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Mar 28, 2014 - 02:20 PM
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2014 Martinsville Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 28, 2014 - 02:18 PM
2014 Martinsville Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media and discussed getting his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Martinsville, what makes the Hendrick Motorsports organization so good at the paperclip and many other topics.

COMING UP TO MARTINSVILLE CERTAINLY A TRACK YOU HAVE HAD SOME GOOD RUNS AT. TALK ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD LIKE TO GET YOUR SECOND WIN OF THE SEASON HERE AT MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEKEND: "Yeah, this is a track I have been trying to get a win at for a long time. I grew up in a house full of clocks so it’s been pretty illusive. We have had some good cars in the past here that I’ve felt like could have won races and we just weren’t able to get the job done for whatever reason, somebody was faster or whatever. Looking forward to having another opportunity. Just every time we come here we are excited. I love short-track racing. I love this track. I love the history of this place, what it represents. It’s a joy to run here and a lot of fun to race. It can be frustrating and you’ve got to battle all day long to maintain your track position, but it’s a good challenge, a fun challenge."


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WHAT IS THE KEY TO STAYING MENTALLY FOCUSED IN A 600 MILE RACE? "Just having something to occupy your mind is enough. If the car is competitive and your team is communicating with you and keeping you busy, keeping you on task those are keys to being able to stay focused. When you see yourself with an opportunity to win the race going into the last 200 or 150 miles it’s pretty easy to stay on task and stay focused. When the car is not handling well you are struggling to run inside the top 10 that is when frustration can kind of creep in and then that just becomes another hurdle for you. You have to be pretty disciplined to stay on task and just focus on just trying to improve no matter how the thing is starting to shape up. Because yeah, those last 100 miles you realize mentally and physically that it’s a unique race due to that extra 100 miles. It’s a very long night and you just have to be sharp all night try to push yourself to stay disciplined."

YOUR TWO TEAMMATES JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND JEFF (GORDON) WE TALK ABOUT THEM WHEN WE COME TO MARTINSVILLE WHAT SPECIFICALLY CAN YOU TAKE FROM WATCHING THEM RUN AROUND HERE THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO YOUR SET-UP? "We use a program called dart fish where basically it overlaps my lap with another car. Maybe we look at the guys who sat on the pole or qualified in the top three and then look at my qualifying lap. I can do that for last year, the year before, we can go as far back pretty much as we want and see what guys are doing differently. How they are getting in the corner, how they turn into the corner, I can try to learn things that way. As far as my teammates go I’m out on the track with them. I know their tendencies and it depends on how their car is driving and how their car is handling as to how they are going to run, drive the corner and approach each corner.

"Yet Jeff has a real good knack for finding out how to get his car around this place depending on how his car drives. He can change his approach to the corner and how he enters the corner to affect the speed on his car quite well here. Obviously Jimmie has got a lot of success here, but he seems to be very consistent in how he drives and deliberate in how he drives this track. They are definitely two guys that have had a lot of success here so you sort of tune in to what they are doing, how they are setting up their cars and what their comments are about their cars. You try to stay on top of that and try to understand how their weekend is going and try to use any of that stuff to your advantage for sure."

DENNY HAMLIN KIND OF RELEASED A STATEMENT ON WEDNESDAY THAT KIND OF LAID OUT KIND OF WHAT HAPPENED ON SUNDAY. I WAS CURIOUS IF THAT ANSWERED YOUR QUESTIONS AND/OR IF YOU HAVE HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER PEOPLE THAT HAVE ANSWERED YOUR QUESTIONS? "Well I feel real comfortable with the process and I just was worried. I thought that the lack of a statement from Denny’s point of view left him vulnerable and unprotected. I just felt like it was important for him to have a very simple statement that sort of cleared up any kind of assumptions or whatever you have for him personally. That was good I thought on his behalf to be able to do that as quickly as he could. I feel great about the process and what NASCAR has had in place for years. I feel like they bring in the best people from that region that have the best connections to those hospitals in that region. If I’m in trouble I know I’m going to be somewhere where I can get taken care of very quickly. NASCAR has a team that travels and has all the information on our health and it’s updated weekly if it needs to be. I like the system that we have in place. I feel like it’s adequate and I’m happy Denny is cleared and ready to race this weekend."

CAN YOU BE MORE OFFENSIVE HERE NOW WITH THE NEW CHASE FORMAT? DO YOU THINK WE WILL SEE A LAST LAP PASS? "Yeah we have had that happen in the last couple of years regardless how the points system is stacked up we have had guys pushing each other around here quite on a regular basis so I assume if there is anyone within reach on that last lap of the leader the leader is going to have his hands full. That is fair. I can tell you though as far as being offensive, defensive, you are only as offensive as your car will allow you to be. I can attest to that over the last six years that if your car is fast enough you want to drive it as far as it can go. If your car is quick enough to be in the lead you want to get it there. If it’s not you go as far as you can and try to defend that situation and wait until you have an opportunity to improve the car. I don’t think I’ve ever raced here walking on egg shells. I think you can get in trouble pretty quickly if you do that. You definitely have to be offensive all the time and always try to be aggressive in how you drive the race track and how you race with the competition."

IT’S HENDRICK’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY AND YOU PROBABLY HAVE SOME OF THE BEST PERSPECTIVE IN THE GARAGE AS TO REMEMBERING BACK WHEN IT STARTED. WHAT IS THAT EVOLUTION BEEN LIKE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND BEING ABLE TO ULTIMATELY JOIN THE COMPANY? "It’s been interesting to see how Hendrick Motorsports has progressed and changed and evolved. They were tough competitors when I was young going to races watching my father race. Just they seemed like they had so many resources and they had quite the dynamic when it came to drivers. It was just a team that always was going to be challenging for the win and challenging for championships, especially once Jeff (Gordon) got there they were almost unstoppable at that particular point in the ‘90’s. Ever since really Jeff got there they have never fell off. They have always maintained their status as one of the top teams with a lot of growth and success. I think that is a credit to the people working there, management, just a lot of great decisions putting people in key positions. Understanding people’s talents and being able to maximize their potential just in management and other key roles in the company. Obviously Rick (Hendrick) has an influence on his employees. Everybody really strives from the top to the bottom to give their best. It’s a cliché but it’s so true when you actually get to work there and get behind closed doors and see the influence that he has just on individuals. Everybody just pushes so hard to do something good every day. It makes everybody else’s job that much easier. It’s just good reflection of his influence on the company as a whole, but yeah it’s fun being a part of it.

"All those years as a young kid before I drove and then as a driver competing against them you always wonder what is the culture like. Then when you get behind there and see how they are working on their cars, how they set their cars up, for year’s you have wanted that access. To finally have it it’s pretty mind blowing in certain areas. It’s been a fun experience for me."

OF ALL THE SUCCESSES YOU HAVE HAD HERE AT THIS TRACK WHAT IS THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY? "I think you look at all of them and see how close you came. We flat go out ran by Kevin (Harvick) that one year in ’11. I thought we had it. I thought we were going to be fine once we got out front, but he was just so fast. I tried to get under him in (turns) three and four but he didn’t have a bumper left to move. I went in there to shove him a little bit and everything on that corner of his car was gone. That is just how it works out. I think the best car I had here was when we knocked the right-front fender off and we ended up running fourth that day. I was coming back through the field and spun out on the inside of (Ryan) Newman in (turns) three and four and had that not happened I think we would have been in position to win the race because we were by far the quickest car. Just we had to go back to the back of the field after that additional spin and we didn’t have enough race left to get back to the front. We ended up finishing fourth, but that car was really fast.

"Having that fender torn off kept that right-front tire cool, kept it turning, kept the brakes cool, we were kind of an average car for 10 laps and then after that it would just take off. I have been trying to figure out how to get my fenders to fall off ever since. But we have ran into a few things but they just seem to bend and get taped up. I hope we can be competitive. It gets harder and harder because the competition seems to get better and better every time you come back here. Obviously I’m racing with my teammates who are two of the most talented and successful guys at this track. We got a tough hill to climb, but hopefully we can maybe get it done."

IF WE HAVE A NEW WINNER EVERY WEEK AT WHAT POINT DOES IT ALTER THE CHASE STRATEGY AND DO YOU KIND OF FORESEE A NEW CHASE STRATEGY DEVELOP? "Yeah I think it will change as it goes as we start to see it happen. If we have a new winner every week, if we get into week 13 and 14 and we have got 12 winners at that particular point with 10 races left in the regular season guys are going to get a little more protective of their position in points. I hope that we don’t really get to that situation. You would like to not have to worry about it the whole process of going through Daytona and winning and feeling like we were in was a great feeling. Not having the burden of worrying about points and being able to just race one weekend after the next and not worry about anything else was great. Having to fall back into that mode of concentrating on your point’s position, your track position, maximizing every race to get the most points that is a bit of a burden. One we always dealt with year after year and this year it seemed to go away. If we get into about the 12th or 13th week and we still don’t have a two-time winner in the season I think guys are going to start to change the way they think about points. I don’t think the racing changes. I don’t think the competition and the product changes. I just think guys pay a little more attention and if you were at all careless you will be shoring up all that stuff so you are not making mistakes out on the race track. The pressure will rise for sure. Intensity I think on the race track I think will stay the same if not increase."

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