MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AAA TEXAS 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 3, 2017
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE/JUSTICE LEAGUE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed his upcoming Appreci88ion event during banquet week at Las Vegas, last weekend’s race at Martinsville, what Texas Motor Speedway has meant to his career and many other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU’VE BEEN PARTICIPATING IN THE JR NATION APPRECI88ION TOUR OVER THE LAST SEVERAL RACES IT IS ACTUALLY GOING TO CONTINUE AFTER THE SEASON ENDS WHEN WE HEAD TO LAS VEGAS WHERE YOU WILL BE HOSTING APPRECI88ION AND EVENING WITH DALE EARNHARDT, JR., PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE. PRETTY SPECIAL EVENT FOR YOU. TALK ABOUT IT:
“Yeah basically we thought about what kind of an event we could put together for some sort of a final hoorah or something we could do that included the fans around the banquet week. So, we had a lot of ideas come up and the key things that were important to me were that it was for the fans and that myself or NASCAR or anybody for that matter didn’t profit off of it. That we would use all the proceeds to go to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. So, we got NASCAR to sign off on all those things and we went forward with creating an event where me and Mike Davis will be the hosts of the event and I have no idea what really is going to happen and who the guests are. So, I didn’t want to know what was going on or what Mike planned or who would be there. I imagined that he was going to bring up some folks that are part of my family, part of my life, part of my past racing history. It should be a lot of fun.
“Tickets are on sale now at NASCAR.com. I’m going to post the link because I think the link is a little tricky to find on NASCAR.com, but I’m going to post the link on my social platforms. Right now, there are 246 tickets left. So, I’m excited about that. I mean if I’m going to do something like this, this is exactly how I would like it to go as far as something the fans can enjoy and it’s strictly for them and it benefits a great cause. It goes right along with the bullet points that we have talked about all year for the Appreci88ion tour and should be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a big surprise for me and for the fans and I think that will keep it really entertaining. You know Mike, he has got a great personality, very creative, so I’m certain that he is going to keep the hits coming. So, I’m excited to get there and be a part of that program. We thought about getting a host for it, but we figured why don’t we just host it ourselves, what could go wrong? (Laughs).”
TALK ABOUT THE FAN LAST WEEKEND WHO WAS LITERALLY CRYING WHEN HE GOT TO MEET YOU. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE AND WHAT THAT WAS LIKE AND WHAT YOU SAID TO HIM?
“So, we met him at the (Martinsville) spring race it was outside the track or something so we told them to come back to this race we would give them hot passes. So, when I saw him in the garage he was just a guest of ours for the weekend, but the reason why we had such a… I guess such an intimate interaction is because every time I see him he cries and I’m trying to tell him there at that moment that the race track is a happy place, we are going to have a lot of fun, we are going to work on this car and try to get our car fast and that he was there for the whole weekend and to enjoy it and make sure he has fun. We saw him every day and after the race we saw him and I signed the gloves that we used and gave them to him right after we got out of the car, I said, ‘meet me at the car, I’m going to park it on pit road with all the other cars, I will see you at the pit wall.’ He had a gift for me and Amy and so we swapped gifts. He lost his Mom to an illness just recently, so he is having a hard time with that and just seems like a great kid, just wanted to have him out to the race and give him a really great experience and get him as close to the car and the team as we could. He had a lot of fun. He stood there with us for the anthem and enjoyed pre-race with us and got to be involved in all that and see what was going on. So, it was a neat deal.”
YOU SEEMED SO EXCITED AFTER THE RACE LAST WEEK. WAS THERE ANY PART OF YOU DURING THE RACE LAST WEEK THAT SAID ‘MAN I CAN’T GIVE THIS UP?’
“Martinsville, I just love… I feel like I just repeat myself over and over, but to answer your question short track racing to me is something we don’t get to do a lot. So, even as you are racing for the season, you miss it and want to do it. So, you get excited when you get the chance to go to Bristol or Martinsville when those come up on the schedule, I get really excited about being able to race in close quarters. Those tracks to me have such a strong length to the history of the sport and to my memories of being around in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. We had a lot more short tracks on the schedule back then and it seemed like we were going to places like that all the time and seeing action like that on the regular and it had been so long since I have gotten out of a race car and heard the crowd go through so many different emotions for 20-30 minutes after a race. It was just incredible to be a witness to that and to feel that energy of the crowd so plugged in to what was happening around the race track and as you were seeing the drivers pop up on the big screen, the fans would react and man, I can’t even remember the last time I had seen anything like that or witnessed anything like that, but we have seen it before, but boy it’s been awhile. It was really a magical moment, I thought, for anybody that likes racing. It was really cool.
“I know there were some people there that were disappointed and no having the best time, but as far as people being plugged into what is going on and excited about what is going on and enamored with what’s happening on the race track and so forth that was as good as it gets. Martinsville just seems to always be a place where you can count on having a fun race. You can count on seeing a great finish. You can count on being entertained the entire time and for being such a small venue and having so much history, I think they do such a great job with it. I can’t say enough good things about that track. I didn’t have any moment during the race where I was thinking ‘mmm man I wish I could untie this knot’ but when I think man, I wonder what about racing and driving cars I will miss? I know I will miss the people, I know I will miss my team, but when I think about driving cars what I’m going to miss the most – Martinsville. What you get out of a race at Martinsville you can get it at other places too, but what you get there is so fun and so enjoyable and it’s dependable. It’s there every time you go.”
TALK ABOUT GETTING THAT WIN HERE AT TEXAS THAT YOU DID AND WHAT THIS PLACE MEANS TO YOU:
“Yeah, I mean I didn’t know coming into Texas that this place would become so special to me. We had a tire rub and a couple of other things go on in that Xfinity race that surprised me that we won. We were able to come back to win and get through the field. (Joe) Nemechek was hard to beat pretty much every week, a couple of other guys. So, I was really proud of that win. And then to come back and get your first Cup win at the same track… I think that shows right there how much confidence really matters. Confidence is an emotion almost. It’s just more of a feeling than anything, but it can affect performance and choices you make if your confidence is low you make different choices. You think differently and you race differently, so certainly having that win in the Xfinity series I think had everything to do or a lot to do with us coming back and winning in the Cup series at the same track for the first time. It did amazing things for my career.
“We had won a lot of races in the Xfinity series, but I thought, man the Cup series is a whole other level. These are the pros I don’t know how I’m going to fit in there and get a win with all these guys doing so good, so many talented drivers and teams. Was our team capable of beating any of these guys? We had to sort of come in and grow and improve. We couldn’t win just as an Xfinity team we had to grow into that Cup atmosphere and I was surprised myself that we won so soon and it really did a lot for our career. We had gone to the National Sales Convention or the big yearly meeting that Budweiser has and stood on stage and told them that, they hadn’t won a race in a while and we were going to get them back to Victory Lane. To come out there and kind of deliver on that was a bit of a relief. We kind of started rolling into winning at Richmond and going to the All-Star race and winning that really was a great short couple of months for us.
“I don’t know, Texas has been so awesome to me. My wife, Amy, she is from Texas. I got a whole other family down here. That is a big, big bonus of being married to her. We spent all week with them, with her sister and her husband. So, Texas, is a place that is almost like a second home. I find I love more and more about it the more time I spend here. But the track, there is nothing really unique about the place other than Eddie (Gossage) has been amazing as far as a promoter. The things that he does… he is always kind of pushing the envelope. And he means well I have learned. Sometimes I have wondered, but I know he is just trying to do a job and take advantage of his opportunities and he has to deliver and so he does what he needs to do to deliver. It reminds me of some of the older style promoters that we used to have. A lot more flamboyant and creative. So, a lot of the stuff that he does is actually fun to see. So, his style of promotion brings a certain personality to the track and gives the track a bit of a personality that I think differs from a lot of other places too. Which I enjoy, I think that having Eddie here and the job that he does, as hard as it is to admit, he does a really good job and has everything to do with where this place is today.”
AFTER YOU RETIRE, WILL WE MAYBE SEE YOU IN A DIFFERENT KIND OF RACING, MAYBE ENDURANCE? YOU MADE A TRIP TO GERMANY A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WITH YOUR WIFE. IF YOU GET AN INVITATION FROM A PROMOTER OR A TEAM TO HAVE A GUEST EXPERIENCE AT A GERMAN RACE, WOULD YOU ACCEPT?
“I would definitely accept the opportunity to come to another discipline in motorsports as a guest. I’ve never been to a Formula 1 race and I think I’d love to witness one of those at some point in my life. Having devoted a lot of my life to motorsports I think it’s something where you have to check that box. I think there are other series and forms of motorsports that I have equal interest in observing. So, that would be awesome. I’m sure those opportunities will present themselves.
“I think as far as driving, I’m going to have a couple of Xfinity races next year and that might go on for a few years as long as it helps our company. I think I’ll have a bit of an itch to scratch, so I’m not complaining about the opportunity to run in the Xfinity Series a couple of times a year. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, to be honest with you. We have some Late Model cars. We’ve owned a Late Model team since 2000, as far as I can remember; maybe even farther back than that. I think that it would really be a lot of fun to slip into Hickory one night just for a regular show. Whether that will happen or not, I don’t really know. But it’s fun to think about and another whole thing to do.
“But, outside of that, I don’t think I’ll be at the 24 Hours of Daytona or anything like that. Back when we did those things it felt easier to do those one-offs, but that series is so competitive today, you just don’t come in there as a hobby and have a little fun. It’s just too competitive. It would be like one of them trying to come over here and just flirt with NASCAR a little bit. I don’t know that I could have the success I would want to have or have the opportunity to be in the equipment that I would want to be in. As far as working to run a 24-hour race, you want to do it with people that you know. I drove for Corvette and that was really nerve-wracking because you have teammates that I don’t really know that well and I’m responsible for the car when I’m in it and man, I don’t want to be the guy that screws this up for everybody. It’s a completely different experience. So, if I were to run in the 24 Hours again, it would have to be with drivers that I’m friends with and I just don’t know whether that would materialize. It’s really unlikely. It’s a very fun race; it’s my kind of race. Staying up all night long and not getting any sleep for 24 hours is right up my alley. So, I felt like I had an advantage. But, it’s just such a cool atmosphere too, in the middle of the night with the cars running around. Maybe it’s just a race I’ll go and have fun at as a spectator because I know it’s a lot of fun to be there during that event. Watching it on TV all night long is a lot of fun and I can’t imagine just being there as a fan. But, I don’t really know that I’ll drive too much other than the Xfinity stuff.”
THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT WHO WILL BE YOUR SUCCESSOR. WHAT’S KEPT YOU AT THE TOP OF THE POPULARITY CHART IS YOUR ABILITY TO BE GENUINE. IF YOU HAD TO GIVE ADVICE TO THESE YOUNG DRIVERS, OR ANY DRIVER, COMING INTO THE SPORT, WOULD THAT BE THE KEY THING YOU WOULD SUGGEST TO THEM AS FAR AS GAINING FAN APPROVAL?
“Well, it’s hard for me to give those guys advice. When I was that age I wasn’t open to listening to anybody tell me know to be, especially outside of the car. I’m sure those guys are the same way. They’re tuned-up. They’re ready. They really don’t need any help.
“I guess a lot of what I see from guys, I like. And I don’t think they need any advice. Like Kyle Larson, I think he’s awesome outside of the car. He’s cool as a cucumber and engaging on social media and has a great sense of humor. People like to see the human side of you and that sense of humor and some of your personal life and they like to see that you’re just like they are. That’s what they want to know. And they can imagine you living right next-door or running into you at the grocery store; and I think that a lot of these guys, that’s who they are and that comes across well in their social media interaction. I don’t know that I could really give them any advice that they would take or that would even help them.
“I think Chase (Elliott) has a real opportunity to maybe really grow his fan base quickly over the next several years, especially once he starts to eventually get into Victory Lane, which we all know he’s going to. Knowing him and being around him, he’s genuine. He tells it like it is. He’s hard on himself and is critical of himself, but sometimes too much, but that lets you know that he’s not going to hold back his feelings whether it’s himself or someone else or what’s happening. So, I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to deliver when it comes to being genuine and open to conversation and discussion and not really close himself off from the media and so forth.
“I’m excited about all these guys, Alex (Bowman) and William (Byron) and (Ryan) Blaney is just so much fun outside of the car just to observe and watch. We all kind of enjoy seeing what he’s up to. He’s doing something every week. He’s the guy I think that’s taking the lead and a lot of guys could follow as far as how he self-promotes and engages with the fans. He does such a good job with it and he’s up for anything. I think that’s a great example if those guys want to look for somebody to follow.”
FOLLOWING HIS TRADITIONAL MEDIA AVAILABILITY, DALE EARNHARDT, JR. WAS PRESENTED WITH A BEVY OF GIFTS FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY PRESIDENT AND CEO EDDIE GOSSAGE THAT INCLUDED A THERAPEUTIC HORSE NAMED ‘CHEVY’ THAT IS GOING TO BE RENAMED IN DALE EARNHARDT, JR.’S HONOR. THE HORSE IS BEING SPONSORED BY TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AT THE VICTORY THERAPY CENTER IN ROANOKE, TEXAS TO SALUTE JR NATION. HE WAS ALSO GIVEN A PIECE OF THE TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY SCOREBOARD, THE NO. 1 POSITION FROM THE 2000 DIRECT TV 500 DALE, JR’S FIRST WIN IN NASCAR CUP SERIES COMPETITION. HE AND AMY WERE ALSO GIVEN SOME BABY GIFTS INCLUDING A CUSTOM BABY STROLLER.
Team Chevy racing photos are available at: http://media.gm.com/product/public/us/en/gmracing/photos.html
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