Three Questions with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not off to the type of start his millions of diehard fans had hoped for in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Three races into the 10-race Chase, and heading into this Sunday's AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Earnhardt – who is also cosponsored this season by AMP Energy Drink – is ranked eighth of the 12 contenders, 190 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, who won this past Sunday at Kansas.
Johnson is going for his third consecutive Cup championship this season, while Earnhardt is still seeking his first. He talked this past weekend about how things have gone so far and what he hopes is still to come:
Q. With seven races left in the Chase, is it pretty much a three-way battle for the championship the rest of the way between Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle?
A. "I hope not, hell, unless you are counting me in. I think it’s really early still. I think the chances are still pretty good. The team is very confident and our cars are looking great and they’re driving really good with the exception of (Dover). I’m anticipating that we’ll finish strong."
Q. You have five career wins at Talladega, where the series races at this weekend. Are you excited about returning there, not to mention the six races after that?
A. "I think we will be fine there. I am looking forward to it. Hopefully we have a couple more in the bag that we can run good at. (As for the other tracks), we’ll just have to see how it works out for us. We feel like we know what we need to do. We just have to make sure we keep our heads on straight and make the right decisions."
Q. There's been a lot of attention the last few weeks about your relationship with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., as well as communication issues between the two of you. How do you change both the situation and yourself?
A. "I would love to be calmer under those types of situations, and I was when I first started. Then I got called lackadaisical. I got compared to my father and his determination. I got questioned about if I quit partying so much and focused and this, that and the other. So now I am on the chip and want it more than anybody else and I am getting hell for getting too excited. Regardless of how I act, somebody is going to criticize me one way or another and find an angle. I don’t really want to change because I don’t want to lose my enthusiasm and I don’t want it to matter less, I want it to matter as much as it matters to me. If that means it is going to get me excited when things don’t go right, I just need to be better at controlling that."
Jerry Bonkowski is National NASCAR Columnist for Yahoo! Sports (Yahoo.com), an on-air personality for Sirius Radio and a featured contributor for Gatehouse News Service. He can be reached at NASCARColumnist@Yahoo.com.