This week, BallerStatus.com was granted permission to sit down for a one-on-one interview with recent Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. We kicked off Wednesday (March 5) with the unveiling of Dale Jr’s new No. 88 Mountain Dew Kickstart Chevrolet SS, which the NASCAR driver will be competing in this Sunday (March 9) at the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas.
The night’s festivities started off with a bang with a crowd lining up to catch a glimpse of Dale Jr outside of Sin City’s Planet Hollywood. After the appearance, the crowd was rallied into a parade led by Dale Jr., all leading up to an after party reception to cap off the night. Continue on to read our interview with Dale.
What are some of the challenges you have prepared for going into your Kobalt 400 race in Las Vegas?
Vegas has some notable bumps getting into turn one and two. There’s not a lot of rain out here, but when the rain comes, it moves the dirt around underneath the asphalt causing the bumps to change and get more pronounced — adding character and uniqueness to the track. It’s a fun challenge figuring out how to get around those bumps comfortably and maintain good speed around every corner and turn.
It’s interesting to note all of the variables that come into play during a race. Is there that much difference between one track to another?
We run our cars 1/16 of an inch off the ground and every bump and crevice on the road is noted. The bumps usually get bad across every tunnel where dirt settles, and they’re always in different locations depending on the track. Vegas has characteristics that make it a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.
You recently won the Daytona 500 for the second time in your career. Explain how you felt with the win, and if you had ever imagined winning it again after 10 years.
We ran second in the Daytona 500 three of the last four races there. I felt like if we kept trying, we would get a win, but you never know. I was very content that I won it once and that might be my fate. To have won it once was a dream, to win it twice was just out of this world. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that has happened to me twice, I feel very blessed.
What are your feelings towards the recent announcement of changes to the Sprint Cup’s playoff format?
It really puts an emphasis on winning. There are 16 spots we’re all trying to race for. If you don’t win, you have to fight over the remaining two or three positions regardless of points. If you don’t win you can’t get in.
Explain your partnership with Mountain Dew and how the Cardboard Rodeo video and Super Bowl “Dale Call” commercial came about.
Pepsi has been a partner of Hendrick Motor Sports for many years. When I decided to come and work with Rick, Mountain Dew was very supportive and excited to be a part of it. When they spoke to us about doing the “Cardboard Rodeo,” I knew we were going to have a blast. They had not intended for me to actually partake in it, but I thought: What good is this if I’m not involved it in? So at the last minute, I jumped on the bobbie mobile and took it for a spin. That’s what’s fun about Mountain Dew, they’re edgy and do fun stuff. You get to have fun and interact with people and your fans.
What is your favorite function and/or aspect of the Chevrolet SS? How do you think it gives you an edge over other drivers?
Ever since I started, I raced Chevrolet. They’re the most successful, in my opinion, and they give me the best opportunity to win. I’d rather be working with them than any other manufacturer.
What music do you listen to while driving during your regular commutes?
I’m a big fan of the band called Brand New. They have about four or five albums within the last decade or so. I also enjoy Twenty One Pilots. Those two bands really sum up my musical taste at the moment.
What are your thoughts on fashion brands taking inspiration from Nascar team shirts?
It’s fun when you see anything from your sport crossover to the mainstream. It’s a big pat on the back.
Photo credit: Armando Vargas for BallerStatus.com