Dale Earnhardt Jr. “I don’t want to disappoint”
Through ups, downs beloved racing scion always class act
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
Throughout his career, through the winning times, the losing skids and even the loss of his father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has gained a reputation of showing an inordinate amount of class, even in the most disappointing situations.
Two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he was a couple of turns away from breaking a 105-race losing streak, but ran out of fuel. He took the loss in stride, even as his fans reacted in disbelief and disappointment. He said that if he’d won under the circumstances of a gas-mileage strategy gamble, the victory would have been “a gift.”
On Sunday at Kansas Speedway, he was again poised to win, but his fuel-mileage strategy didn’t work out because Brad Keselowski, also in fuel-conservation mode, beat him to the finish line.
After both races, Earnhardt praised his team and moved forward, just as he has time and again in the past.
During his regular pre-race media appearance at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR’s most popular driver talked about how he handles himself and how important it is to him to ensure that he never does anything to tarnish the Earnhardt name.
“I don’t want to disappoint anybody,” Earnhardt said. “My father raced in this sport for a long time, and he raced in front and worked and talked and worked with a lot of people that I work with today – a lot of people that are in this room and a lot of people in that garage.
“Being his son, I don’t want to disappoint anybody. I don’t want to say anything that’s going to make anyone ashamed of me. I just want to run good and I want to run well, but I want to act right too.”
He said it’s important to him how he’s perceived both now and in the future.
“In the end, I want people to say that I was a good person and I was honest – when I don’t race anymore or whatever – that I was a good guy to be around and a good sport about things,” he said. “Mainly, I just don’t want to humiliate what my dad did for the sport and what he did for himself, what he did for our family name. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to tarnish any of that.”
He went on to explain that showing class in tough spots doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, that he doesn’t want to return to his winning ways. And he said he can sympathize with his fans, who expressed their disappointment in many ways, including in YouTube videos. He said he’s the same way about his favorite sports team, the Washington Redskins.
“When you’re passionate and you care – it’s a cliché – but when that’s all that matters you’re ticked until things get right or you’re upset until things get right no matter what,” he said. “I can definitely relate.”
Earnhardt said the one thing he sees that needs fixing to get him back to Victory Lane is his and his team’s performance during qualifying.
“We need to work on qualifying to not make the day so long and so hard on us,” he said. “We need to start in the top 10 so we ain’t gotta work the first three-quarters of the race trying to get within sight of it.
“That’s about it.”