Stress reliever: Multiple wins allow Dale Jr. to relax, have fun
JUN 09, 2014 4:00p ET
You know what really sucks about winning?
Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr., who by virtue of his victory in the Pocono 400 on Sunday joined Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson as drivers who already have clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
And that, Earnhardt said, will make his summer a whole lot more enjoyable this year.
Earnhardt began the year with a popular and emotional victory in the Daytona 500, and earning a second win elevates him that much more.
"We started out the season when we won at Daytona, man, it made the rest of the year a lot more relaxing, a lot easier, less stress and it makes it fun, because you can just go to the race track and just race and not worry about points," said Earnhardt.
Earnhardt said he's especially glad he longer has to sweat the upcoming road race at Sonoma Raceway in two weeks.
"Last year and every damned year we would test at those road courses, Road Atlanta and here and there and work ourselves to death trying to figure out how to go faster at a road course, knowing damned good and well I wasn't going to run well because I don't know how to drive them," said Earnhardt. "But I can run okay at the Glen every once in a while, but Sonoma, it's embarrassing, man, I haven't finished in the top 11 there ever."
Thanks to the two victories, though, Earnhardt said the pressure's off at Sonoma now.
"We just decided not to work that hard and just go there without a test and wing it, and we got teammates to test it and we'll see what they did and liked and we can go there with an attitude of it's not -- we don't have to dig and gouge for every single position and we don't have to worry if it's a total disaster or if it doesn't work out, if we get spun out on the last lap. We can just go have fun."
And fun has been something that's been in precious short supply for Earnhardt at Sonoma in recent years. Now, when he goes to Michigan this weekend, he won't have to be thinking about Sonoma the week after.
"Driving around the track and running that particular race, it is fun, but at the end when you get run over or you don't finish well, you're so pissed off, and it's such a long way home," said Earnhardt. "It's a terrible trip home when you don't run good at Sonoma. We don't have to worry about that now. We can go to Michigan confident, happy, and a track where we really run well at and we can have fun this summer knowing those two wins have got us good and locked in pretty good."
In terms of the bigger picture, Earnhardt will carry at least six bonus points into the Chase and last year he had five top-five finishes in NASCAR's playoff round, which certainly bodes well for his championship hopes.
"It definitely made a difference in Daytona, now having two wins is going to make it even easier, a lot less stress, a lot less stress on the team, and I think that could be a good thing going into the Chase," said Earnhardt. "I mean, not only are we able to relax right now, but what does that do for -- that's got to be positive for our composure and psyche going into the Chase, not having to stress all the way through into Richmond, you know?"