this could happen and this can happen. So that was just kind of a perfect storm between being paired with him. Having the clout that Budweiser had that could get us into those conversations. Being in the right place at the right time because if it was up to me, I would have never done those things. I would have been like ‘Heck No! – I want to just drive.’ I’m still very scared of doing those big hits, like music awards and things in front of a lot of people is very challenging for me.
“But I do know now better than I knew then how impactful that is and how much that does for your recognition and the sport. I’ve learned. I never really did it for me or myself. I can’t sit here and tell you I know a lot about brand building. I rely on Mike Davis and those guys to spell that out and help me understand why we are building a brand and why we do it.
“Even today, it is still something I don’t have a total grasp on. But I know now, realizing what it could do for the sport and trying to be a good representative of the sport. Having a great relationship with (Mike) Helton. I love making him proud especially. He and Dad were really close. When Dad was killed, I looked at Helton a bit as a father figure at times and would go lean on him and he would tell me about how well I was doing and if I was representing the sport well. It would push me to want to do that more to make him proud of me. That had a lot to do with it too. I knew when I would go do those things that this would be one of those things that Helton, and today (Steve) O’Donnell and those guys appreciate. That has a lot to do with that too. That helps me sort of break through my own personal insecurities to do those things.”
THE SUNDAY NIGHT AFTER YOUR FATHER PASSED AWAY, YOU DID A VERY BRIEF TV INTERVIEW. WHERE WAS THAT?
“That was on the front porch of Mamaw’s house. Everybody convened at Mamaw’s house, and the local news came there and wouldn’t leave the porch until they saw somebody so they pushed me out the front door.”
WHAT IS THE GREATEST SAFETY IMPLEMENTATION SINCE YOU STARTED DRIVING? AND BEST CHANGE TO ENHANCE COMPETITION IN MONSTER ENERGY CUP SERIES?
“Boy, that is tough. I don’t know how to better the competition in the sport other than if we do the right things to increase corporate involvement to bring in a lot money. Whether it is through corporate involvement or a bigger slice of the pie from the TV deal – whatever can help the teams. Because money buys speed. Money buys competition and competitiveness. We have tons of competition. If you look at the sport from the 50s all the way up to today, it seems like there is more and more and more teams capable of winning races. So, the competition in my mind is incredibly tough. I don’t know that I personally as a driver want it to get harder. But I know it would be good and healthy for the sport to have 40 top-tier teams out there.
“As far as the safety goes, there are so many things that have changed over the years. I think the Hans device, neck restraints – those things have been a blessing. Who know how many lives those things have saved. Or how many serious injuries those things have prevented. That to me stands out. And I’m sure there is even more that is as important or more importantly a lot of protocol as far as how things are handled now. The attention that we now see from the medical personnel here at the track after crashes and so forth, a lot of it is really thorough and it needs to be. Those changes in protocol I think have been some good advances and that will continue to evolve and get better. There are a lot of things. But those two standout, but there are so many. The soft walls. You get 10 drivers in here and they are going to give you 10 different awesome improvements we’ve seen on the safety side of it.”
YOU POSTED ON FACEBOOK GETTING OUT OF RICK HENDRICK’S HELICOPTER AND HOW YOU MANAGED TO GET THAT IN YOUR CONTRACT WHEN YOU SIGNED WITH HIM. CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU PULLED THAT OFF AND WHAT RICK HAS MEANT, NOT SO MUCH AS A TEAM OWNER, BUT AS A FRIEND?
‘Yeah, so, I went to one team owner to talk about driving their car, it was me and my sister (Kelley Earnhardt Miller), and they put the contract down in front of us and I saw the money they wanted to pay me. And I told Kelley, I didn’t want to see any more contracts. I went to talk to Rick by myself. We sat down in his office and he put the paper across the table from me and said take a look, and I turned it over and said I don’t even want to see it. You and Kelley deal with that. I don’t even want to know about all that money. I said the only two things I want are helicopter rides to Martinsville and painted side skirts. And so back then, the painted side skirt was a little more difficult. So, been able to use that helicopter had just made a lot of things convenient. We’ve used it more so than just to Martinsville. We’ve used it to get to certain appearances. We flew back & forth to Charlotte and to the house a hundred times. Those were the two things I think were important to me that day. And so, I thanked him this morning when we were riding out. I said, this is the last ride as your driver, man; I really appreciate all the trips because there have been countless trips in that thing and me and him always joke about it being the only thing I cared about when we were sitting down to talk contracts. So, that’s how that all worked out. He’s just a really nice guy who does great by his employees and treats everybody incredibly well. We all know the story about Rick. He’s just an amazing person and he said to me, his response was, that he hopes there’s a lot more helicopter rides in our future (laughs). We both want to continue to be a part of each other’s lives on a personal level and maybe even on a professional level, too. I’m just thankful for him to allow me to use that helicopter.”