News & Media

Notes: Earnhardt not feeling pressure to qualify for All-Star Race

April 29, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

RICHMOND, Va. -- If Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't win one of the next three Sprint Cup races, he'll get to see how the other half lives -- and he's intrigued by the prospect.

It has been 11 years since Earnhardt won the All-Star Race. With the winners from the past 10 years guaranteed starting spots in the annual non-points exhibition race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has lost his automatic eligibility.

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Earnhardt has three avenues into the race: 1) he can win one of three events before the Sprint All-Star Race (Richmond, Darlington or Dover) and qualify as a race winner from the previous or current year; 2) he can win or finish second in the Sprint Showdown, the qualifying race that precedes the main event; or, 3) he can win the fan vote.

Earnhardt said Friday at Richmond International Raceway he's not particularly concerned about winning a race between now and then.

"We're just going to go and enjoy that weekend," Earnhardt told Sporting News. "That weekend's pretty fun. Personally, I'd rather make it through the fan vote, because the qualifying procedure is a little bit of a pain in the tail, from a driver's standpoint anyway -- I'm sure that's not everybody's opinion.

"The most important thing is just focusing on the points races, the races that matter toward the championship. When we get to the All-Star weekend, however things are lined up is how things are lined up. It's a fun weekend regardless. It'll be interesting to be on the other side of the fence, trying to find a way into the race and going through that experience, myself personally, to have appreciation for what that is like versus just showing up and being locked in.

"It could be interesting and good for me to have that experience."

Earnhardt has won the Cup Series' most popular driver award for eight consecutive years. Nevertheless, he says there's no guarantee of a victory in the fan vote.

"I don't take it for granted that we'll get the fan vote -- anything can happen," Earnhardt said.

Yes, hell could freeze over, and it could rain green tea in the Gobi Desert. Barring that, Earnhardt is a lock if the fans have to get him into the race.

"I'd say his odds are pretty good of it happening, or he's already got it locked up," said Kasey Kahne, who won the 2008 race after being voted into the field. "He always wins the fan stuff. He's looking good for that -- he'll be in the All-Star Race."

Kahne: Re-injured meniscus required surgery

Kasey Kahne made productive use of the Cup Series' off week -- by going under the knife.

Kahne waited until the week off after Talladega to have surgery on the meniscus in his right knee, after he tore the stitches from a previous operation when he slipped during a workout.

Kahne had surgery on both knees in November.

"I always had really good knees, and then, just last year, they started really bothering me," Kahne said. "It had been building up for a while. ... My right one, I re-injured it in probably January or February -- probably February -- and I've just been waiting until I had time to get it fixed.

"I finished a workout, and I slipped off the bench, and my feet kind of gave out. ... It just happened, and I lay there for about five minutes, and then, the last two months, I've hoped that it would get better. It didn't, so I got it checked again, and I had blown basically what had held it together after they fixed it the first time."

Kahne said he doesn't expect the knee to affect his performance in Saturday night's Cup race.

"I hope it doesn't, but it's still a little bit sore," he said. "I think it may be sore throughout the race, but, really, as far as affecting the speed or the way that the race plays out, I don't think it will affect that at all."

Harvick gets new perspective -- as a spectator

Kevin Harvick got a unique perspective Thursday night at Richmond -- at least for him.

Harvick and Elliott Sadler were among a small group of spectators in the backstretch grandstands as Denny Hamlin came from his last-place starting position to win his own 75-lap charity race at the three-quarter-mile short track.

"I needed to move down about half a section, because all the wrecks were coming off of Turn 2," Harvick quipped Friday morning. "It was just fun to watch, honestly. There was a lot going on, and sometimes it's fun. ... That's the first time I have ever even stepped foot outside of the infield at the race track here.

"Usually, I'm racing the Nationwide car or truck or whatever the case may be. And you sit on pit road if you are not racing and just watch them go by, but we sat up there and just took in a different perspective, and sometimes that's good.

"It was definitely fun, and here it's fun because you can see the whole track and you get close enough to the race track to feel what's going on."