Thursday, February 08, 2007

NASCAR Media Day sights and sounds

Dale Earnhardt Jr. sucked the air out of the tent in which media day was held Thursday, saying he wants “majority ownership” in Dale Earnhardt Inc. as part of his ongoing contract talks with the company.
There was more to his 24-minute session with print reporters, though. Earnhardt Jr. once again commented about what his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, said in the Dec. 14 Wall Street Journal about Dale Jr. needing to decide whether he wants to be a race car driver or a celebrity.
“I don’t make a habit of seeking out attention all the time,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “She portrayed it as I was out there waving a flag saying, ‘Look at me, I can dance and I can sing.’ …What she said was a low blow there.”
Earnhardt Jr. also talked about how the media coverage to Teresa’s remark had helped him solidify the position he has decided to take in the contract talks.
“Everything that has been written…I’ve taken that stuff and helped form my position and opinion,” he said. “You don’t like media opinion to sway your decision most of the time. In this case, I have a bad habit of being too modest. A lot of people helped me understand what I’m actually worth, what the situation is.”
How important to DEI is Earnhardt Jr.? On his Sirius Satellite Radio show Tuesday night, Tony Stewart said it best. “Without Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” he said, “DEI is a museum.”

Earnhardt Jr. also talked about how the talk about him needing to win a championship to “validate” his career is something he’s had a hard time coming to terms with.
“I never though I’d be good enough to race full time or hold down a job as driver,” he said. “I never thought I would win a race at the Cup level.
“I look around at people that have followed in their father’s footsteps and had limited success. I never counted on it. I had no goals set as a driver. I’ve accomplished more than I’ve thought I would. I’ve gone places that I thought I would never see. I’ve got lot of years left to in the championship.”
Earnhardt Jr. said he’s far less nervous to go 200 mph in a race car than he is to appear on the “Tonight” show with Jay Leno or present an award at the ESPYs.
“When we go do things like the (music video) with Jay-Z, I wonder how the hell I got there,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’ve driven a race car at 200 miles an hour, flipped and crashed, and seen some really bad things. But, the most scared I’ve ever been in introducing a band (Linkin Park) on stage at the MTV Awards. I never want to do that again.”

Speaking of Tony Stewart, he’s apparently adjusting well to his new role as a member of the media now that he has his own radio show. Stewart hung around on media day as long as just about any driver, holding at least two additional informal chats with media members after his scheduled session was over.
Stewart said he’s lost about 20 pounds, total, but is down about 30 pounds of body fat but having added back 10 pounds of muscle mass. But he swore he’s not trying to slim down to get back into an Indy car.
“Don’t get that started again,” he said. He also took some ribbing about rumors he might be the next big-name driver to head down the wedding aisle. Stewart said that’s not imminent, but he did say he’s given some thought to the kind of wedding he’d want.
“I’ve never been to Hawaii and I’d kind of like to get married on the beach there, with just family,” he said. “Then, we’d come back and have a big party/reception and while we eat dinner we’ll have somebody record the wedding and play it while everybody’s there, so it’s kind of like everybody’s there.”

The prevailing wisdom among the drivers I talked to Thursday is that Richard Childress Racing is ahead of everybody else when it comes to being ready for the “car of tomorrow” races.
Jeff Burton wouldn’t say he agreed with that, but he said that when you look at 2007 you’d better be ready to run the new cars. “Take out the plate races and the COT races are half the season – 16 and 16,” Burton pointed out.

Mark Martin said he’s not sure about the new car. “I’m not even sure we’ll be able to drive on the track at Bristol at the test without knocking the splitters off,” he said.
…Kevin Harvick took some heat for calling Teresa Earnhardt a “deadbeat owner” a couple of weeks ago, but he’s not backing off from commenting about the DEI situation. “Dale Jr. is really the only person in this deal who has the bargaining power,” Harvick said. “He's got it all on his side and deservedly so. He’s the most popular driver. He’s been successful and…he deserves the respect of being treated like a grown man and not being treated like he’s 15 and somebody's stepson.”

It doesn’t go unnoticed that NASCAR holds its annual media day festivities in a tent that looks like it could be the site where the Cirque de Soleil might break out at any moment. Furthering the theme this year, there was circus-themed paintings and decorations scattered about.


TalkGeorge said...

Tony Stewart, the new media guy, that's cool. I guess with his weight loss no one asks him to bring the donuts!! (ha)

Dale Jr....sounds like it's his way or off to the #3 he goes!

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of hearing about Dale Jr. Let him at least win one championship before we build a gilded god to him!