MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PURE MICHIGAN 400
MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 11, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed his memories of racing at Michigan, attending Washington Redskin’s training camp and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BRING THE JR NATION APPRECI88ION TOUR TO A TRACK WHERE YOU’VE HAD A COUPLE OF WINS?
“It’s been fun all year trying to find creative ways to show the fans how much they mean to us and to the sport and to the career. It’s important to me and for our team back home to put this together that the fans get to understand and enjoy this. I wish I could run better on the track and I know that would make things a lot easier to enjoy. And we’ve still got a few races and hopefully something can get going. We’ve got to find some speed. I appreciate all the tracks working with us and helping us promote this. Hammerhead and our media arm at Dirty Mo Radio doing all that for all the content we’ve been able to put together and share with the fans a little bit about each track and what each track means to us. It’s been pretty interesting and hopefully the fans are enjoying that.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU THINK KEVIN HARVICK WOULD SAY WHAT HE SAID ABOUT YOU? ARE YOU NOW GETTING THE IDEA VIA WHAT YOU ARE HEARING THAT POTENTIALLY THERE WAS SOME FLACK OVER YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT DRIVER SALARIES? AND DO YOU THINK THAT WAS MISUNDERSTOOD?
“I’m sure it’s easy to take it a number of ways. It could have been taken differently. I think it definitely probably upset some of the veteran guys. I said on my podcast that if you’ve got a healthy program with great corporate sponsorship and great manufacturer support you should be able to control your worth and be able to get the kind of deal you want. The environment for some of these teams has become a lot more challenging over the last couple of years. But, that might be where some of his frustration comes from and why he decided to make the comments he made. I’m not real sure. I can’t speak for Kevin.”
YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN TO GERMANY TWO YEARS AGO, BUT NOW WHEN YOU WON’T BE DRIVING, WILL YOU GO THERE AGAIN? HAVE YOU PICKED-UP ANY GERMAN WORDS?
“The last time I was over there I was suffering with a lot of symptoms from my concussion and didn’t really know what was going on. So, the last trip I didn’t enjoy too much. I think it’ll give me and Amy an opportunity to do a lot of things next year. Everybody has been asking me about having all this free time. I don’t think I’m going to have that much, to be honest with you (laughs). And I think some of you know this opportunity that I have next year to work with NBC is going to take a lot of preparation and I’m definitely going to push real hard to make sure I’m doing everything I can do to be prepared and understand. I’m more confident in doing anything when I feel like I have done everything I can to prepare for that. And so, for me to go in there and feel like I can do the job I want to do, and do it well, I need to over-prepare and work hard and feel like I haven’t left anything on the table. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’ll be pretty busy, I think, in that first six months getting up to speed and taking every opportunity, I can to learn the process and learn what I can to be prepared for that job. So, it’ll be interesting and I’m excited to apply myself. So, I don’t know that this first year out of the car is going to be that much more relaxed that what I’ve been doing all year this season and over the last 20 years.”
ON CAR IDENTITY IN THE SPORT:
“All right. I really am having a hard time understanding what you’re asking me. But, when the cars are easy to identify, that’s a great thing. If you look at the cars and struggle to sort of tell one from the other, it’s not good. Our team, whether it’s Xfinity or Cup, the manufacturer support we get affects our ability to compete; it affects it a lot. They help us in a lot of different areas outside of a check or just being part of the brand. I mean, there’s a lot of different things that they do for the teams. I think that over the last couple of years, things have gotten better in terms of brand identity and recognizing one from another. There for a while, all the cars did look the same. And, they kind of were the same. The COT, you couldn’t tell one from the other or who was driving what. It’s gotten better. NASCAR has to have a level playing field as far as aero. But at the same time, you want the cars to look different. But when you really get too different from each other the aero changes quite a bit. So, you’ve got to be careful. And also, they want all the cars to fit under a similar inspection and so forth. There are some things in areas on the cars that will have to remain similar. But, they’re going in a good direction, I think, as far as allowing the cars to have a little brand identity on the front and different things on the side and so forth. It’s gotten better than it used to be. I mean it’s not 1970, but it’s getting better.”
WHAT ARE YOUR LASTING MEMORIES OF MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY AND EVERYTHING HERE IN BROOKLYN?
“Obviously coming here and getting the win with Tony (Eury) Junior, that was great. I raced Jeff Gordon one day in the Xfinity Series, I think it was 1999, he was in a Pepsi car. So, we kind of swapped the lead all day. I think it was only 100 laps or whatever. But, it seemed like only me and him were racing each other for the win. I was very proud of that because I thought he was the best in the sport at the time. It was like beating Jimmie Johnson if he came down to the Xfinity Series. So, that was a big deal for us. Coming here in one of my first Xfinity races in ’97, we drove up here with a dually and a gooseneck and ran in the top 10. We couldn’t believe it, you know? I bumped Dale Jarrett out of the way off of Turn 2 for eighth, or something like that. Me and Dale Jarrett still talk about that today. And, winning with Steve (Letarte) a couple of years ago. We just dominated that day in the Batman car. We’ve got some really good memories here. It’s been a fun track. I miss the track being as wide as it used to be when we could run multiple grooves and sometimes even up against the wall at some of the events. It’ll get there. It’s still really nice as far as the pavement. It’s not aging. The color has changed a little bit. But it’s definitely not widening out as much as I’d hoped, before I hung it up. But it’s just going to get better and better and better. This place is great. There has been some conversation about the 1.5-mile tracks with the words cookie cutter, and all that. That’s been a conversation for a couple of decades now. But this place here is, to me, the standard for the 1.5-mile or 2-mile race track. This place is so much fun to race on for a driver. It’s a great race track.”
DOES KEVIN HARVICK OWE YOU AN APOLOGY?
“No. I would appreciate a conversation. If we can have a conversation about it. I know Kevin, and I’ve known him for a long time. I feel like it would be great to sit down and discuss what he said, what he meant. We can even talk about my conversation from The Glen that he didn’t like, and just find some kind of common ground. That would be great. Like I said, I think a lot of the guy, and there is no denying what he did for our company over those few years. We were in a good place, but he put us to another level. His understanding of how to run a team, he changed how everyone in the company thought…all the guys downstairs as far as how to get cars better. He brought a really great mentality to the company that is still there today. We’ve enjoyed a lot of wins together. I would certainly like to clear it up, but just probably between ourselves.”
YOU SAID YOU HAVE EXCEEDED YOUR EXPECTATIONS AS A DRIVER, CAN YOU PLEASE SPEAK TO THAT?
“I have watched a lot of guys come in behind their Dad and struggle. There are a lot of guys that came in behind their Dad and made it, but there are a lot of guys that didn’t. My Dad put up some pretty steep numbers, so I knew that was going to be a challenge trying to feel any kind of self-worth and doing well enough to satisfy people. I hated working for a living, so I was hoping, this is silly, but the way I thought in 1997 was ‘Man, if I could get into an Xfinity car and could win just one race, what do I need to do just to say that I think that is enough to keep me around?’ When I won my first few races in the Xfinity series, I thought ‘Well, alright. I’ll be able to keep a job in this sport for a while because of this little bit of success I’ve had.’
“I didn’t come here to be the most popular guy. I didn’t come in here thinking I was going to win seven championships. I just wanted to be able to do. I just didn’t want to flame out in two years and be gone and have to work. Honestly. I just wanted to be able to make a living doing it, and it has turned out to be much, much more than that for me. Every time I win a race, it is a surprise to me. Any time we did anything really big like win the Xfinity Series championship, or the Daytona 500, even to this day, it is hard for me to believe it happened to me. That is what I mean when I say I exceeded my own expectations because they were pretty low. I don’t know why, but I was a screw-off when I was a teenager. I was late to work every day. I didn’t put in the effort. I just didn’t have my head on straight, so I shouldn’t have amounted to much. But I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gotten the opportunities I got with my Father and luckily enough I had great people around me on the Xfinity deal that carried any of my own personal limitations until…I finally figured it out late, late in my career what I really was supposed to be doing this whole time as far as my job and being an asset, and being accountable and applying myself. It took a while, but some of us are late bloomers.
“I didn’t think I would win another race after 2010, 2011. I thought that was it. I thought I was going to squirm around in the back until everybody had just had enough of me. But somehow or another we got back in Victory Lane a few more times, so that was pretty cool.”
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THE 1999 IROC RACE WITH THE CLOSE FINISH WITH YOUR DAD?
“Oh man. I’ve watched that a lot! There is a YouTube clip of about the last five laps and I watching it just thinking ‘Man, how in the hell did I lose that?’ There was a lot that happened that day with me and Dad running nose-to-nose first and second that whole race. He was motioning to me the whole time to stay right with him; to stay in line, not try to pass him. You could pull out and get alongside the guy in front of you pretty easily, but it was hard to pass on the bottom. He was like ‘Don’t pull out. Don’t pull out’. I’ve got all these guys dogging me trying to pass and trying to pass. So, on the last lap I got a run, went down into turn one and got under him, and it didn’t work and I thought I was screwed. Somebody got behind me and pushed me down the back straightaway really good. We went into turn three and Dad drove to the bottom so I just went around a little bit higher and it stuck and I got along his outside coming out of turn four and I was going by and he hit me. He was trying to side draft me but he also hit me and that momentum I had going forward just stopped. His side draft started to work, and he started creeping forward and Rusty was behind us. Rusty went behind Dad for a second which pushed Dad a little farther and then right at the last second Rusty went low, low. That was all he needed to get back by me. It was a very short race, I don’t remember how many laps or miles, I got out of that car and I have never been more tired in my life. I went to Victory Lane, and then just about passed out. I went to the infield care center and got two bags of IV fluids. Never felt worse after a race for whatever reason. I must have held my breath the whole time, I don’t know. But whatever it was, after I came down from the adrenaline that was pumping. I went into victory lane hoping that Dad would…Tony (Eury) Sr. and all the guys are in the Xfinity garage and they were all excited saying I about had him and I did awesome. And I wanted Dad to say that, and he would not even acknowledge that I almost beat him. He was “Yeah, look at me. Look at my trophy. How about that Dale, Jr.’. I was like all right.
“On top of that, I have always been ticked with Rusty for that whole thing because he could have…he and Dad were always one-upping each other. One would buy a plane, the other had to have the same plane. This one buys a farm, the other guy had to buy a farm. They did that their whole career. Throwing water bottles back and forth. Then they would be pals. Then they would be fighting. He had his one shot to really rub it in Dad’s face and push me to Victory Lane. He could have hung that over Dad’s head for so long, and he kind of helped Dad to be honest with you. The way the aero works. I was so mad he didn’t push me. If he had, I would have won. I didn’t need much. But…it was funny…I got to race Dad in the IROC series, then I got to race him in the Cup Series some, but really, we didn’t race around each other much at all. I don’t have many memories of racing with him much on the race track. I remember passing him for the win at Richmond. I remember passing him for position late in the race for the All-Star win, but really there is not a lot of us racing together. We ran together than whole day. It was fun and to battle him once was pretty awesome.”
YOU’VE KIND OF TURNED INTO THE DRIVER DEVELOPER AS OF LATE WITH MARTIN TRUEX, JR. AND OTHERS. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? WHAT IS IT LOOK FOR WHEN YOU ARE TALKING TO A YOUNG DRIVER?
“Yeah, I can’t take any credit for any of that. Honestly, a lot of those guys that have come through JR Motorsports I was tipped off by somebody. As far as Martin Truex, Jr. it was Richie Gilmore I believe that told me about him. But it’s been you know somebody gets in your ear and says this guy here is somebody you need to look at and because of our popularity and our ability to attract a lot of corporate sponsorship it allowed us to create JR Motorsports and give these guys opportunities in Late Models and Xfinity teams and stuff like that. That is why we have this whole JR Nation Appreciation, the fans support us, corporate America wants to be a part of that, that presents opportunities for us to do things that gives opportunities to others. So, I can’t take really credit for actually like being this eagle eye like ‘oh yeah there is this guy over here just watch him.’ I can tell you that Ty Majeski I would love to put him in a car. I have been kind of watching him. I’ve never seen him drive, but I know he wins every damn time he gets out on the track. He is just sitting on Twitter today complaining about a four-race losing streak. I don’t think that I can take credit for seeing those guys. They get sort of brought to you or somebody points them out. It’s just circumstances, but I love having the opportunity to help people and JR Motorsports has been able to do that. If we get lined up with the right people and the right situation, I think our program is able to help a lot of people.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE WASHINGTON REDSKIN’S TRAINING CAMP:
“It was a dream come true for a fan, like any fan like myself to go out and just kind of throw the football around a little bit. I thought they were just going to throw one pass and be like ‘alright see you we are out of here.’ But he was like ‘naw come on let’s do some more.’ So, I think we had three passes. So, it was a lot of fun. They are in the middle of their training camp for them to come over to the track like just a few hours before they actually have to get in pads and get going I know that they could have easily turned that down and had good reason to. I thought that was really cool of those guys to come out there and give their time. I know they were excited about being able to go around the track and all of that, but I thought still it was nice of them to come over there and get involved in all of that and help us kind of do what we are trying to accomplish for the race track. I thought that was probably the most fun Winner’ Circle that I’ve ever done. We don’t call them Winner’s Circles anymore they are like a Victory Tour or something. I don’t know what they call them anymore, but for forever it was the Winner’s Circle program. I told the track, Richmond, if they didn’t mind having a retired driver, I would do it again next year. Anything to go back to Redskins training camp. So, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that and they had a terrible game last night, the pre-season game was awful, but you don’t care. You are a fan and just to be around those guys was incredible. I was really in awe. To watch them after practice work with the kids around there and handing out snow cones and all that stuff it was a really great experience. I enjoyed that. When they talk about drafting guys with character you don’t really know what that means until you get around these guys on those teams and you really see what kind of quality people these guys are. I mean they are great at football, but they are also really, really quality individuals. That’s real neat to see.”
HOW DID YOU DO RUNNING OUT FOR THE CATCH?
“Well, I caught the first two. The third one was a little overthrown. I think that was my fault for being slow, not Kurt (Cousins, quarterback for the Washington Redskins) fault for overthrowing me. But it was so much fun. Me and (Josh) Norman while we were running before Kurt was evening throwing the ball we are giggling as we are jogging down the field just laughing. It was so funny.”