Dale Earnhardt Jr. met the press Friday at Kansas Speedway, where he is getting ready for the Go Bowling 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (Saturday 7 p.m., FS1).
Earnhardt had a decent day at the 1.5-mile track, where he was sixth in the first of two practices and ninth in the final session in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Here are 10 thoughts Earnhardt shared during his media availability Friday.
His social media explosion
Already NASCAR’s most popular driver, Earnhardt was coached up on social media by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, which has turned out to be a huge success for him.
“Jimmie was adamant on coaching me and telling me how it’s useful and why I would want to do it,” said Earnhardt. “None of the other drivers, or anyone else for that matter, was really pushing me to go in that direction. And he’s like, ‘Man, you’re going to like it. This is something cool.’ It’s been a great experience to understand the social side of it.”
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A near-miss in practice
In the first practice, Earnhardt nearly clipped the wall, his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet narrowly missing the SAFER barrier.
“It was real close,” said Earnhardt. “That would have been a back-up (car) for sure. You know, I looked up there and against the fence it looks like the (NASCAR Camping World) Trucks have been up there and there is some rubber down, so I thought it was pretty clean, but we went up there and it was a little dusty for whatever reason.”
In the first practice, Earnhardt nearly clipped the wall, his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet narrowly missing the SAFER barrier. “It was real close,” said Earnhardt. “That would have been a back-up (car) for sure. You know, I looked up there and against the fence it looks like the (NASCAR Camping World) Trucks have been up there and there is some rubber down, so I thought it was pretty clean, but we went up there and it was a little dusty for whatever reason.”
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The pressure of team ownership
JR Motorsports, the NASCAR XFINITY Series team that Earnhardt and sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller own, has enjoyed tremendous success. But it does come with its own set of stresses.
“I’m not too nervous at XFINITY races until the end,” said Earnhardt. “Especially the last couple of weeks, it’s been real difficult. I’m telling you, I ain’t been so sick to my stomach after races as an owner as I have these last two, with the way the cautions have fell for us. And you get angry and you are just as angry as you can before about an hour and then you kind of calm down, try to talk yourself out of it.”
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Cup vs. XFINITY
As a driver in the Cup Series, Earnhardt said the pressure level is much higher than it is owning an XFINITY team. “When I drive Cup, I put a ton of pressure on myself and it’s not quite as relaxing and easy going.”
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Darlington throwback weekend
More than most drivers, Earnhardt loves the history of NASCAR and pays a lot of attention to it. He is looking forward to going to Darlington this year for his final throwback weekend as a driver, but he expects it will be intense.
“Darlington, to me, hasn’t really changed. It’s always been Darlington. I really dig that nostalgia,” Earnhardt said. “So, that will be a more emotional experience I think than the All-Star weekend for me. There will be a lot of things like that throughout the season. I’m excited about that. It’s been an emotional roller coaster that’s been a lot of fun to be on.”
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His new TV show
Earnhardt and wife Amy are going to restore a home in Key West, Florida, and next year they will appear in four episodes of a television show in connection with the DIY Network and HGTV.
“I think people connect this to the retirement and it’s absolutely not connected in any way,” Earnhardt said. “We were talking to them two and a half years ago about could we do this and would this be interesting to them. Would I have the time to do it? And we finally got it agreed upon to put it together.”
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Teammate Chase Elliott
Earnhardt said he sees big things ahead for his second-year teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. “Chase is already a star and once he starts winning multiple races the fans awareness of him outside of the sport will grow and he will become a household name, if he is not already outside of the sport,” said Earnhardt.
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The Mtn Dew Dew-S-A paint scheme
This weekend, Earnhardt is driving a bright blue Mountain Dew-sponsored Chevrolet with a very sharp Dew-S-A paint scheme. “The car looks great and this first practice I thought it was a lot of fun to drive and didn’t mind our lap times too much,” said Earnhardt.
Earnhardt said that early in his career, his only ambitions were “to go lay on the couch and eat Doritos and drink Mountain Dew and drive race cars.” But he has definitely matured.
“I grew up. It just took me a long time to figure all that out,” said Earnhardt. “I just think being around Jimmie and Rick (Hendrick) and my sister and people that have told me certain things time and time again, it starts to click and you realize the right way to be and to treat people and do things. I’m still not perfect. I’ve still got a lot of things I can do better.”