DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/SUPERMAN CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed his Superman paint scheme on the No. 88 Chevrolet SS this weekend, fan reaction from his win last week at Pocono, leaving fellow Chevrolet driver Ryan Newman at the airport and many other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU WON HERE IN 2012 WITH THE BATMAN SUPERHERO ON YOUR CAR, THIS WEEK YOU HAVE THE SUPERMAN PAINT SCHEME. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING A SUPERHERO ON YOUR CAR THIS WEEKEND AND HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IS GOING TO PLAY OUT FOR YOU? “Well we’ve got to prove to the fans that Superman is not bad luck for me. We ran Superman on the car at Charlotte and everybody was very excited about the promotion with DC Comics that we are doing at Hendrick Motorsports. We’ve got a program with them for a couple of years it’s going to be very exciting. Pairing DC Comics with the National Guard seemed like a natural fit. We went into Charlotte thinking we were going to do very well. The car was very fast and felt like we had a good shot of running really well maybe even winning the race. But had some troubles in the race so my race fans were a little curious as to why we needed to have Superman back on the car. We are here to prove this weekend that he belongs on the hood and that we can do some great things and hopefully win this race this weekend.
“I think it’s a great looking race car. I thought it looked awesome at Charlotte. Now we’ve got the gold numbers on it this weekend and Superman is on the hood. I’m excited. I enjoy working with DC Comics they are a fun group of people with a lot of great initiatives that match well with our sport and fit well with our sport. We like to have them around need to keep them around and hopefully win a race here and get them excited about the future.”
WHAT WAS THE THING THAT STOOD OUT IN THE CELEBRATION OR REACTION YOU GOT FROM PEOPLE DURING THE WEEK? YOUR TEAM IS REALLY PUMPED UP AFTER LAST WEEK’S WIN: “Well the one thing that stands out to me is the fans reaction. Especially the stuff on You Tube, the stuff Mike Davis puts together and just being able to see that it’s a bit of an ultimate reward. And is kind of at the core of why we go out and race. It wouldn’t be any fun people would all be bored to death if there wasn’t anybody here watching. To see somebody get that excited and that happy about our efforts is a hell of a pat on the back. That is the big take away. Obviously we are really happy about how we performed and felt worthy of winning that race and felt like that we are that kind of team that can go out there and win multiple races and compete very well. I have felt for a while now that we were right on the brink of something good something new and hopefully that is what we are seeing this year and hopefully we can get even better. I think we can compete even better than we are now. Hopefully we can make that happen in the next several months when the time is right.”
HAS RYAN NEWMAN ANSWERED YOUR TEXTS? CAN YOU TELL US THE WHOLE STORY ABOUT HIM BEING LEFT AT THE AIRPORT?“No, is he here? Let me check (checks his phone). Yes, he did. He said ‘I should have texted last night’. But I still don’t know where he’s at. Yeah, this is what happened, this is the honest truth. Tuesday he asked me if he could get a ride to the race track which is common for drivers to do that. We were leaving at 8:30 a.m. that is what it said on my calendar. Then since Tuesday we have added some media to this morning, did a couple of things out front. My PR guy Mike Hoag moved take-off time to 8:00 a.m. I didn’t know about it. I didn’t look at my calendar. When I got up this morning I didn’t look at the clock, I just got in the shower, went downstairs, got in the car and drove to the airport and got on the plane. I forgot about Ryan. Even if we were taking off at 8:30 a.m. and he wasn’t there I probably would have left him. Yeah, he should have texted me last night. I think he got a ride. That was unfortunate for sure, but it happens.”
YOU WON YOUR SECOND RACE OF THE YEAR LAST WEEKEND NOW EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT HOW MANY RACES YOU WILL WIN THIS YEAR. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT AT ALL? DOES IT SURPRISE YOU?
“Definitely that’s new. That’s the new conversation topic for us, but I just want to win the next one. We have so much fun winning and going to Victory Lane and last week was so much fun (with) the feeling that you have inside and that you have for several hours after that. It’s like the best feeling ever. And I want to do it again; I want to do it now, this weekend. So, I just want to win more races and take care of the car and finish as well as we can and I think that mentality and making that a reality can win us a championship. But, just one week at a time, trying to win a race, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
NOW THAT YOU HAVE TWO WINS, YOU ARE PRETTY MUCH PUNCHED INTO THE CHASE. DO YOU GAMBLE SOME TO GET MORE VICTORIES OR DO YOU PLAY IT CAUTIOUS?
“No, we don’t play it cautious. We’ve gambled pretty good, a little bit more than we typically would after we won Daytona because of the new point system, so I think we can even be a bit more aggressive and Steve (Letarte, crew chief) probably will in certain situations. We can definitely be more aggressive with our fuel mileage. That’s typically the one thing that you’ll be more aggressive with whereas say, if you don’t win a win and you’re three laps short, you might try to stay out and hope for them cautions or try to save that fuel mileage over that particular run. Whereas, with two wins, we might do that with something like seven or eight laps short, something ridiculous. But hey, if we get a couple of cautions, then we’re right on the fine line of making it work. And track position at some of these tracks is so important, for example this past weekend at Pocono, you could really gamble hard on that fuel mileage where two years ago, you would have definitely come down pit road and filled it up and tried to get a top 10, like we did in 2012, I think.”
WITH YOUR SUCCESS LEVEL AT MICHIGAN, WHAT IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL FOR THIS WEEKEND?
“I feel pretty good. You’ve got to be confident because we ran well here, but at the same time, this is a new package. We haven’t raced here with the cars slammed to the ground and all the new rules that we’ve got this year. We’ve got some new competitors in the battle. The No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) has been lightning fast every week, so you’ve got to be looking at him when practice starts today to see how they are because they’re going to be fast. And you’ve got a lot of new players and some new cars that are going to be up front trying to compete. And, a lot of new challenges that you’re going to have to face that you didn’t face last year or the year before. So, it’s a little bit of a whole new deal. So we’ll see how it works out. I think we can be quick. We came here and tested for Goodyear and had some time and opportunity to work on our car a little bit while we were at the test and maybe learn some things that we needed to learn. Hopefully that will give us an edge.”
YOU HAVE BEEN STRONG HERE SINCE 2012. LAST AUGUST THERE WAS A TIRE PROBLEM. WITH THAT TEST, DO YOU HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN GOOD SHAPE?
“Well, we weren’t on them tires too long at the test. We would just run 15 or 20-lap runs and look at wear and let Goodyear decide on what tire they felt comfortable with. We blew a tire in the race last year; blew a right front and hit the wall. We blew a motor at the other race. We were running well in both events; leading one and running in the top 10 in the other. So, I feel like we can be competitive here and we’ll just have to be real conservative on our right front camber, air pressures, and things like that to make sure the tire lives. That’s going to cost us some speed and cost us some competitiveness in our car, but to make sure we don’t have any problems, that’s what we’re going to have to do. And, maybe we can work around that with some other components in the car and regain that speed throughout the weekend.”