NASCAR Sprint Sound & Speed presented by SunTrust
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
January 9, 2010
KERRY THARP: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is kind enough right now to come on out and talk to you. Dale, as you look ahead to 2010 season, tell us your thoughts.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, it will get here as soon as it gets here, Daytona. We're kind of still in the middle of the off-season. I'm still enjoying taking it easy, doing whatever I want to do.
We've been doing a little bit of work. A lot of changes have happened with our race team to try to get better. We also have been working trying to prepare the Nationwide program and get it ready, shore up a few more relationships for that deal.
But, I don't know, off-season was good. Holidays were really, really good with my family and everything, so... Pretty happy.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Dale.
Q. Obviously you've hired Danica Patrick. Do you think she's going to struggle? Do you think she's going to adapt? Will it take her long? Are you the perfect person to be a car owner for her because you understand the attention she's going to be getting?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'm kind of going into it with an open mind. I mean, it's going to be an uphill battle for her to do well. But I think she can. She's a racecar driver. She should be able to adapt and do whatever she needs to do.
We're going to give her the best tools we can. I don't know if there's a perfect owner or whatever. But, you know, we'll just do the best we can for her. She has been in a car. Pretty happy with how that's gone. Pretty happy with what we've seen. I love her attitude. She gets along great with Tony, Jr. All that stuff is going better than planned. We just need to get to the racetrack. I mean, she's been around Daytona. Went to Orlando tested. Need to run some laps.
I hate testing myself. But, you know, the policy as it is now, it's difficult for someone like Danica to come in and really try to understand the cars, get to know them. We're going through that challenge, trying to help her as much as we can.
But feel pretty good about it. I don't know what she'll do. I wouldn't even know where to begin to sort of guess on how her performance will be or what her stats will look like. We'll just have to see.
Q. Dale, can you talk, there's been proposed rule changes to Daytona, perhaps no passing under the yellow line.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, you can. They're going to let you, right?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You said they're going to say no.
Q. I'm saying they're getting rid of that, perhaps getting rid of the no bump-drafts, all that stuff. How will that affect the competition?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It will be like going to a race about 10 years ago, I guess. They didn't have any of them rules then. We didn't see anything too crazy. I think it will just, you know -- racing will look a lot similar as it does now. I don't think you're going to see anything different. Passing below the yellow line, which will be a little different, but that's fine. There's a lot of asphalt down there, so it should be fine.
Q. Do you think if they take away the wing and go to a spoiler, will that help you? How will it impact the racing?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really know. I think it's more important that it seems to be what the fans want. The fans want to get rid of the wing, get the old spoiler back. So, you know, NASCAR seems to -- I don't really know what that will do to the racing. I don't think it will change it a whole lot myself. I don't know what that wing's really doing back there, what the spoiler would be like on this car. We've never really tested it so...
I don't really know what it would do to the racing. I don't think it would change too much. It could punch a little smaller hole in the air than the wing does and give us a little opportunity to get a little more grip on the front end, but it might do the opposite. You never know.
Q. Dale, Carl Edwards was in here earlier talking about Danica. He said he heard she's been fast in testing. You said she's been fast. Where have you been going? How has she been on the testing scene?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We went to Orlando. It rained. Only got a couple laps the first day. She really took to it pretty good. The lap times were pretty good. I don't know what the second bracket is there, but we were about 3 or 4/10ths faster than what some other Busch teams had tested there the week before and the week after.
We felt good. We put her out on the track with Kelly Bires for a little spell. He had a hard time really kind of hanging on her bumper there for a while. I wasn't there. I'm just going by what Tony, Jr. and them said.
I called Tony, Sr. first because I knew he would tell me the truth. He was blown away. So that told me that things were going really, really good if he was happy.
KERRY THARP: We've had some more folks join us at the podium. We have Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser for Richard Petty Motorsports. Kasey, talk about 2010, what it looks like for you.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it's actually looking good. We've changed some things around with Yates and Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. It's been a pretty crazy off-season trying to get the cars built, trying to get familiar with the new surroundings.
But, you know, I'm really looking forward to it. I think we're going to have a better engine package. Working with a bigger group of people should benefit everybody at RPM. We have some great teammates, Carl and Matt and Greg, David, then myself and Elliott and A.J., Paul Menard. We have a neat team. Look forward to trying to learn and stay fast. I think we can do a really good job this year.
KERRY THARP: We have a couple of artists that have joined us.
HOLLY: We have Bucky Covington up here. His CD opened No. 1 in April of 2007 with the biggest first week sales for any debut country artists that year. He's the best selling debut artist of the 2007 class and one of only three male country artists since 2005 have three consecutive top five singles from his debut album.
Josh Turner, in 2003 signed to MCA Nashville and released his debut album Long Black Train. His sophomore album Your Man released in 2005 was one of only four country albums to reach double platinum status in 2006. His third album Everything is Fine released in October of 2007 produced three top 20 hits. All three of his albums have been certified gold other higher by the IIAA. He is heralded as one of the brightest young stars in country music today.
KERRY THARP: Let's open it up to questions.
Q. Dale, with the Earnhardt family tradition, grandfather and dad, there's been so many changes through NASCAR over the last decade especially, with Danica coming into the sport, what do you think your grandfather and dad would think about all the changes? Have you thought about that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't really know. I didn't know my grandfather. But dad would probably have a thing or two to say about what's going on. I really don't know what that would be, so...
We can only speculate (laughter).
Q. Dale, coming into this next year we've talked about what your plans are with your Nationwide team. How about your Cup Series team? What are you looking to make the Chase and possibly win the Chase this coming year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We made a lot of changes in the team. We swapped some people around with the 5 car to try to bridge that gap between the two teams, get them working together a little bit better.
We feel like we got -- attitude is everything. Going to the track with a better attitude. Team is pretty pumped up. We're building some cars. Everybody feels good about Lance, rallying behind him, what he's doing. So I'm ready to go to the racetrack, man. Should be good.
Q. Josh and Bucky, talk about what it means to come to an event like this and be paired with NASCAR drivers. For the fans, but also helps the charities. Talk about this event.
BUCKY COVINGTON: Well, I have to come to these because I think my dad is still pissed that I'm not a NASCAR driver. I love coming to these things. A lot of things we do are involved around country music. I think I've been on tour with Josh this year, we just didn't know it. We see each other quite often. When I come to these events, I'm a fan. I got a picture with Dale. I mean, I absolutely love it. I'm a huge fan of NASCAR and country.
JOSH TURNER: Man, it's just a great opportunity to come and give back and help the children and help the Country Music Hall of Fame, have fun doing it at the same time. You know, it's pretty self-explanatory.
Q. Dale, with NASCAR making potential changes, drivers are saying different things here today about it. You being the most popular driver, do they call you in? Were you part of the meetings? Did they ask your opinion on all of this that we're starting to hear now?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You get asked a couple things. Not everything. But they ask your opinion when they want it, yeah. That's about all I need to say.
Q. Josh, double release coming up next month. Dance seems to be a big part of your future, at least with your current single. Are we going to see more dance music in your future?
JOSH TURNER: Oh, absolutely. That's what it's all about, is getting people on their feet. But, yeah, I'm very excited. The new album titled Haywire is coming out February 9th. The standard edition is going to be out on that day. As well, we're going to have a deluxe fan edition coming out that's going to feature two unreleased songs. One of those songs actually is from the Long Black Train sessions that hasn't been released. Two of them are live tracks from the road, we did a live version of Your Man and Long Black Train. There's also going to be bonus content on there that you can up load to your computer, the video for Why Don't We Just Dance, song-by-song interviews on there, kind of giving the back story on each song.
So, yeah, I'm very excited about getting the album out. The song is doing great, in the top 10 right now. So, yeah, we're always going to put a song out here and there that's going to get people to cut a rug, so to speak.
Q. Kasey, going into the seventh season of the Chase. Seemed like last year the strategy shifted a little bit, especially in the case of Montoya. Guys saved their stuff for that final 10. Does it become more important this season to do well at the beginning where you don't have to worry about making it toward the end?
KASEY KAHNE: I really think it's been a pretty big focus since it started because everybody knows how important it is to be in that top 10, top 12 and making the Chase for your teams, for your sponsors. It's a big part of it right now.
I think it's huge. What Montoya did, I was surprised he had something else. I mean, I was really surprised. He did. He got to the Chase and ran a little better than he had the rest of the year. To me that was a bit surprising. Other than that, I think everybody runs similar throughout the year. Then Jimmie Johnson seems to be the one that really steps up every Chase. I think that's a huge part of NASCAR, is making the Chase. You start on that at Daytona.
Q. As artists that have performed in big arenas, if you turned the tables and were watching yourself perform in front of thousands, have you ever thought what would most impress you about yourself?
JOSH TURNER: Is there a way to answer that question without being vain? Golly, every night I get up there on stage, I try to be as humble and gracious as I possibly can. But when fans are screaming at you, singing the words of your songs back to you, lights are on you, sometimes it's hard to feel humble or be humble.
But, you know, I feel personally like I've handled that pretty well. I feel like I can say pretty low-key. I think one thing is I always try to remind myself that these people came and they could have done anything with their money and they could have done anything on that particular day, but they decided to come see a Josh Turner show. So I'm very grateful for them and their support. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be sitting up here answering these questions, so...
BUCKY COVINGTON: Josh kind of said it. I like leaving the show knowing it was worth every penny.
Q. Kasey, you're driving a Ford this year. Does that change how you do things behind the wheel?
KASEY KAHNE: No, I don't think so. I think we stuck with our same team. We have the same core group of guys that were on the 9 car. We have a little bit different body with the Ford body. We have a different group of people we're working with, a touch more power.
To me it's a little bit of a bonus. I'm looking forward to it. But our cars were drive the same way they did last year really.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thank you so much.
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