It has been two months since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Talladega Superspeedway, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still upset about his most recent performance at the 2.66-mile track.
Junior, a five-time winner at the Alabama facility, finished 26th after leading 26 laps and looking for a while like a serious threat to win the Aaron’s 499 on May 4.
Now back at a restrictor-plate track for the first time since his ‘Dega disappointment, NASCAR’s most popular driver clearly isn’t quite over it. And he blames no one but himself.
"It was embarrassing, man. I hate to talk about it," said Earnhardt Jr. on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, where he’ll go for the Daytona season sweep in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. "The way we ran and what I chose to do at the end of that race is just really uncharacteristic of anybody that is in the field and trying to compete. I just got really frustrated with the way things were working out for us. I lost sight of the overall big picture, what you are out there trying to do, who all is out there depending on you to do it, and what you need to do. I learned some lessons, and you are never too old to learn them. You are never too old to be taught a lesson, either. I definitely experienced that in Talladega this year."
Speaking during his scheduled media availability at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. went on to call his driving over the final laps at Talladega, "real selfish."
"How the result affected anyone, I never took into account," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "I was just out there really thinking about me, and what I thought, and what I wanted to do, and how frustrated I was. I forgot that there was a team behind me, and depending on me. Lot of fans there to see us race, showed up to spend hard-earned money, so it was a difficult thing to go through."
Carl Edwards, who despite winning twice this season and locking up a Chase berth is widely expected to leave Roush Fenway Racing at year’s end, remained terse and tight-lipped Thursday when asked if had an update on his 2015 plans.
"No, no there isn’t and it isn’t bothering me to keep it to myself either," he told a group of reporters.
Edwards clocked in 27th out of 44 cars in Thursday’s lone and abbreviated Sprint Cup Series practice at Daytona, where rain washed out the final practice in preparation for Friday’s three rounds of knockout qualifying (5 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1).
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson topped the 45-minute practice, followed by Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, Landon Cassill and Martin Truex Jr.
"We stayed out on the track until almost the end and there was a big lightning bolt out there in Turn 1 and that was a pretty neat picture out of the window there," Edwards said. "Hopefully, everybody is safe and stays out of harms way."
JUST A PAINT SCHEME
Brian Vickers’ No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota is carrying a special paint scheme this weekend in honor of the reigning BCS National Champion Florida State Seminoles football team.
Vickers, however, doesn’t hold any personal ties to the school.
"The good thing for this program that Aaron’s puts together where we honor the national champions is I really have no dog in the fight," the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said. "I don’t actually watch a tremendous amount of college sports. My heart and focus has always been in racing, so it’s easy for me to say I don’t actually have another favorite team, because I don’t. But what I think the opportunity and what Aaron’s has done with this has given me a chance to meet some really amazing athletes that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Just because I don’t watch college football every weekend doesn’t mean I don’t respect what they do."
NOT SWEATING IT
Elliott Sadler has come painfully close to winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in two of the past three seasons. So does the veteran driver, who sits atop the standings heading into Friday night’s Nationwide race at Daytona, fear becoming the series’ bridesmaid a third time?
"I think that if you worry yourself to death about points right now, you’re going to be tore all to pieces by the time November gets here," said Sadler, who leads JR Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott by four points and is eight ahead of Elliott’s JR Motorsports teammate, Regan Smith.
"We look at it and say, ‘Okay, Regan is doing good and Chase is doing good,’ and we feel like it’s a three-horse race right now, and it has been so far. As far as like trying to critique it and worrying yourself to death about how close you are, I think there’s no way it can be healthy for you week in and week out. We just race, man."