“I’ve got a lot of career left, and I’ll get back to where I want to be.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It’s been quite the year, and even quite the week, for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The No. 88 driver got to witness the aftermath of Texas, where fights, crew swaps and point battles left the sport captivated. Earnhardt Jr. also got to pick a fan designed paint scheme for his ride at Phoenix. While promoting that event with Diet Mountain Dew and the Phoenix Coyotes, All Left Turns got to ask NASCAR’s most popular driver about his week, his year and his future.
“The vibe to me felt the same.”
That’s how Earnhardt Jr. described the garage at Hendrick Motorsports this week. He told us he didn’t think much of the No. 24 and No. 48 crew swap, saying if Chad Knaus thinks it’s right, “It’s the right move for him.”
While Earnhardt Jr. said switching out crews has been done before, he hasn’t seen the kind of scrum we saw with Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
“The beef between Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton was wildly entertaining,” he admitted.
So too is the closest Chase in history. Earnhardt said it would be something new on the horizon if Denny Hamlin were to topple Jimmie Johnson’s reign as champion. He just hopes to avoid being a negative factor in determining who wins the season title.
“It’s difficult and a real challenge when you’re around them on the track,” he said. “You don’t want to make a mistake…You take a little more focus out there that’s for sure.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s other focus is to end the season with some semblance of momentum. While his results have been well-documented, he takes some comfort simply getting through the adversity of 2010; toughness, he hopes, will translate to 2011 and beyond.
“I didn’t know if I had what it took to go through the disappointment I had over the last several months,” he said. “I was afraid I would crumble mentally with such high hopes and such marginal results. We’ve been able to stay positive. That’s a good feeling.”
Photo courtesy of Seth Flateland from GSE Productions.