MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 13, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media today at Talladega Superspeedway to discuss his final restrictor plate race, plans for next year beyond the TV booth, tracks he will miss, stage racing at a plate track and other topics including three very special gifts…
As part of Earnhardt Jr.’s media availability, Grant Lynch, Chairman of Talladega Superspeedway; and Alabama State Senator Gerald Dial, Chairman of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame presented Dale with a champagne bottle from the same case that his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., celebrated his final Cup Series win with on Oct. 15, 2000. He also was presented with a bottle of champagne from the same case with which he celebrated his first Talladega win on October 21, 2001.
The final gift was a No. 2 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Dale Sr., competed in during his Rookie of the Year NASCAR Cup Series season of 1979 and his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship in 1980. The car owner was Rod Osterlund.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. after driving away in the No. 2 Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
“That was great. The state of Alabama owns this car. They are going to let us take it to Mooresville, North Carolina and show it off in our shop, so it is going to be great for the guys. I got to take it for a couple of laps. That was fun. Drove it through the garage so all the guys on the team can see it. Pretty neat trying to imagine what it would be like running one of those around here at 180/190 mph.
“This car is a 1979 (Chevrolet) Monte Carlo. Dad drove this car his rookie season, and probably his championship season in 1980. They ran a Monte Carlo here (at Talladega Superspeedway) in 1979 but they ran an Oldsmobile 442 in 1980. This is the kind of car he drove at Bristol and some of the short tracks as well as the mile-and-a-half tracks.
“I drove his No. 3 Goodwrench car a couple of times at some tests that first year we were together. But never anything this old with some history. I love to be able to sit in the car to see the perspective of what the view is like. So different from our cars today. There are no head rests or anything like that. A lot of air moving around, so pretty crazy.
“I’m pretty surprised. I didn’t think I was going to take home a race car from this weekend. I just have to thank Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama. They have been really good to me. Hopefully we can get them a win this weekend.”
HOW SPECIAL IS THIS WEEKEND GOING TO BE FOR YOU AT TALLADEGA?
“It is a track we’ve had a lot of success at and we’ve been looking at this race as a great opportunity for us to come in and get an awesome run or finish and maybe a win. So, we’ve just been focusing on the car to be as good as possible and make sure it’s driving the way we need to drive it so we can be aggressive in the race; and all the usual things you think about and are concerned with on any given race weekend, that’s what we’re dealing with. I haven’t really thought beyond the usual emotions and anticipations that you have every race. But I do know this place has been great to me and we’ve got a lot of fans that come see us run here because they see it as a great opportunity to see us run well. So, I wouldn’t call it pressure, but there’s motivation to do well and run hard for all the folks that have come to see it happen. I’m sure there’s a few extra here this particular weekend considering it’s our last trip here. And, so that’s more motivation. So, I’m excited and looking forward to the race to get started on Sunday and hoping we can get up there and give everybody that’s going to be pulling for us a reason to cheer, and hope they leave the track on Sunday satisfied.”
OTHER THAN NBC, WHAT OTHER RETIREMENT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR NEXT YEAR?
“Oh, there are no plans. I wish I had something to tell you. But, considering I’ve never worked as a broadcaster before, I’m going to spend all my time trying to prepare myself. NBC is going to connect me and put me in front of people that can help me get prepared for that job and understand the work that I need to do and should do to stay prepared. I’ve got to learn all that in a short period of time. And, so I’ll be pretty busy doing that to make sure that when I go to work in July that I’m ready and I feel confident and can do a good job. Other than that I can’t really think of anything that stands out that you would have interest in.
“My sister bought some property. She was living inside the gate out there where we’re at and she bought some property down the road. So, I’m moving my mom into Kelley’s house and she’s excited about that. So, we’ve been working on that. Amy has been helping with that and that’s been a really fun experience because Mom is just so over the moon about it. So, that’s been a fun little project for us. And as soon as she gets moved in there, maybe on one of my first weekends away from the track, we’ll have us a pool party or something. That’s probably about as exciting as it’s going to be.”
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS ABOUT PLATE RACING?
“It’s hard to say because either you love it or you hate it (laughs). It seems like there’s no middle ground. I always enjoy coming to the track and trying to figure out what’s working in the draft and what’s changed. And as you change the cars, and we’re going to have a brand new Camaro next year, how will that work in the draft? I always kind of like to find that out. Just being able to make moves and find your way up toward the front and that’s always fun when you do something that your team gets excited about or the fans that are watching get excited about. I’ll miss that. Running at a track wide open, we don’t do that too much. It’s pretty fun. I’ll miss that. The track are so impressive; the size and how the cars race around them. I’ll miss that a little bit. But I’ll still come and watch it and get an understanding of exactly how the cars are working and how the draft is working and I’ll see things visually that stand out to me and help me understand what’s going on. But, I never will be able to replace that actual experience of doing it.”
“I don’t know that I’ll miss one more than the other. I really enjoy racing here. I really enjoy racing at Martinsville. They’re two completely different styles of events and disciplines and I’ll miss a little bit about something at every place that we run at. All the tracks have character and personality and the locations themselves, and experiences in and around the events. There will be a lot of reasons to miss all the tracks and competing on them; even the road courses.”
I’VE NEVER HEARD A DRIVER SAY HE WANTED TO WEAR THE HELMET CAM BECAUSE IT WOULD MOTIVATE THEM TO MAKE MOVES LIKE YOU SAID ON YOUR PODCAST. ARE YOU JUST DIFFERENT THAN OTHER GUYS WHERE YOU NEED SOMETHING ELSE TO MOTIVATE YOU WHEN YOU’RE OUT THERE? AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SHOWMAN-TYPE ASPECT THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO HAVE IT?
“I wanted to wear it one time before the end of the year so if we saw it next year I could talk about it with some experience. It adds a little weight to the helmet and we’re working on the visor to fix and correct some visibility issues with the mirror and other things. I’m hoping to run it. We’re making adjustments on it now. I’m hoping to run it again tomorrow in qualifying. But if I can’t get it to where I can see, I’m not going to race it. But, I’ve always felt like if it motivated you, bring it on. Add it to the puzzle. And I know that when we come here for example, people want to see us go to the front. Our fans want to see us take the lead as fast as we can possibly take it. They want to see us in the lead every lap. And, I can see in the grandstands the reaction when we have taken the lead and come around Turn 4 on the front straightaway. So, that’s motivating. I know that’s there, and that pushes me all day at these plate tracks to do as much as I can to get into the lead and stay there. Anything that motivates you, I think you should welcome. I thought the helmet cam would do the same thing. Folks at home could be seeing what we’re seeing. I’d want to be able to show them something that was interesting. And so, I don’t think it’ll make me drive any differently. I just know that anything that motivates you is good for you. So, add it all on and the more the merrier for that.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT HOW OPINIONATED YOU’LL BE ABLE TO BE ON TV?
“Well, there’s a fine line. To be able to understand what is going on in the sport, and to know what you need to know and have as much information and knowledge about what’s happening down in the garage, you’ve got to have great connections with all those drivers and crew chief and so forth. And, I’ve had conversations with some of the broadcasters, and you have to be careful about how you speak about individuals because they take that stuff personally. Me, being a driver, I’m the same way. And you need that connection and be able to have that instant communication and they can shut that off if they don’t want to deal with you. So, I think being honest is great, but there is such a thing as being too critical and I think I’ll have to learn what that is. I won’t be perfect right out of the gate and I won’t get it right every time. Even when I am opinionated, I always end up learning something. Either there’s more to it than what I initially thought or you hear a little bit about the other side of the argument. But, I don’t know if that’s really what people like about me is that fact that I’m that opinionated (laughs). I think sometimes being a bit too opinionated can get yourself into trouble. I just have to see how it goes. I’ve been watching Tony Romo (CBS broadcaster) and if I’m half as good as he is, I’ll be happy. That guy is just awesome. And he’s doing such a great job. And he sounds like he’s sitting right there next to you on the couch just talking about the game like a best friend. It’s easy to listen to. And he does such a good job with it. He doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. And hopefully if I can maintain that, and certainly, I’ll get better with more reps, just like anything else. The more you do it, the more confidence you get in yourself. I think the main thing for me is just building confidence. And that’s going to start with me being prepared and working the initial six months of the season the first of next year to try to be as prepared as I can. But, I think they hired me to be myself. I’ll try to get in there and keep that going. But, just knowing what Jeff (Gordon) went through with a few guys and talking to (Steve) Letarte and listening to their advice; you just don’t jump in there and get all critical on the drivers and stuff because that’ll make you a lot of enemies in the garage. And you need those relationships to have that ability to communicate and stay up to date on what’s happening in this sport. If you’re hacking on the drivers, they’re going to stop dealing with you and not want to talk to you.”
ON AMY EARNHARDT BEING THE HONORARY PACE CAR DRIVER AT MARTINSVILLE RACE
“I don’t know who was more excited about that, me or her. She asked me about it and said what do you think? I said man if you get an opportunity or get asked to do that, you have to do it. I know a lot of fans are thinking I don’t understand how she got that opportunity; but they wouldn’t turn it down either, you know (laughter)? So, I told her to go for it. She’s excited. It makes me happy that she even thinks it’s cool. And Kelley (sister) drove the pace car for the Late Model race and that was a great experience for her. So, I was happy about it and I’m like yeah, go do it. It just sounds like something fun to do and nobody would really want to turn that down. Hopefully it’s a good experience for her that day. I’m just she’s going to do fine.”
“Probably anybody in this room should be able to do it at Martinsville (lots of laughter).”
HOW DOES STAGE RACING CHANGE THE COMPLEXION OF THIS RACE SINCE IT’S THE FIRST TIME WE’VE SEEN STAGE RACING IN THE PLAYOFFS?
“I really don’t have an opinion right now. I’m sure that can change. I don’t hear much about that from the other drivers in conversations. I know the fans do talk about it as far as caution laps counting and so forth. But in the car, it doesn’t feel like the cautions are any longer than normal. I’ve gotten accustomed to it and really think it’s helped the sport. I don’t know how you make it better; I’m sure you could if you thought about it. But I think it’s improved the races and made them more exciting and tense inside the car. I assume if that’s going on, it’s transcending across the television and into the grandstands for the people seeing that intensity. I kinda like it. I don’t know how it’s going to affect the race Sunday. I know it was a little funky at Daytona in the 500 with guys pitting early and so forth. I think it will be similar to what the races looked like at Daytona and they should run pretty traditional to what we’ve seen the last few weeks. I don’t know if anyone will pull any crazy strategy or going outside the box, especially the guys in the Playoffs. When you’re in the Playoffs, it’s kind of hard to go outside the box. You just do what everyone else in the Playoffs is doing unless you’re a guy that has gotta throw a Hail Mary.”