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Special Event

Dale Earnhardt, 1951-2001: Childress Racing Holds News Conference on Crash Aftermath

Aired February 23, 2001 - 11:34 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go now to a press conference that we've been waiting for. Let's see, now we have -- some drivers, NASCAR drivers now having another press conference. They're discussing the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt's crash.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARD CHILDRESS, CHILDRESS RACING: And that's the reason we brought him on two or three years ago, was to be an addition to RCR. This happened a lot sooner than any of us ever expected, and it isn't the way that Kevin wanted to get into a Winston Cup car, or we'd have made an announcement in Daytona to run an America Online car No. 30 with Kevin next year, seven races this year and the full season next year.

So what we're going to do, he's going to start driving the GM Goodwrench car. We will take and we will be looking at a driver for the seven races this year, and possibly the 30 -- the full race schedule for the 30 team next year.

Mike Skinner has been a champion at heart with Dale Skinner -- I mean with Dale Earnhardt and in our thoughts here. And we brought him up to answer any questions as well. And Kevin Hamlin is a crew chief. We've got him up here. And this isn't easy for any of us and we're just going to try to go this week, do our best. And I've got all the confidence in the world, and Dale had a lot of confidence in Kevin Harvick's driving ability.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Kevin, talking to you last week at Daytona, you we talking about how important it was to draw off the experience of having Mike and Dale this year before you prepare for a full season. Now, you don't have that anymore. You can draw off Mike, but you've lost a valuable resource with that. Talk a little bit about how that's going to affect your development here in Winston Cup.

KEVIN HARVICK, NASCAR DRIVER: Well, I mean, it's obviously, you know, not going to help it any. It's going to affect it in a big way. But, you know, this is a strong organization. There's a whole bunch of race cars involved in this organization. And, you know, this is obviously going to draw us a whole lot closer together than we were. And we'll just -- Kevin and I and Mike Skinner, and Richard, we're just going to do our best.

And, you know, I'd like to say one thing, that, you know, Dale Earnhardt was probably the best race car driver there ever is going to be in NASCAR and nobody will ever replace him. And I think we all know that. So I would hope that you guys don't expect me to replace him because nobody ever will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a question?

QUESTION: OK, this is a -- Mike -- for Mike Skinner.

Mike, could you just talk for a minute, you know, what is it like for you to lose Dale in this way? What do you think it's going to mean to you personally and to your career?

And, Richard, could you talk about what will happen to the AC Delco car, the Busch car?

MIKE SKINNER, CHILDRESS RACING DRIVER: Like Richard said, it's devastating, you know. Dale and I had a very, very mutual respect for one another. We weren't best friends, we didn't go fishing together every weekend, but I always thought, and still do, he was the very, very best up to date to the year 2001 that ever sat behind the wheel of a race car. And I don't think, whether you're a fan or not, anybody could deny that.

He was the kind of guy that he'd come up to you one day and not talk to you, the next day was your best friend. And come up to me -- matter of fact, come found me at Daytona and said, boy, you got a good race car today. Keep your head on. You can win this race. You're can do a good job. And if you all have heard him talk before, you can map word for word that pretty close.

But, you know, we've got some other things going that we've had to put on the backburner that I found out this week that Dale was real strong behind me on. And Dale was the kind of guy that never would come and tell me that he thought I was a great race car driver, but he told everybody else and told Richard a lot. And I got a hell of a respect for him.

And, you know, we got to go on. And I've always got one hell of a respect for Kevin Harvick. I've raced against him in the truck series, raced against him in the Busch series. Hell, I've had a hard time outrunning him when he had half the vehicle I did.

So, like Kevin said, no one will ever or ever attempt to fill the shoes of Dale. But we've got to go on. The quicker we can go on, the quicker we can put all this to bed, our car owner down there can start focusing on winning races again and doing well in this sport.

I think Kevin Harvick's going to do a heck of a job. I worked with Kevin Hamlin my rookie year. We get along great. We're still good friends. And I think that we can draw off of each other and go on and do real well. It's going to take a couple of weeks to get this team back up on its feet, but don't be surprised if you see the 3 car and the 31 car do real well this week. CHILDRESS: The question...

SKINNER: Excuse me, the 29 car.

CHILDRESS: The question about Kevin's No. 2 AC Delco car -- is this mike on? The question -- is the mike's working? Is this mike working?

The question about the No. 2 AC Delco car that Kevin's going to drive this week, we're going to -- I know he's a tough, tough guy. He's been working out all winter, and mentally he's strong. We're going to try it. We're going to try to run him every race with the AC Delco No. 2 and the GM Goodwrench No. 29. It's going to be tough. We're going to be doing a lot of flying across the country. But we owe it to the guys that worked on the car this winter, and we owe it to Goodwrench to try to give them the best.

QUESTION: Kevin, can you talk a little bit about...

QUESTION: "Sporting News."

Richard, is it -- do you have any idea as to whether or not you're going to retire the No. 3?

CHILDRESS: That was a question that's came up a whole lot. And I understand there's petitions out there to retire it. Talking with NASCAR, all I can do is say the conversations I've had with them. We're going to put the No. 3 in a moratorium for one year and not run the No. 3 on anything. We will never run a No. 3, black Goodwrench car again.

We may run a No. 3 car again some day. We've got 28 years that RCR invested in it. Junior Johnson made the No. 3 famous back in his era. Ray Fox made the No. 3 famous. This is a totally different situation. Right now, all I can say about the three is NASCAR says that they do not retire numbers, that they would like to see us keep the number. And we plan on keeping the No. 3. They're going to work with us to put it in a moratorium.

You're supposed to run a number five times, but they're going to waiver that. And we'll go forwards and let's see how this heals and see what happens from this point.

QUESTION: Got a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the pressure you may be feeling right now (OFF-MIKE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn that off.

HARVICK: This one will be the hardest thing that ever happens in my life. I mean -- but that's how it is. He asked me to do this on Monday. He's done a lot for me, he's done a lot for Kevin Hamlin, he's done a lot for Mike Skinner. And I think anybody in the business will tell you that this is the best car owner you can have in this business. And, you know, when he asked me to do it, there's 190 people at RCR that were behind me. And that was what I wanted.

And, you know, nobody said it -- nobody said life was easy, but when he asked me to do it, Dale had joked about, you know, buying me out of my contract to run a Winston Cup car, and he'd put the pressure on us in Phoenix. So, I mean, I think that this is what Dale Earnhardt would want to happen. And I can't speak that, but I can sit there and tell you the conversations we've had with the three of us in the trailer.

So, it will be tough, but we're a pretty tough team and we're going to do the best we can. And hopefully there'll be that one time when you can get out of the car and say, that one was for Dale, when we win our first race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can break in for just a minute. Obviously, as you can hear, the Busch cars are out. If anyone has any further questions for Kevin Hamlin, if we can get those asked quickly, we can let him get into the AC Delco car.

QUESTION: Richard.

QUESTION: Kevin, curious about...

QUESTION: What's the significance, Richard, to the No. 29? And would you consider maybe a No. 37 for the three and the seven championships?

CHILDRESS: You know, none of us were thinking clear and none of us has gave it a thought. And that would have been a wonderful idea. I wish you would have came to me and we would have made it.

We just picked the very first number that NASCAR said was out there. There's no significant number. And that would have been a great idea if we would have been thinking. But at times like this, I've leaned on some friends that have been in these situations to try to help us. And they say, be careful of the decisions that -- especially business decision you make at this point. And we just weren't thinking clear. We wanted to get a race car and get out there like Dale Earnhardt wanted us to do and race. And if I had to do it over, maybe I'd use 37.

HARRIS: We've been listening to Richard Childress of Childress Racing, which owned the car that Dale Earnhardt was driving that fateful Sunday last. We've learned quite a bit of news this morning from this press conference, this one that's still going on as we step away from it. We've learned that Childress Racing and NASCAR will put a moratorium on the use of the No. 3.

Childress Racing is also committed to never using another black car -- black Goodwrench car with No. 3 ever. But the talk of the retiring of No. 3, Dale Earnhardt's number, that is up to the folks at NASCAR. He says they have decided to have a moratorium for at least this next -- this upcoming year, and perhaps it will be retired. But that's a decision that will be made later, the logic behind that being other racers have achieved much fame racing with that number before Dale Earnhardt.

No talk, though -- well, let me give you two other bits of pieces -- two other bits of information we got. Kevin Harvick, the gentleman you saw who was wearing the black cap, he has been picked to drive for, I guess, Dale Earnhardt's backup car, the No. 2 Mr. Goodwrench car that you will see if you do watch the race at Rockingham.

We've also learned that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to race as well this weekend in Rockingham.

But we have also seen that there was no talk in this press conference about the news that came out of the earlier press conference this morning about investigators who were looking into the cause of the crash and the cause of Dale's Earnhardt's death, discovering that the seat belt that he was wearing, the left side of the lap belt, had been severed and come apart in two places.

Of course we'll update you with this information, with whatever information we do get in here as we continue to listen to this press conference behind the scenes.

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