|Junior says, "I hope it's gone."|
“I hope it's gone,” said Earnhardt of the two-by-two tandem drafting that was so much a part of superspeedway racing in recent years. “I hope we don't do that anymore. I don't enjoy doing that. I like taking care of myself, having to worry about what I have to do in a car, instead of having to worry about me and somebody else.
“I really don't know how the car is going to race and draft, (or) what kind of strategy we'll need to be using,” he admitted. “That sort of changes and turns… throughout the week.”
After making the Chase and breaking a long winless streak last season, Earnhardt said he confident that his team is now a championship contender.
“I think we were in the conversation last year,” he said. “I’m really excited about how consistent we were last year. We've been able to improve as we've worked together. Me and Steve (Letarte) have worked together. We've been able to improve steadily over the last couple years. I hope that's able to continue. I hope we haven't realized our true potential. Maybe this year, if we can step it up another notch, we'd be right there where we've been striving to be the last couple years. It isn't going to take much to improve over last year and be one of the top teams. We were pretty close last year and feel pretty good about that.
“It's hard to put your finger on what (this) team needs,” said Earnhardt. “No matter how close it is or far off it is, it's hard to really put your finger on exactly what you're missing, especially when you work with a company like I do that's got all the parts, pieces and personnel, abd does such a good job delivering the physical racecar to you.
“It really comes down to the minds that are in control of everything; me and Steve making the right calls and decisions on the racetrack.”
Earnhardt strongly endorsed NASCAR’s newly announced plan to mandate concussion testing for any driver involved in a serious crash, beginning next season.
“It makes perfect sense to make it mandatory,” said Earnhardt, who sat out two races at the end of the 2012 campaign after suffering a concussion in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway. “I think it was nice of them to look into ways they could protect us from ourselves. The test is really simple and it's pretty straightforward. You sit at a computer for about 30 minutes, answering a series of questions. It tests short-term and long-term memory (and) a lot of different things of the mechanics of the brain. It's a really hard test. Even if you don't have a concussion, taking the test can be difficult.
You take the test to get a baseline, because everybody is different,” he explained. “It's really a bit of a personality test at the same time. Everybody is going to score different. There's not like a maximum score you need to strive for. Everybody has a different result after taking the test, (but) when you get into an accident… you can take this test again and find out exactly what is happening to your brain. This test can pinpoint where in the brain you're struggling, what kind of injury you have and what kind of things you can do to rehab and recover.”
Earnhardt said that after his injury, he received encouragement from a number of athletes who have suffered from concussions.
|"I don't know how the car is going to race."|
“Over time, I talked to a lot of people that have been through it, a lot of drivers that had them in the past. I got a lot of information and it really helped me remain calm. You’ve got to remain calm, because when your body isn't doing what you want to do, not acting right, you freak out a little bit. When you're out of control, you're not too happy about that.”
Asked about the new, Gen-6 race car, Earnhardt cautioned against “overplaying” the new machine and its driveability.
“I think it got overplayed a little bit,” he said. “It's a great car. It's a step in the right direction, (but) there's so much to learn. It's starting off on the right foot (and) I say positive things about it because that's the way I feel. But I think everybody needs to be patient, let the car kind of come to us and let us improve the car over time.
“I think it's a great direction we're going in,”” he said. “The potential (is there) for us to really enjoy this car and provide good racing. We'll make it a better car over the year. We'll learn what the car likes and doesn't like."Photo: Sam Sharpe, USA Today