Earnhardt, Johnson: no hard feelings after Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. heard about how his fans flooded Jimmie

Johnson’s Twitter page after the five-time NASCAR champion seemed

to abandon his Hendrick Motorsports teammate late in last week’s

race at Daytona and couldn’t help but rib the social-media loving

Johnson.

”I called him up and said, `Now you know why I don’t have

Twitter,”’ Earnhardt said Friday at Kentucky Speedway, where the

Cup series will make its debut this weekend.

Earnhardt couldn’t help but laugh, even if the fans of the

series’ most popular driver weren’t quite so forgiving of Johnson’s

late move to pit for gas instead of trying to nudge Earnhardt to

his first victory in more than three years.

The duo spent most of the 400-mile race working as a two-car

tandem, with Johnson serving as the pusher much in the same way

Earnhardt pushed Johnson to victory at Talladega this spring.

Yet as the laps dwindled and the group of leaders started to

pull away, Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus ordered his driver to pit

in hopes that a little extra fuel would provide the difference if

the there were multiple green-white-checkered finishes.

”It was just do what we can to get our best finish and kind of

every man for themselves because we were so deep in the field,”

Johnson said.

The decision left Earnhardt to fend for himself and he ended up

19th after getting caught up in a wreck on the final lap.

Frustrating? Yes. Johnson’s fault? Hardly. The move didn’t exactly

help him either. Johnson came in 20th.

”I figured Jimmie would still have a good opportunity to get up

to me and help us and pretty much we were in fine shape until

people forgot how to drive or people thought they could disobey the

laws of physics or whatever they were trying to do,” Earnhardt

said. ”The caution was out. It was a good time to go to pit

road.”

The disappointing night continued a mid-summer swoon by

Earnhardt. He’s finished no better than 19th in any of his last

three races, dropping him down to seventh in the standings with two

months to go before the Chase for the championship begins.

It’s hardly time to panic, but it’s not exactly the direction

Earnhardt would like to be going as the series enters the dog

days.

”I hate what’s happened the last couple weeks,” Earnhardt

said. ”I have some regrets. Maybe I shouldn’t have beat up the car

so much.”

And maybe, he allows, his fans shouldn’t beat up so much on

Johnson, a recent Twitter convert.

”I don’t know if I should be that surprised at anything the

fans (say), because they’re passionate you know,” Earnhardt said.

“They get it in their minds what they think is right and what they

think happened and they get up and run with it.”

Johnson was quick to point out that he received plenty of

positive feedback from Earnhardt supporters, and declared the

decision to pit a non-issue. It didn’t even come up during the

weekly Tuesday team-wide call.

”It was pretty cut and dry,” Earnhardt said. ”It really

didn’t bother me at all.”