Junior stays upbeat despite texas debacle
April 11, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
That's a lot of mileage logged for an incident that occurred barely a dozen laps into Monday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Earnhardt Jr. clipped the grass just off the apron at Texas Motor Speedway, hard enough that the splitter on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet dug into the ground. His car then shot across the track where it struck the wall and erupted in flames.
The incident, which took place just after the field had gone green for the first time due to damp track conditions, resulted in a 43rd-place finish. It also affected the efforts of teammate Jimmie Johnson, whose car was struck by debris that damaged his car's windshield and opened a hole in the front of the No. 48 entry.
After a win to open the season, three consecutive top-five finishes and only a week after reassuming the points lead, the Texas miscue was disheartening for the 39-year-old Earnhardt Jr.
A day later, however, he and his team were one of several taking part in a two-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway.
"Just being able to get back in the car and test at Michigan was a big help for me to get past it and to get focused on the next race," he said before practice at Darlington.
"This (Southern 500) is a tough event ... we've got some decent runs here but we haven't really come here and had a race that we thought we lost.
"This is going to be a tough place to come rebound, but we are going to give it our best. I'm just glad to be back at the track, go ahead and get a race or two in the bank and put it behind us."
Fans offered support via Twitter in the aftermath of the Texas incident, but Earnhardt Jr., new to the social media platform this year, said his busy schedule forced him to scale back his participation during the week.
"I guess Twitter can be a help in a situation like that," he said. "I mean my fans certainly have your back and tell you to brush it off, don't worry about it. I'm sure there are some people on there saying the opposite, but I didn't see many of those or any of those.
"There is a positive and a negative to everything. I didn't really spend a lot of time on Twitter this week because we were working at Michigan. We had some things to do Thursday. Twitter is a bit of a playground and I don't want to horse around if we are not doing good. I don't want to be on there goofing off and making light of the situation because it was a frustrating mistake. It was something I don't take very lightly."
Now sixth in points, Earnhardt Jr. is one of several drivers still searching for their first career Darlington win. Sprint Cup teams practice and qualify here today, with tomorrow's Bojangles' Southern 500 scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. ET start. FOX will provide live, flag-to-flag coverage of the event.