"Times Like These" by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I could almost touch a decent finish - it was right there in front of me. We had fought so hard every single lap to stay up front at Bristol. Poisoned and pained, it all slipped away in a wicked...
"Times Like These"
by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
I could almost touch a decent finish - it was right there in front of me. We had fought so hard every single lap to stay up front at Bristol. Poisoned and pained, it all slipped away in a wicked slide down the front stretch. This month's column isn't about the race - it's about the pain of losing.
Failure is my worst fear. Pressure is the spark that fires that fear. I feel the pressure of expectations from myself, my team, the sponsors and the fans. I had a similar knot in the gut when I finished school. I had no direction. Through racing, I now have direction. But, with that comes responsibility and the ongoing struggle to live up to expectations. It is a very grounding experience.
Every week is a new dose of reality. The reality of the Winston Cup Series is that you're not gonna be as good as you want to be right away. Winning can spoil you. The look on my father's face after a win is worth all the money in the world. We've won two races so far and we snatched the Winston like some sort of bandit coming in to steal everyone's gold, but it means we got our butts whipped twenty some other weeks. All that losing has a cruel, opposite effect. While I know my dad is proud of me no matter what, I can't help but wonder if I have letdown my fans or my team. How do you make a young fan understand the reasons why you finished 40th?
Surrounded by the smoke and fireworks of the NASCAR circus, I feel like I am changing. I try to remain cool - but I am still not able to harness all of my emotions. I fight daily with a short temper. I know that with every snappy remark that blurts out my mouth, I'm closer to finding out who my true friends are. We all have a breaking point, but the good ones learn how to harness that anger and emotion and use it as a motivational advantage.
When I drove late models around tracks in the southeast, I wasn't winning much at all. Why didn't that bother me? Actually it did, but nothing like now. I remember when I wrecked my first car. My mind was clouded with the thought that I had just ended my racing career. I was naive. I was crazy about driving. That intensity has grown over the years, now its an obsession. That obsession sometimes overshadows how much fun it is to do what I do.
Winning has afforded me an enjoyable life away from racing. Its not often, though, that I AM away from racing. In order to be good at it, you must engulf yourself in it day in and day out. With what I have experienced this year, I will never doubt my ability as a driver. I don't doubt my ability to be a winner, and until it happens again, I learn more about how to handle losing. I'm just tryin' to come real with it. Hopefully you understand that winning isn't everything to me, but it's a close second. Losing isn't something that I can just brush off and fake a smile to hide my frustration. It's that will and determination that I hope will get me where I want to go. In the time between, I hope this column becomes a hit.
What's fun is writing this article. Admitting how I feel. Maybe it's more of a relief than fun. I know the more I reveal the more responsibility I take. I may regret what I say down the road. That's something I have a hard time with. Wondering what's tasteful and what's not. Knowing when to speak your piece and when to shut your mouth. A poor finish in a race can do the trick. The ride home from that race is a quiet one. The 24 hours after a crappy day at the track are the dullest times in my life. It tricks you into remembering the days where trophies kept popping up in the house on a regular basis. Win a race, throw a party! Actually, we would party whether we won or not. Club E, as it's known, was getting a little popularity. It was always cocked and loaded with Bud for another throwdown. These days though, I need a better excuse than just for the hell of it.
I will win again. The bad part is you never know when. I have never thought before a race, I am gonna win this one. Its not something you know is around the corner. You go week after week of gettin' the crap kicked out of you and then one day it's a trip into victory lane. It's the greatest feeling I've ever known and it makes it all worthwhile.
My two cents,