Junior's mind over matter

It's hard enough to steer a nearly 200 mph rocket around the oval (along with 43 of your closest friends) when you are in the best physical condition. It's exponentially more difficult when you're battling flu-like symptoms like Dale Earnhardt,...

It's hard enough to steer a nearly 200 mph rocket around the oval (along with 43 of your closest friends) when you are in the best physical condition. It's exponentially more difficult when you're battling flu-like symptoms like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been doing all week long at Texas Motor Speedway.

Junior was looking forward to racing his Number 8 Budweiser Chevy in Texas, the place where he had a Busch Series win in 1998 that convinced him he could succeed as a driver.

"I was living in a double-wide and trying to get my career going," he said. "I hadn't had much success in racing up to that point, but we won that race at Texas, and it set the foundation for our [Busch] championship that year."

After a quick vacation to Vegas with some friends last weekend, Junior arrived at TMS on Thursday, already feeling under the weather with a sore throat that several visits to the Infield Care Center couldn't seem to fix. Poor health persisted through Friday, but Earnhardt managed to snag the number ten qualifying position. Even a few decent practice runs couldn't help him shake the crud.

At the start of Sunday's Dickies 500, he still felt badly and told his crew through the helmet mike that he had heartburn and was worried about throwing up in the car (caution flag for debris?!)

One of the pit stops included a driver adjustment - 6 Tums.

"The first part of the race, I was a mess," he said. "It was grueling for me. I could concentrate for about three laps and then I'd have two laps to where I just couldn't get nothing done and I was all over the place just feeling sick..physically, it was pretty tough."

Despite not feeling well, Earnhardt began running in the top five by lap 55. Things were looking good; he was running second behind eventual race winner Tony Stewart and the stomach was settling when Clint Bowyer made contact on lap 167 and Junior then smacked the wall.

Tough days in Cow Town.

Not to be deterred, the Number 8 lined back up, dodged problems in the next three wrecks, went down pit road 6 times for his team to fix car damage from the Bowyer bounce, and ended up finishing sixth and feeling much better.

"I hope it says a lot [that he and the team finished 6th.] We've been called a lot of things and it would be great to be called resilient. This team is very strong and very dedicated. They carry me whenever I need it and vice-versa and it helps to have that. It really, really does."

Earnhardt gained one spot in the Chase and is now in third place for Cup contention and 78 points back from new leader Jimmie Johnson, thanks to maturity, a lot of grit and a timely dose of Tums.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Clint Bowyer