NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
Topics: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
July 25, 2009
KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by our third fastest in qualifying, that's Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale, good qualifying effort out there for you. Your thoughts?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we put up a good lap yesterday. So we felt like we had a good shot at qualifying in the top five. We had a pretty early draw. The track temp was really good for us when we went out. We were just able to capitalize on that, beat a couple guys that beat us yesterday.
It's been a good weekend for us. Lance built a brand-new car to bring here. He's really excited about it, has been talking about it for the last couple weeks, about how excited he was to bring it here, looking forward to see how it would work. Seems to be doing really good.
Couple of our teammates were able to tire test here. We felt pretty comfortable coming in that we knew what we needed to have underneath the car to run well. It seems to be working.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Dale.
Q. You talked a lot about having a new car. Are you a little frustrated you have to come here this weekend and be sick and not be able to be a hundred percent?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I feel a lot better today. I feel about 90% today. It was real frustrating yesterday 'cause we didn't come in till Friday morning. I felt so terrible before we flew out. And yesterday was just really a frustrating, miserable day for me physically.
You know, didn't really seem to bother us, how we ran, what we needed to get done or accomplished. We probably could have ran one more sticker run, or would have normally ran one more sticker run at the end of qualifying than we did, but we cut it a little short.
I feel a lot better today, a lot more confident in being able to get out there and get something out of this next practice, go into tomorrow. I don't think Brad is going to be able to come out here this evening to help us. He was going to come out and run a lap just in case he had to climb into the car for some crazy, unforeseen thing on Sunday. We just wanted to have a backup plan instead of not having one at all. He's not going to be able to come out here, so we're going to have to man up and not have a backup plan. That's all right.
We'll see how the car is. Hopefully it's just fine. Seemed to be working really good yesterday. We'll see how it goes. Like I said, it was a 24-hour stomach bug. I guess I lost a bunch of fluids during that whole deal. I feel fine now. I just got to get fluids back in me. Just been drinking a lot of water a lot of Gatorade.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Lance and how it's progressed. You feel like you're in the saddle now, you have something to build on.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, the weekends and the races really can't come fast enough for me because I just want to work with him more and more and learn more and progress more. Either the weekends can't come fast enough or we aren't progressing as fast as I would like to.
But we are doing better. We are seeing some signs of improvement. The team's mentality and everybody's personality, including myself, has turned around for the better. We just still have a little ways to go. We still have some work to do and still have a lot more to achieve.
But, you know, I've always gotten along with Lance. Before we started doing this deal this year, we worked together a time or two. I enjoyed working with him before.
I don't know. I kind of like the way we're able to communicate. Right now we can talk to each other without taking things personally or letting things become too personal. Hopefully we can keep it that way.
Q. Is that a relief?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, working with Lance has been great, and I've enjoyed it. And he's doing a really, really good job. And he works really, really hard. Being a crew chief in this business is one of the toughest jobs. He does an amazing job. He came into a deal that wasn't doing very well, and he's helped turn it around. I'm sure he wouldn't take all the credit for it.
But, you know, I'm really proud of him and I think he does a good job. We got more to do. We're not where we want to be. We got more to get. Like I said, the races can't get here fast enough. I think even if we came out here and won this weekend, I'd still be itching to see four or five more weeks of racing to know what are those four or five weeks gonna look like, you know, to get a real good grade or gauge of how much better we've gotten or how much more we're improving.
Look forward to running more and more races with him.
Q. Dale, Mark Martin is 50. Bill Elliott is 53. That's a long time for you. Can you foresee yourself at that age to be doing the things these guys are doing?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's different for everybody, I think. I really don't know how you gauge the deterioration of talent in a racecar driver. It's not as easy to do that as it is, I guess, in stick-and-ball sports where you can see when somebody's lost a step or their batting average goes down or whatever.
You know, when I see Mark and Bill doing what they do, doesn't surprise me individually. Mark has always taken great care of himself. He's always been one of the fastest guys. Bill's the same way. I mean, Bill's in excellent health, and he's always been that way. I think a lot of it has to do with your ability to handle the heat and the endurance of the races themselves.
Obviously, anybody can come out here in a good, fast car and run a quick lap. Anybody can come out and do one or two or a handful of good laps. But those guys still run well and will continue to run well because their bodies can handle the heat and the endurance of the entire race.
I don't think age is really a factor. It's really what kind of shape you're in, you know, to be able to do it.
Q. You mentioned this is the first car that Lance has built from the ground up. He seems like a pretty confident guy anyway. Does he have a little more confidence knowing he's had his hands on this whole thing from the beginning?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: He seemed real excited the last couple weeks talking about the car, some of the advantages the car seemed to have over what we've been using. He's been looking forward to getting this type of racecar out on the racetrack and using it.
I guess I like it because if he feels this way or feels that much confidence and he knows the car as well as he does, then I have the ability to feel a little more confident in his decisions during practice and during the race on what to change, what he's trying to do to improve the car. I feel like he'll know the car better.
Every crew chief has an idea and an approach to what a car needs to do. He has his approach. We're gonna try it out this weekend.
Q. Dale, I know you've had your struggles this season. What has it been like to witness the fun that the gentleman next to you has been having so far this year, for Mark Martin?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We knew when we talked earlier, the middle of last year, about Mark coming, that it was going to be fun. Rick was really, really excited to be able to work with Mark. I think Mark was excited to work with Rick. So it's been fun talking and hearing Rick, you know, after a win or something, texting back and forth with Rick, being able to feel the excitement in his communication with you about Mark.
I knew Mark would come in and run well. I knew he would be fast. That's a great race team. He's a great driver. It was just a perfect fit. They were both at the right place at the right time. Hopefully he'll stick around for a couple years. I'm sure if he's running like this and winning races, it won't be hard to talk him into it.
I am enjoying being this close to him and being able to work this close to him. He's been a huge supporter of mine since I started racing in the Busch Series. Like I said, it's been great for Hendrick Motorsports. Already he's just done a tremendous amount for that company and the owner of that company.
So, you know, I guess that's something that I think is really important, is just in this short time what he's been able to do and provide for all the employees that work there, and Rick as well.
KERRY THARP: Dale, we appreciate it very much. Hope you feel better. Certainly good luck tomorrow.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Thank you.
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