NASCAR Media Conference
March 21, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We are going to open up today with Jeffrey Earnhardt, he will be racing next week, Saturday, March 31 in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham, Alabama. That will be the second race of the Rolex Series season. Jeffrey drives a GT. He's the son of former NASCAR driver Kerry Earnhardt, and of course the Earnhardt name is magical in Alabama, largely because of the great success of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Junior enjoyed at nearby Talladega Super Speedway.
Jeffrey, this year you're making the transition to running a full Rolex Series schedule driving the Point Ford Mustang fielded by Rick Ware Racing, and has the No. 15, the same number your grand dad used when he raced Fords back in the day for Bud Moore. Pretty cool, what goes around, comes around situation.
You've had two months now to prepare for the Porsche 250 after the season‑opening Rolex 24. What's your thoughts about going to Barber for the first time?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: I'm really excited. It's a track I've never been to but I've heard a lot of great things about it. I can honestly say I've never heard one negative thing about the Barber Motorsports Park and everybody is just talking about how they really out did their selves when they built it.
I'm excited to get there and test out the track, and kind of get used to it. I've played it a little bit, tried to get a little idea of what it's like, but the real test will show when we get there.
But you know, we went to the 24‑Hour race and we didn't prepare enough for that race, and you know, we lacked there as a team, and you know, we went back to the shop and redid our homework and did a lot of changes in the car to make it better for the Barber race. I think going back, we are going to be twice as good as we were at the 24, and I feel like we were pretty competitive for the circumstances we were in down there.
So I'm really looking forward to getting to Barber and seeing what the Point No. 15 Mustang has next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Before we go to the media, one more quick opener. We are also going to continue to see you on the NASCAR seen a bit at Bristol nor the Nationwide. What's the balance of the season in terms of NASCAR events for you?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: We are looking to doing a handful of Nationwide races. We want to do enough where I can still be a rookie next year because my ultimate goal is to make it to the Cup Series one day and I really enjoy road racing. So that's reason we did the GRAND‑AM.
But we are definitely going to keep focusing on the NASCAR side of things and try to compete in as many of those events as we can and not go over the rookie status but also get as much seat time as I can.
We are going to keep exploring new sponsors and venues that way to keep the 15 car on the track like we did at Bristol. That was exciting to be able to go around a NASCAR/Nationwide race and we are definitely looking to do more.
Q. My question resolves around the comment you just made, if you are racing in selected NASCAR races to have rookie status for 2013, is your Rolex racing and GT racing there a means to an end, or do you suspect that you are road racing and that's what you are going to stick around Grand Am for a number of years?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: I definitely love road racing and that's what I kind of took to. My first two Nationwide starts were Watkins Glen and Montréal and I also had very successful runs in road course races.
So road racing is definitely something that I really just kind of took to and really enjoy. It adds a lot more to it than just four corners; you have 12, as opposed to four. That definitely makes you mentally think twice as hard and really have a lot more to focus on in road racing and I definitely think that some of them are going to continue battling in from here all the way throughout.
And I look to be able to do anything in NASCAR or whatever it may be. Any kind of racing you do, obviously will make you a better driver, and the GRAND‑AM Series is the greatest series and a great group of people. Just a really enjoyable, laid back, very fan‑friendly series I really enjoy being a part of with the two races I've done so far and the few that I've been around.
The GRAND‑AM Series is something that I look to keep running in and definitely do a few races here and there. I wouldn't say to the full extent of a full season once we get solid NASCAR deals lined up, but definitely something I'm interested in dabbling in here and there.
Q. Most drivers when interviewed about Barber say it's a technical track. You haven't been here but from what you've heard about it, what do you anticipate the challenges of driving at Barber?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: I feel like our biggest challenge right now is going to be getting our car dialed in. The racetrack, I'm not going to say it in a cocky way or anything, but racetrack, you go out, you go a few laps and eventually if you have the right help, and especially my teammate being Chris Cook who is a phenomenal road racer, it's definitely going to make it a lot easier for me with him giving pointers here and there. That will make me learn the track, shift points, brake points and that's going to help a lot.
I think our biggest goal for the weekend is going to be to get our car dialed in. Like I said, it's a brand new car. We are going to do all we can here at Barber to make it the best run possible, and I feel like the guys at the shop have done a lot to make that ‑‑ indiscernible ‑‑ in their transition for us and easier learning process.
I ran on a few pretty technical tracks. In my opinion, Montréal is a pretty technical track, you don't have the elevation changes, but just the corner, you've got slow speed corners and you've got a few pretty quick ones. Lime Rock, I've ran there, which was also a pretty technical track with elevation changes.
I think the biggest part is going to be learning the car more than the track. I think the track, after running a few laps, it will come to me.
Q. Wondering what do you feel like you can get out of these Nationwide races if you're not in the car every week?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: Just seat time. That's the biggest thing is staying present to the new rules and the new car, the new rule changes or whatever it may be. Even just having your face in the garage is a big key so people know you didn't just drop off the face of the earth.
Seat time is my biggest thing. I feel like with a little more seat time and a little better preparation, I think it's just going to continue to better me as a driver and eventually put me in the Cup Series, which is my ultimate goal. The only way to get there is to take the steppingstones just like everybody else to get there and Nationwide just has to be one of them.
Q. And did you feel comfortable right away at Bristol or did it take you awhile to get into the flow?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: We struggled setup‑wise. It was a little stressful. The car we didn't get to its full‑‑ we didn't get it the way we should have been. That's part of the team and we all fall‑‑ indiscernible‑‑ we all learn from it and we all better ourselves. That's the biggest thing is we struggled getting going with original plans for setup‑wise and had to change. But I don't think it was really that nervous, more anxious than anything.
Q. Can you compare the racing in a sports car and stock car, and do you feel like maybe you might have picked up that speed gene?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: Definitely racing is racing. To me it's whether you go left or right or going in a circle, it's all the same, you're out there and if you have a competitive attitude, you want to be the best. Obviously racing is something I love, and I like to think that I have a real competitive attitude. I want to really be the best that I can possibly be.
With that kind of attitude, being able to go race whatever it may be, is something that you've got to strike an interest in. The GRAND‑AM, like I said, is something I really enjoyed and my grandfather enjoyed. Definitely a lot different from a stock car that's for sure.
Stock car is like throwing a big box around through those corners. The GRAND‑AM cars definitely handle a lot better, and are a little more enjoyable to drive. I can't say a bad thing about either one of them. But I definitely think the GRAND‑AM cars are a little more enjoyable, a little more controlled, a little more I guess driver‑friendly because they tend to do what you want than the stock cars. When you turn them, they don't really like to turn. They kind of fight back with you.
Q. GRAND‑AM has just been bit by bit becoming more popular and you're stepping into it right about the time where it could even be more popular. Do you have a comment on that?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: Yeah, I mean, definitely, it's something that I have definitely noticed, me being a younger generation, I think a lot of your younger generation people are really following this series and can relate to them because they look like an actual car where NASCAR cars don't look at all like the actual cars.
For the younger generation and my personal opinion, I think it's more relatable and it's more eye catching to a younger crowd‑‑ the new generation, the young crowd, you definitely have to get them involved and get their interest, because obviously the more them that have been NASCAR fans or race car fans, whatever it may be, they are not going to be here forever. And if you lose the younger generation, there's not going to be fans out there. That's a big key these days is getting the fans out, getting people involved, getting them interested, and that's the good thing with the GRAND‑AM Series.
Like I said it's fan friendly and fans can get right there with you and they see everything that's going on and they can‑‑ like I said, they can relate to the car.
Q. I've heard that you and your wife basically converted your stock car into a GT car with modifications; is that true and what stuff were you able to do?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: It's not a Nationwide car. We took a lot of our ways of road racing over here from the Cup side and the veer‑ability of the cars and stuff like that, and took the notes we had and related it into the building of this car. You know, we wanted it to be strong yet light and something that we could kind of‑‑ wherever we race, we run nine‑inch quarters in our stock cars and that's what we have in our GRAND‑AM car. A lot of people have transaxles and nine‑inch gear boxes, and we have a nine‑inch with our h‑pattern 4‑speed Jerico.
Definitely took a lot of our, I guess, technology that we have on the stock car side, which people consider outdated and all that compared to the stuff that's in the GRAND‑AM Series. But you know, it's stuff that us being a stock car team can relate to because we work with it. And we have been there and if we can make it work on that side, we can definitely make it work on a car that's lighter with a lot of horsepower and more options and leeway set up wise.
Yes, it does have a lot of the NASCAR side technology in it, but out of a pre‑built Nationwide car that was transferred to GRAND‑AM.
Q. What did you learn at Daytona that you are able to apply to the car as you are developing it?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: The biggest thing at is Daytona we didn't have a lot of testing. We were over for the 24; a brand new built car needs more than that.
It's like everybody else, they have had their cars and they have been testing and tuning and working with them for a long time. We just showed up and had a brand new car that had never seen a track before. That was our biggest downfall.
We learned a lot down there with suspension, shock packages, little things like that, durability, things we needed to make stronger around the car. Just a lot of little thing that could have made our 24‑hour race a lot more successful that we went back to the shop and transferred into the car for Barber.
So we are definitely learning fast, but you know, obviously the more time we get on the track, the better the car will continue to get.
THE MODERATOR: Did you ever think your first start at Indy would be a sports car race?
JEFFREY EARNHARDT: There's a lot of big‑name people, which is great, because now you get to compare yourself to the top guys and the fact that there are several of them. As I said earlier, my teammate, Chris Cook, he's a very good road racer, and that's his gig. That's what he's done his life, and he's instructed a lot of good Cup drivers on road racing and worked with a lot of people that were real successful on road courses.
You know, he's really going to be a go‑to guy for me this year. Not only is he my teammate, which you're always sharing information with your teammate, but he's also an instructor and great coach, too. Definitely going to lean a lot on Chris Cook to better me as a road racer, and better my skills for this season in the GRAND‑AM.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us.
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