KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Racing is fun. Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows that. He drives cars for a living. Does it well. And gets paid really well.
He’s got a job that a lot of us would envy.
But now is when it gets to be really fun. After winning at Talladega on Sunday, Junior is pretty much guaranteed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the fifth-straight season. And he’s looking forward to racing without having to worry about a win.
“As soon as we crossed the finish line and was going around turn one and two and down the back straightaway, that was probably the sole thought in my mind, was the relief of getting that win and locking yourself in [the Chase].” Junior said. “You always think in the back of your mind that you are a good enough team that if you had to rely on a points position that you could, but you just hate having to do that because so much emphasis is put on winning. Not by the points system, but by the sport, by our fans, our sponsors and ourselves, so much is expected … The best part about it is you come into this race and the one after that and the one after that with so much less stress. You just get back to the core values and just enjoying racing and driving.”
Without the win, Junior would be in a good place in the standings through 10 races. He’s currently fifth, and would be the second driver in the standings without a win (assuming he would have finished second at Talladega). With 16 races, a lot could happen, of course, but Junior didn’t have reason to really stress about the Chase without a win. At least at this point, anyway.
After mentioning the core values of racing, Junior went into a tale of racing in his younger days before he made it in NASCAR.
“We used to go race at Myrtle Beach every weekend. We didn’t care whether we won the track championship or not. We just loved racing. We couldn’t wait for our 100 lap feature. The whole process of getting there, going and sizing your tires, getting the car ready and qualifying, the whole process was so much fun,” Junior said. “You can get right back down to the core of that. Going through the whole weekend and just enjoying yourself because th pressure of the points, winning, the expectations all that stuff can sort of zap the enjoyment out of it a little bit. We had so much fun last year and now we get to do it all over again.”
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