Watch Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on CNN’s "Unguarded with Rachel Nichols" as he talks about earning his second Great American Race win and his thoughts on Richard Petty’s comments about former JR Motorsports' driver Danica Patrick. Following the show, you can see the full interview at www.cnn.com/unguarded. Below is an excerpt.
(Courtesy: CNN/"Unguarded with Rachel Nichols")
Rachel Nichols: You called this the race of your life. You won this race 10 years ago. But why was this the best victory you've ever had?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Something about everything that's happened since then. The goods, the bads, the ups and downs, all the trials and dark depths of struggles, there was a time in 2009, 2010, where people were giving up on me. The sport was giving up on me. I felt like I was losing, you know, my grasp on being competitive. When I won in 2004, I was young the whole moment just flew by. And I didn't realize what it was worth, you know. So now I get it.
Rachel Nichols: You are actually a team owner too, in NASCAR's Nationwide Series. You were the one who brought Danica Patrick into the world of NASCAR, not always a popular thing. Danica has gotten a lot of criticism. Recently Richard Petty said the only way she would win a race is if nobody else was on the track. What do you think when you hear things like that?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: It's very rough, you know. That's obviously a harsh statement by any means, by any stretch.
Rachel Nichols: No one would ever say that about a male driver.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Right, exactly. And you sit there and you say, "What for?" You know, what's the point? Even if that's your feeling, you know, why would you voice it? She goes by a different set of rules. And it's really unfortunate. I feel for how hard she has it. But at the same time, she doesn't want anybody to feel for her. She don't want any pity. And she'll let you know that. And she's very, very, very tough. As rough as the road is for her, she can handle it.
Rachel Nichols: And you are related to a female driver as well, your 13-year-old niece is tearin' it up in the mini-series.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Yeah.
Rachel Nichols: I mean, she's really good.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: She wins a lot of races, won some championships and she races with the boys and beats 'em on a regular basis. And she's fiery, and Danica is her favorite driver. She'd rather Danica win the Daytona 500 than me. So, but you know, that's the power of Danica Patrick.