|"Sorry about that, dude."|
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said today that he has apologized to crew chief Steve Letarte for publically questioning Letarte’s late-race strategy calls at Martinsville Speedway.
“I know I was a pain in the ass,” admitted Earnhardt to reporters today, saying he overreacted to Letarte’s decision to forego a pit stop in the final laps of Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500. Earnhardt and then point-leader Brad Keselowski were the only contending drivers who remained on-track during the final caution, and both faded badly on worn tires during the final green-flag run.
He finished 21st after a tangle with Carl Edwards, and after the race, criticized Letarte for what he called “poor choices. We didn't have a really good car,” said Earnhardt. “(We) fought some issues all day long and made poor choices at the end that got us run over.”
Today, the Hendrick Motorsports driver backed off his previous comments.
“We talked about it just a little bit,” he said. “When we made the decision to stay out, I was positive coming to that restart. I was positive about what we were doing. When (Steve) made the decision for us to not pit, I didn't immediately throw my hands up in the air. I was like ‘alright, you know I'm going to go as hard as I can go here.' I was starting up front and I really didn't think we were going to be as bad as we were after that restart.
"Then we had the restart and the car was real tight, real slow and just in the way. People were all over me trying to get by me. I know I was a pain in the ass and I was just getting more and more frustrated.
"I lost control of my emotions a little bit, in how I expressed my opinion after the race to him, to you (and) to everybody," he said. "Looking back now, I really wasn't that mad about it. I was being a bit of a backseat driver or armchair quarterback.
He also said Letarte “had done a great job -- been real supportive of me (at Martinsville). I need to realize he is trying to help me. He's not trying to throw me to the wolves. He is trying to help me win races.”