Six Things Dale Earnhardt Jr. Said at Richmond
Tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway will mark Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the 0.75-mile Virginia short track.
Earnhardt, who must win tonight’s race to make the Cup playoffs, will start 21st in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
His race car
Although he didn’t qualify well, Earnhardt described his car as decent. “It was actually pretty good in race trim,” he said. “We were in the top 10 in both practices and we liked the way our car held on, too. So, we learned some things that I think that will help us (Saturday night) From lap 30 beyond I think we helped our car quite a bit. We have been struggling at this track the last several trips. I believe we have learned a few things, but the Fords and Toyotas — Penske and all the Toyotas they are pretty fast.”
Earnhardt obviously hasn’t had the year he was hoping for, but he’s doing fine. “It’s been a positive, fun experience,” he said of his final year. “You know the results are not great, but I’ve dealt with that in my career in the past. I know how to deal with that emotionally and personally and I know how to work through it. So, that has not been that difficult, to be honest with you.”
On his final race
Earnhardt’s full-time driving career will end at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. He’s not sure what to expect. “I don’t know how that day is going to feel, but you know it’s going to be one of those deals where you won’t be able t0 — it’s just like winning a race,” he said. “I don’t think you are able to take it in at the moment, but I have been able throughout this season to take in these little moments here and there throughout every weekend and they have been really nice.”
Earnhardt said he was OK with disqualifying cars that fail post-race inspection, but it’s more complicated at the Cup level. “I always didn’t have a problem getting thrown out of a race back when we raced on Friday and Saturday night at short tracks. If they found your car wrong, they threw you out. And nobody ever thought that that was crazy. At this level of competition, with the process of inspection, and maybe the news cycle and so forth – there is a lot of elements that play into what they do today and the decisions they make today.”
How do you stop teams from cheating? Earnhardt said hit them where it hurts most. “There’s only two things that matter in racing and that is trophies and money,” he said. “Those are the things that are going to be the deterrent and the things that will be impactful.”
Asked about his legacy, Earnhardt said, “As a race car driver, I hope that people thought I was good and had some talent. Doesn’t matter to me where on the scale I rank, I just hope people credit me with having some ability. I hope they see me as someone that raced my competitors with respect. That I raced hard, but with respect. There are guys out there that I enjoy racing against and I hope that is the way people view me, my competitors at least.”