Earnhardt sounds off on penalties, concrete ovals, Pocono and Tony Eury Sr.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks, people listen. And Junior had plenty to say from the back of his hauler this week at Dover, writes Terry Blount.
Updated: May 31, 2008, 8:01 PM ETBy Terry Blount | ESPN.com
DOVER, Del. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has his moments when talking to reporters isn't on the top of his priority list. That's OK. The man has to deal with the media horde more than anyone else in NASCAR. It gets old at times.But the weird thing is some of Earnhardt's best comments come when he wishes he were somewhere else besides the back of his hauler, talking to reporters.
Friday afternoon was one those days. At one point, Earnhardt was asked his opinion on the penalties given Haas CNC Racing."I don't know, man," he said. "I'm done giving you guys my opinion on stuff, on things that ain't related to me."Immediately after saying that, Earnhardt gave his opinion."I don't want guys directly cheating, intentionally cheating to outrun me," he said. "I hope if that ever happens, or if it happens in the future, it's dealt with real harshly."I feel very good about how stern NASCAR is handling all these issues."I've been in that situation, too, and I feel very good about how stern they are. I like the fact that they're harsh. I want them to be harsh."Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the interview time, Earnhardt offered some strong opinions on several topics. It probably was the best Q&A session of the season. For your entertainment and amusement, here is Junior at his best:On concrete tracks like Dover, a place where he has three victories: "I don't like concrete. I wish it was asphalt. I ain't a fan of concrete. It's real bumpy and rough. It's just real slick and gets kind of tough to hang on to. You look at the old races they ran here on asphalt and they looked pretty fun."On the Pocono test session: "The track needs to be repaved. It's real, real rough. They paved this little strip in Turn 3 in the third groove and we're all running around on it. It was funny."When we first hit the track I saw that strip of asphalt and I thought, 'Man, I bet that's got a lot of grip. If I can figure out a way to get up there and run on it, I might find some speed.' By the end of the test, everybody was running there. That's going to be slightly amusing to see in the race."On race purses and why one driver can make more than another driver who finishes ahead of him: "There is money paid to guys who run a full schedule and money paid to guys who are on a Winner's Circle program or have run a race, teams who have won a race and drivers who have run a race. There is money paid to guys for various decals they run on their fenders. It's very complicated."On the penalties to his Nationwide team (one crew member was suspended for a week and another placed on probation) for the shoving and shouting incident with Denny Hamlin's crew after the race in Charlotte last week: "Well, my guys were a little bit aggressive. They did show their butts a little bit. But the penalties, I was a little disappointed in. I felt like we sort of got the bad end of the deal."NASCAR said they were going to be more lax on the penalties for us showing our emotions. I don't want to see anybody get punched in the face if it ain't necessary. That's why I kind of feel like the penalties were real harsh because it was great TV. Each side really kind of had a valid argument and I really didn't see much harm in it."On the $1,000 fine given to Tony Eury Sr., the crew chief of Earnhardt's Nationwide team, for the Charlotte incident: "I didn't think Pops should get penalized. Man, he's a veteran in this sport. He didn't do anything wrong at all. I thought his treatment should have been a little bit better than that."But Tony always had a real sore temper when I was a young kid. I didn't want to mess with him. I was scared to death of him. It wasn't until recently where I felt like we worked on the same level, but he demands that respect. Tony Sr. is possibly more intimidating than my father."He is the same way as my dad was in his ability to intimidate and motivate. He gets guys to team up with him and get on his side. He's a great leader. I'm fortunate as hell to have him on my side working at JR Motorsports. We're a much better team with him."On reports that Bruton Smith wants to buy Dover International Speedway: "I don't believe what I read."There you have it. The world according to Earnhardt. Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AP Photo/Russ HamiltonDale Earnhardt Jr. on cheating in the garage: "I feel very good about how stern NASCAR is handling all these issues."
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