News & Media

Earnhardt enjoying the ride in the Chase

September 30, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

DOVER, Del. -- After pressure-packed stretch run, he says trying to climb standings not as hard

To hear Dale Earnhardt Jr. tell it, the pressure of being in the Chase for the Sprint Cup doesn't compare with the stress of trying to get into NASCAR's 10-race playoff.

Earnhardt didn't secure his Chase spot until Sept. 10, in the final race of the regular season at Richmond. Of the 10 drivers to qualify on points, he was 10th, and after getting collected in a Lap 8 wreck at Richmond, Earnhardt's place in the Chase was in doubt until the final fourth of the race.

"I feel more comfortable now that I got making the Chase behind me, and I can just concentrate on 'Hey, how good can I do in the Chase?'" Earnhardt said Friday at Dover International Speedway. "So I feel a little bit less pressure, I guess.

"I'm sure it would be quite different if I was leading the points right now?the pressure would be pretty high. But at the time, I feel pretty good and pretty comfortable and a lot less pressure now than I did the last five or six races leading up to the Chase. There was a lot of pressure there."

Whether Earnhardt can ramp up the pressure by finishing well at Dover is an open question, given his mixed results at the one-mile concrete track. Earnhardt finished third in the 2007 Chase race at the Monster Mile but hasn't posted a result better than 12th since then.

"Yeah, this track has been good at times and bad at times for me," Earnhardt said. "I like asphalt better than I like concrete. Concrete is just not as good a surface, in my opinion. As high-banked and as fast as this place is, it was the only way they could really put something down that would survive. Once the concrete ages a couple of years, it's got joints in it.

"It's kind of like a wooden deck. It starts to sort of get bumps in it because of that. If you ever drove down I-77 towards Statesville [N.C.], you will remember how that patch of road used to be. And that's about exactly how it feels. It gets them little joints in it, and you just hop around the racetrack all the way around there, and that's the way it goes."

Asked whether track conditions like that tend to build character, Earnhardt replied, "Not in my opinion. I mean, it is character, but not all character is good character."