Dale Earnhardt Jr. made it clear that he can’t stand this current style of restrictor plate racing before this weekend even arrived.
”I’m not looking forward to going to Daytona, not with the way the drafting is there,” he said last week at Sonoma.
But if there was any doubt, he ended it after a frustrating 19th-place finish that had his passionate fans accusing teammate Jimmie Johnson of sabotaging Earnhardt’s chance to win.
”I am really ticked off. It was a foolish … race. I don’t know what to tell you,” he fumed. ”I don’t like this kind of racing and you know it.”
Junior didn’t appear to be ”ticked off” at Johnson, the teammate he partnered with for the second consecutive plate race. He had pushed Johnson to the win at Talladega in April, and Johnson said all week he was willing to return the favor at Daytona. However, what made Junior fans upset with Johnson was the fact that Johnson decided to head down pit road at the end of the race without mentioning anything to Junior. This forced Junior to be by himself, without any drafting help costing him a probable top-five finish.
It seems so long ago when Junior didn’t need any help winning at Daytona, this was his track. This is not a knock on Junior, but just to say the racing has changed drastically since then. It had been ten years since Junior won this race, just months after his father’s death.
The tandem racing debuted at the start of the season, something that has divided up both the garage area, as well as the fans. Most either love or hate this new style of plate racing, not many are stuck in the middle and there is a reason for that. If you are old enough to remember the real “old” style of racing (stressing “real old”, but that is only 10 years ago) you probably don’t favor this new style, and if you are fairly new to the sport, you probably don’t see anything wrong with it.
”I’d rather have control of my own destiny and be able to go out there and race and just do my own work and worry about my own self,” Earnhardt said on Thursday. ”Been growing up all these years racin’ for No. 1, lookin’ out for No. 1, doing my job. This is what I need to do, I need to do this to get up through the pack. This is how my car drives. Now you are doing it so different. Your thought process and everything you think about during the race is nothing near that.”
Of course if Junior had finished a little bit better than he did Saturday night he would have a different tune following the race.
”I’m driving my car, do what I’m told,” Earnhardt said. ”They decided to do something different. I can’t run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn race car. I’m just doing what I’m told out there. I don’t know how that affected us, if it did at all. It probably didn’t.”
Apparently Johnson was getting plenty of “not so happy” tweets from Junior nation following the race, Johnson later tweeted ”You people are crazy” , ”When my crew tells me to pit, I pit. Steve and Chad sort out the details.”
I don’t believe Junior was as upset with Johnson as he was with this style of racing. The one thing that will continue to allow this “fire” to burn is to keep on racing this “unusual” style. As mentioned before, I personally believe if Junior soon starts getting the finishes he wants in these races, we may not hear a peep out of him.