It’s his last day off before what looks to be a busy and action-packed weekend of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent Thursday on a media tour in the Big Apple, promoting this weekend’s 20th running of the Brickyard 400 (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN).
(Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)
Kicking off his morning with a bright and early 8:30 a.m. interview on NBC’s TODAY, Earnhardt explained to show host Matt Lauer that while he hasn’t ever “kissed the bricks” at IMS (so delicately pointed out by Lauer), he feels confident that he has one of the best crew chiefs and strategists in the business in Steve Letarte. Earnhardt thinks Letarte could help push him over the hump at a track where his career-average finish is 20.3, making it one of just five Sprint Cup Series tracks where his average finish is 20th or worse. In his first two Brickyard 400 races under Letarte, Junior has averaged a finish of 10th.
(Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)
Earnhardt also mentioned during the TODAY show interview that he's happy as an owner and a driver to be returning as a sport to NBC, beginning in 2015. It was recently announced that NASCAR and NBC have struck a landmark deal to bring Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, Home Tracks and more coverage over a 10-year deal.
From there, it was on to FOX News’ America’s Newsroom, where Earnhardt, voted the sport’s most popular driver for a record-tying 10th consecutive year by fans in 2012 (Bill Elliott also earned 10 of his 16 total awards in a row), touched on the polarizing subject of Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon’s potential running of the No. 3 car in the Sprint Cup Series, possibly as soon as next year. The number hits home for Earnhardt, of course, whose father Dale Sr. has been associated with the iconic numeral since earning six of his seven Cup titles and 67 of his 76 career wins with with ‘3’ adorned on the side of his RCR ride.
Earnhardt, who has previously stated that he’d be okay with seeing Dillon run the number, reiterated his point on Thursday, making the connection that Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress, who owned Earnhardt Sr.’s No. 3 ride.
His last stop took him to ESPN’s Sportscenter at 11:40 a.m. ET, where he summarized his first 19 races of 2013 by saying it’d be nice to earn his first win of the season this weekend. He added that his speed has been consistent thus far, he’s just run into some bad luck.
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Some of that bad luck included blowing an engine in June at Michigan International Speedway, where he was running a special Superman-inspired paint scheme. Earlier in the day, he walked dogs with Dean Cain on the set of TODAY. Cain, of course, played the lead on the hit TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman from 1993-1997.
As you can see from the image at the top, Junior participated in all things NYC, including hailing a cab like a true New Yorker during a photo shoot for an upcoming issue of Men's Journal.
From here, Earnhardt heads to Speedway, Ind. where the race weekend will kick off Friday with practice at 11:35 a.m. ET, culminating with the Brickyard 400 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.