NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt, Jr spoke with the media today about Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 race at Talladega and next week’s race at Richmond International Raceway.
Asked if there was anything he and Ryan Newman could have done differently to prevent being passed by race winner Brad Keselowski, Earnhardt responded: “I mean, it’s not that me and Ryan were willing or wanting to deal with each other, it’s just who was in that position. He was leading the race both days. I said, I’ll push you out in front and break away from the back and we’ll race it out between the two of us. That will at least guarantee us a first- or second-place finish.
We almost did it. You know, they kind of saw what we were doing, knew that was the only way they were going to catch back up to us. Brad is pretty smart. I guess he was the first one out of anybody in the field to figure out that was what you was going to have to do to get back up to us. They got it done.”
Earnhardt spoke of his relationship with driver Kyle Busch and the incident between them last year at Richmond. “Well, I don’t think it’s just that race ’cause I think people forge their opinions of you obviously on first impressions, but how you act over the long haul. It was pretty wild. You know, that was pretty disappointing how the first race finished. The second race was a little rough, too. Neither one of us won that one.
I don’t know. I like racing Kyle. He’s a real tough competitor. But hopefully we don’t have any of that going on this weekend. Hopefully we can all try to win a race and not be bouncing off each other.”
Speaking on the subject of the media coverage of the wrecks at Talladega and the injury to spectators, Earnhardt said, “But, you know, I don’t know, there’s a responsibility for NASCAR and for the media to understand the messages they send. They just have to know what the repercussions are to however it’s conveyed. For years and years they’ve been telling everybody, Turn the TV on and watch the Talladega race, see when the big one happens, see who’s in the big one, see who can miss the big one, see who can win the race and not get caught up in the big one. It’s just been on and on and on and on for years. Now everybody associates that type of action with Daytona and Talladega, which is fine if you’re going to celebrate it. But now you can’t sit here and turn around and change your opinion because everybody knew this was the possibility of the style of racing.
We unfortunately had a terrible accident that some people were injured in. But that has been a possibility for years, you know. So it’s almost amusing to me for everyone — I mean, it’s amusing for me that everyone’s interest is all of a sudden perked by what happened when that possibility was there all along.
It’s just frustrating a little bit to be in the business and see a little bit of the carelessness. If you really want to know what the situation is, that last lap of the race was the fastest lap ran, I do believe, by anybody. And Brad ran a lap average of 199 miles an hour pushing the 99 car. We had just ran – me and the 39 – only a quarter to half a mile an hour slower. NASCAR is really wanting to see cars run around 190 mile-per-hour range. We are doing 10 more miles an hour being able to tag up and bumper to bumper like we are. That’s where the threshold is for cars getting airborne, is about the 195 mile-an-hour range. We have to think what we can do to get back under that threshold a little bit and not create this situation in the future.
It’s always been there. We just have been lucky.”
Earnhardt was asked what it would take for him to get into the Chase. “This year we started out so slow and terrible, we’re in a hole now. We’re going to be fighting our way to try to get in the Chase all year, I’m pretty sure. So we’re gonna have to step our performance up in the summer way beyond what we were capable of doing last year. That’s gonna be what decides whether we make the Chase or not.”
Earnhardt also spoke of the equality of the cars and drivers at Talladega: “…And it is a crapshoot. I mean, you see us all running around on the top. Everybody is in line up there. We’re all kind of waiting till the end. Everybody knows that you got to be around at the end to win the race. So we see guys wreck out on the seventh lap, everybody goes, All right, let’s get to the top here and get these laps over with. You know, everybody just kind of tries to sit there and act like they’re just waiting out till the end of the race, then people start making moves about 20 to go or so ’cause you know you need to be up in the top three, four or five to have a shot at winning, so everybody is trying to work theirselves into that position.
All the cars handle the same. Everybody pretty much has the same power. It’s anybody’s game, it really is. Any car in the field is capable of winning that race.”