Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to quit complaining. I know that will anger many people, but it’s the truth.
Earnhardt said after yesterday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway “If we raced like this every week, I would find another job.” He was involved in the 25-car melee at the end of the race that was triggered when Tony Stewart blocked Michael Waltrip in turn three on the final lap.
Earnhardt was not happy that he was involved in the wreck, that his championship hopes were dashed, that he took a couple hard hits, and rightfully so. But what he said after the race yesterday was ridiculous. For one reason: Earnhardt spent all of 2011 telling anyone who would listen that NASCAR needed to do away with tandem-drafting at the superspeedways and go back to pack racing.
Earnhardt told Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press a week before the July Daytona race in 2011, “I am not looking forward to going to Daytona, not with the way the drafting is there.” After the race (Earnhardt finished 19th in that race by the way), he told reporters, “I don’t like this kind of racing, and you know it.”
NASCAR made changes to the cooling systems on the cars at the start of this season to break up the pod racing. They moved the grill opening up to the front bumper, instead of below it. They made the grill smaller. And they regulated the radiator pop-off valve, all in an effort to get back to pack racing because so many drivers and fans complained about it.
And the changes worked. Drivers were only able to push for maybe one to two laps before their cars would start to lose water from overheating.
The pack was back.
Yesterday NASCAR went back to Talladega for the final restrictor-plate race of the season, and the only one in the Chase.
Tandem racing was rarely seen throughout the day. Instead drivers were two and sometimes three-wide throughout most of the 188-lap race.
Then came the green-white-checkered finish. They almost wrecked on the backstretch with two laps to go when eventual race winner Matt Kenseth came down on Clint Bowyer and forced Bowyer below the double-yellow line. But they all managed to save it and continue on. But the scramble down the back shuffled a bunch of cars and resulted with a pack of cars going four-wide, six rows deep on the final lap. They made it through turns one and two and down the backstretch that way. They got to turn three and Stewart blocked Waltrip. It was on from there.
Jeff Gordon knows that this is what the fans want to see.
“If I’m a fan I would love that,” said Gordon. “I think it’s incredibly intense. It’s wild. It’s crazy.”
But Earnhardt was very critical of the fans. He said, “It’s bloodthirsty if that’s what people want.”
Earnhardt backed off of his comments today. He told Jeff Gluck of SBNation.com that he regretted "getting that emotional about it."
But the point is that Earnhardt still said he what he said. He said that his legions of fans are bloodthirsty. That they only want to see wrecks. But not all the fans want to see the wrecks.
They want to see that incredible sight of 30 cars running inches apart four-wide six rows deep. And unless Junior forgot, that’s what he wanted too.