News & Media


From the Notebook: Earnhardt Jr. looks to regroup

July 14, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

Puts string of poor finishes behind, seeks to 'change picture' for himself, team

Not too long ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like a lock for a spot in the Chase. But after three less-than-stellar races dating back to a 41st-place finish at Sonoma, Earnhardt is now eighth in the standings with eight races left until the Chase cutoff at Richmond.

Even before he slid his tires and blew out another one at Kentucky, Earnhardt -- then seventh in the standings -- was able to draw a stable analysis of where he was in the points.

" I feel fortunate to still be where I am in the points and still have opportunity to be in the Chase this year."

--DALE EARNHARDT JR.

"I'd rather be third," Earnhardt said. "I hate what happened over the last couple of weeks and I look back with some regrets on how we finished our day in Sonoma and what we could have achieved if we had been more patient or tried to take better care of the car.

"You could have done a million different things at Daytona and I try not to dwell on that, but it's hard. You know, you think about it -- but what's done is done. You've just kind of got to try to move forward and not let it really bother you too much and try to put together a good weekend -- maybe two or three or four good weekends in a row and try to change the picture of the points system for yourself, five weeks from now and hopefully a better spot."

Earnhardt took full blame for the tire mishap at Kentucky and has a fairly decent outlook for New Hampshire. The biggest thing Earnhardt has going for him right now is confidence.

"I think we can go everywhere and move forward," Earnhardt said. "I feel real good about how we ran this year and I think we've got opportunities any time we show up to put together a good weekend. So I don't have that kind of worry that I used to have in the past, where I was very inconsistent. We run good and we're fast so I feel like any weekend could be an opportunity for us to put some points together.

"The other side of that, too, is I could as easily be looking at sitting 13th, 14th, 17th, 20th in points with a much tougher hill to climb. I feel fortunate to still be where I am in the points and still have opportunity to be in the Chase this year. I want to try to put together the best several weeks, the next eight or nine weeks I can to make sure that happens. I think we can do that. I think we are a good enough team to do that."

You can thank Steve Letarte and his Hendrick Motorsports crew for that.

Road rage

Not the road Dale Jr. sometimes has to take to get to the track each weekend, but he's of the opinion that there are more than enough on the schedule at this point. That's surprising, especially with Earnhardt's victories on road courses during both of his Busch Series championship seasons.

"I hate road courses," Earnhardt said. "I wish we never ran on them at all to be honest with you. I mean, I'll be honest -- they're fun as hell to watch and they are kind of fun to race in -- especially Sonoma because it's getting more crazy and we're all kind of just crashing and running over each other and that's kind of fun to do.

"When you're a little kid running your yard kart around the yard, that's what you did. When you get done with the race and you look at the points and you look at how it shook everything up and all the hard work you put into nothing... I'm never inspired to drive road courses, I don't enjoy racing on road courses and that isn't what I wanted to be when I was a kid.

"It's part of the sport so I'll go out there and I'll do it the best I can. I try to do it as best as I can. I try to be better. My personal opinion, everybody's got one, is these cars weren't built for road racing and I never ever once when I was a kid thought, 'I can't wait to run them road courses' -- I never, never thought about that."

So take that, all you fans of lefts and rights.

No stopping Kyle

How significant 100 NASCAR national series wins is depends on whose opinion you're polling, but there's no denying the hot streak Kyle Busch is on after winning in the Miller Lite Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Busch arrived at Slinger after winning the Truck and Cup series races at Kentucky Speedway and finishing third in the Nationwide race. He promptly set the fastest time among the field of 26 Super Late Model drivers, although Matt Kenseth's son Ross started from the pole for the 200-lap event.

With some bump-and-run racing involved according to Twitter reports, Busch passed Dave Feiler after a restart with 26 laps to go and won by 2.171 for his first victory in the event.

"The restarts were tricky," Busch said. "And I didn't know whether I wanted the bottom or the top as neither one of them was working for me for the first two laps. But then my car would really come in."

Ross Kenseth finished sixth and Nationwide Series driver and Wisconsin native Kelly Bires was seventh.

Storm-stricken Lenox employee honored

Last month, Massachusetts was stricken by tornados that are a very unlikely occurrence anywhere in New England and in the aftermath of the destruction of their home, longtime Lenox Industrial Tools employee Tom Joseph, along with his wife and three sons, will represent the many families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm and serve as Grand Marshals for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Cup race at New Hampshire.

Alex Joseph, 18, president of the Monson High School senior class, led local high school students in relief efforts.

"The tornadoes may have torn our homes apart, but it really brought the people in our community together," Joseph said. "We're proud to represent their spirit as this year's Grand Marshals for the LENOX 301 race."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.