DEI's Dale Earnhardt Jr. will head to Talladega this weekend as the obvious pick after winning last year's 500-mile event. On the 2.66-mile oval, Earnhardt has an astonishing record. In six career starts, he has two wins and has led all but one of...
DEI's Dale Earnhardt Jr. will head to Talladega this weekend as the obvious pick after winning last year's 500-mile event. On the 2.66-mile oval, Earnhardt has an astonishing record. In six career starts, he has two wins and has led all but one of the races he entered due to a wreck on the first lap. Of the events he has led in his #8 Budweiser Chevy, he has been out front a total of 259 laps.
If he is able to pull off a win, for the second year in a row, he also has a shot to grab a million dollars in Winston's No Bull Five. This marks the eighth time Earnhardt has been eligible for the bonus. "I can't believe it's already eight attempts. It's a lot of fun to get a chance to win a million dollars, especially for the fan. It puts a little bit more pressure on the driver, I guess, but it gives that guy a chance. I think, going into Talladega, one of the tracks we do really well at, we got a pretty good shot at it. We're really going to have everything prepared the best we can."
In the past two years, he has knocked out four wins combined on the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega, including his Busch Series victory at Daytona earlier this season. What is it about the superspeedways that has Jr. so intrigued? "I like it because it gives everybody an opportunity to be competitive even if your car is just a little bit down on horsepower or your car doesn't quite draft as well as others. You can still be in the middle of the race and have some fun, no matter whether you're racing for first or 25th; you can still race and pass people and feel like you're doing something. I enjoy it, had a lot of success at it and I look forward to those races."
This past week, NASCAR decided to step up the safety measures in terms of doctors examining a driver following a wreck. The decision came in light of Jr.'s announcement that he suffered a concussion in California, never informed the sanctioning body, and continued to race. Jr. says he never considered not racing. "It never crossed my mind to not race the next week. The situation kind of got blown out of proportion a little bit. Two or three weeks later it started going away. I just didn't ever think about not driving. We'd cast our arms and legs if we broke them trying to drive the next week, not because of pressure or anything, just because we're supposed to be in there."
Looking back at his decision to not tell NASCAR about his injury, he does however, wish he could do it all differently if given a second chance. "I definitely would have told Mike Helton (NASCAR President) and a few of the officials so they could be aware of it. They would have probably helped me with a better way of handling it. I kind of hurt the trust between me and Mike a little bit."
On the racing side of things, a few weeks back at Richmond, Earnhardt decided to enter his own race car in the Busch Series race. In dominate fashion, he grabbed the pole and the win in his first attempt as a car owner. With instant success in his own #8 Chevy, what are the outlying plans for that team? "Right now, we're talking to three or four guys about driving it. I'm going to run three races next year, and that's all the plate races. That's really the only reason I started the team is just so I could run the plate races. We're going to put Steve Park in the car for about five or so races next year. And let him get some enjoyment out of it, because I'm sure the car is going to be real competitive everywhere we go. And then we're going to try to get another driver to bring in to run seven races or so and then the following year I'd like to go full-time with it."
The future is now and although Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be attempting races in his own Busch Series entry, his primary focus continues to be this weekend and his Winston Cup ride. "I'm not in the points race, so I'm not quite as nervous about it. So I can go up there and take some more chances. I won't be as patient about it; I can just go right to the front if my car will go there. Our cars just go right to the front, me and Michael (Waltrip)'s. We've got to work on Steve (Park)'s a little bit and get his more competitive. When you've got cars as good as that, that can do things our cars can do, you just love to go to them race tracks."