During the Hendrick Motorsports stop on the recently completed NASCAR Sprint Media tour, Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat at his assigned station and fielded questions for roughly 45 minutes.
Print, internet and TV reporters cycled through, making queries on a variety of topics – and we had a tape recorder running the whole time.
After sifting through all the audio, here are the eight most interesting things Earnhardt Jr. said that day:
8. Thoughts on disappointing his fans:
I don't feel like I've delivered to my fans. But they've been really loyal and dedicated to our sport and to me as a driver, supporting me. This past year, we showed some signs of improvements and got people excited about this year. If we can keep it going, we can give the fans what they expect – and what they deserve.
7. On why he still has so many fans:
A lot of it has to do with my father – what he accomplished and the person he was. I gained a lot of fans from him. I've had a lot of years in the sport and I haven't ruined (the fan base) yet, so hopefully I'm doing something right when it comes to my personality and how I represent myself to the sport.
6. What he thinks of the new book In The Red, a story of his 2001 season written by ex-publicist Jade Gurss:
I read about half of it. I like the book, because you can tell he put a lot into it. But yeah, I kind of lived it, so the interest level for me is not there – because I've done it. It's something I already knew. So it's not as exciting as it would be for someone else.
But I wish him well and good success on it. I trust Jade. We worked well together in the Bud years, and had he crossed me in any way when writing that book, I would have given him my thoughts about it. But I thought he did a good job.
5. Why he thinks Danica Patrick gets so much attention:
She's a woman. She's got a great personality. She's got a dynamic edge to her personality. She's assertive and determined – and that's exciting. Especially coming from a woman in this sport, that's rare – very rare.
So it's very intriguing and interesting to people, I think. I think everyone – and more people than want to admit – want to see her do well, want to see her succeed. Because they want to see what the results of that are.
4. How working with detail-oriented crew chief Steve Letarte has changed his habits:
As soon as I got in the (team hauler) in the morning, I never left until the day was over with. I never did that my entire career until (last) year. I always went back to the (motorhome) in between practices.
I don't think (not doing it before) held me back; I don't think I realized my full potential. You know, I think he made me understand how those things I thought were trivial were important to him to help him do his job.
He wanted me (at the car) early. I was grumbling about it at first, but he was like, 'Man, that's the deal.' I understood once we got to doing it. And I found that place to be enjoyable and wanted to be there.
I told him this offseason, 'I worry you're going to relax a little on that, the more we're together, the more we become friends, that you might let me off the hook.' And I don't want that to happen.
3. On why he supported DEI moving ex-crew chief Tony Eury Sr. to a management role in 2005:
I was just ignorant, man, just naïve. I didn't realize what I had. I had a great team around me, had a great leader. I thought I knew more than everybody else around me and I didn't.
We had won a lot of races and did really well. So for whatever reason, we split up and I feel like I had a lot of responsibility in that decision and I regret doing that because he was good.
2. Thoughts on being popular:
It is kind of weird, being popular. I never was popular in high school all those years. It's kind of the complete opposite (now). Even being Dale Earnhardt's son wasn't a popular thing – you'd think it would be.
It's something I'm still overwhelmed with and still not used to and still uncomfortable with at times. The fans are great, they're loyal – I love what they bring to the sport, whether they're fans of mine or not. I'm a fan, too.
1. On pranking his mom, Brenda Jackson:
When I lived on the lake, I had this boat. And I kept the boat at (my mom's) house. Martin Truex gave me a name for the fishing boat – and it was all one word, called 'SHESAHOOKER.'
We named it that because it was risqué and my mom would be embarrassed and her friends would ask why she named her boat that. And she'd have to explain that.
I drove her crazy with that. But she's a bit of a smart alec, and I appreciate that quality in her.