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On his way to Northern California, a visit to Alcatraz Island and a barbecue joint, Dale Earnhardt Jr. answered fan questions about road racing and his visit to the Bay Area for the Toyota-Save Mart 350 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, TNT) at Sonoma Raceway.
Earnhardt Jr. was asked what it would mean to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course race. He answered, "(It'd) be nearly as big as winning the (Daytona) 500."
Of course, Earnhardt Jr. won the season-opening race for a second time in February, virtually clinching a place in the Chase Grid for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Last week on the "Dan Patrick Show" on NBC Sports Network, Earnhardt Jr. answered Patrick's questions about road racing and whether he was good at it. In 28 career Sprint Cup road course starts, Earnhardt Jr. only has two top-five finishes, three top 10s and 55 laps led.
"I'm OK," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's sort of a sour grapes kind of thing. I grew up wanting to race short tracks, and I didn't care about road racing. I didn't want to road race, and I never wanted to road race."
"But there's these two pesky little road races in our schedule, and I have to do them. I've had some good runs at Watkins Glen, and I actually won a race there (1999 NASCAR Nationwide Series race) against Ron Fellows, one of the best road racers (on) the continent (because he's a Canadian). To win there was a great feeling for me to be able to do that against one of the best."
"But it's just not something that I aspired to do at a young age so I could take it or leave it, and yeah, it's a bit sour grapes. It's just part of the deal. We normally work ourselves into the ground trying to test and learn and find something that's going to make competitive in those races, and this year, with the new points system, we're just going to not test."
"We're going to go have fun, and maybe that gets us a better result. Maybe that kind of attitude and approach, being a little more carefree and lackadaisical about it gets us a better result."
"They're fun to drive. They're fun to race on. It's like getting out in the yard as a kid on a go-kart, just peddling around wherever you want to go. But if you take it seriously and put all kinds of pressure on yourself, you set yourself up for some disappointment."
In the Twitter chat below, Earnhardt Jr. references Fellows as well as other road course mentors, talks about left- and right-foot braking, how many shifts it takes to get around Sonoma and much more.