Dale Jr.: 'It's kind of like the 3 coming back'
April 04, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- In a way, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has experienced all this before -- a decision coming down the pipeline that not every driver or fan may agree with.
In December of 2013, it was Austin Dillon resurrecting the No. 3 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And it was Junior there to assuage detractors and mend any disgruntled feelings over the number being back on the track at all.
The 39-year-old took a similar stance Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, days after NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that engine changes are coming -- and they likely will bring a reduction in horsepower.
"Whatever way they end up going, whatever decision they end up making about the horsepower, it's not a wrong decision -- there's an OK one, and a better one, in my opinion," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But they are going to do (reduce horsepower). It's kind of like the 3 coming back. A lot of people didn't want it to come back. A lot of people were upset, but it still came back. … And I think the reduction in power is coming whether you like it or not."
France confirmed as much earlier this week -- "We're going to make that happen," he said when asked about engine modifications -- days after representatives from all three manufacturers said on a conference call that developments were still in the early phase.
Sprint Cup Series engines generate 850 horsepower and were unchanged during the 2013 introduction of the Generation-6 car and the new aero package for the 2014 season.
It's that grandiose number -- 850 horsepower -- that seems to be a sticking point for those in opposition.
"I think something that's cool about Sprint Cup racing is we've got 850-900 horsepower in these things," Joey Logano said when asked about the possible future changes. "That's pretty badass. But, either way, we've just got to make sure we put on a great race for the fans, whether we have three horsepower or 900 horsepower -- make sure it's a great race. If that's the direction we have to go to put on a better race, then so be it."
The possibility of decreasing the horsepower, Earnhardt said, may put a bigger emphasis on the driver. Going to a smaller engine would preserve throttle response and reaction in the gas pedal -- in other words, Junior said, the driver would have more opportunities to influence the vehicle.
The end result, he thinks, will be similar to that of Dillon wheeling the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet onto the track for the first time at historic Daytona International Speedway. Potential tentativeness at first, followed by acceptance.
"I choose, as an individual, to get on the side of being productive in that discussion," Earnhardt said. "Instead of saying, 'We don't need to do it,' and trying to fight it, let's try to make sure when it does happen that we do it the right way and give ourselves something to grow into and something that's productive for many, many years to come. It's coming either way, whether we like or not. We might as well think about how we want it to happen and try to have good discussion on making sure we make the best choice we can make for the sport."