Newsmaker: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Posted: Wednesday, October 06, 2004


  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. Dale Earnhardt Jr. went from the lead in the Nextel Cup Series standings to second place this week without ever getting into his Budweiser Chevrolet.

NASCAR fined him $10,000 and docked him 25 points for cursing during a post-race interview from Victory Lane after winning last Sunday's race at Talladega, Ala. When asked about comparing his five wins at Talladega to his father's 10, he said, "Well, it don't mean (bleep) right now. Daddy's won here 10 times. So, I've got to do more winning. But we're going to get there. He was the master. I'm just following in his tracks."

Earnhardt Jr. talked about the penalty, the fact others have been fined in the same manner for the same word, his success at Talladega and the rest of the season.

Question: Were you concerned your language would cost you the lead in the point standings?

Earnhardt Jr.: Johnny Sauter said it in a fit of anger. I said it in Victory Lane. Do you want the commercial of Matt (Kenseth) being a robot to come to fruition? If anybody was offended by the four-letter word I said which, in my book, I think (George) Carlin said it was one of the ones you could say I can't imagine why they would have tuned into a race in the first place. But there were a lot of hand gestures going on during the race and that was pretty weak compared to what we're doing on the race track. I hope they understand that it was in jubilation and I know me and those other guys that got fined let it slip, but it's two different circumstances. I think that when you're happy and joyous about something and it happens, I think it's different than being angry and cursing in anger. Of course we don't want to promote that. But if a guy is in Victory Lane jumping up and down and lets a (curse word) slip out, I don't think that's something we need go hammering down on.

Question: Can you recap what you told "60 Minutes" about your sports car fire at Infineon Raceway?

Earnhardt Jr.: It's kind of embarrassing to tell it. There was something really weird that happened that day. I think everybody here saw the piece or heard it from someone else or read the quotes. But, Steve Crisp went with me as kind of my PR guy. Steve likes the Chevrolet people a lot so he went with me on that deal. After everything happened, and I got back to the hospital, I'd forgotten that I had asked Steve something in the Infield Care Center. So I asked him again because I was really messed up on Morphine and stuff like that for a long time. And it took me about nine to 10 hours to get to where I could even talk. But I was like, Man did you ever find that guy that helped pull me out of the car? I hadn't seen any of the footage or anything. He was like man, I told you man there was nobody who pulled you out. I remember being in the Infield Care Center and screaming at him about it because it was as real as the day is long. When I unbuckled the seat belt it has a twist latch instead of what we normally use in our race cars. When I reached to undo that, and I reached up into the rollbar to pull myself out, somebody grabbed me underneath the arms, I thought, and pulled me out of the car. And I heard screaming and people hollering and carrying on about getting out of the car and stuff. But in the footage, there was nobody around. But it was as real as (it could be). It was no dream or whatever. Call me crazy; I don't care. That was an experience that only I know and only I can tell it. I told it to '60 Minutes.' Maybe it was something I should have kept to myself because I'm going to have to talk about it a lot now. But it was just something that happened and I didn't have an explanation for it and I still really don't.

Question: You turn 30 on Sunday. How important is that?

Earnhardt Jr.: It's really cool. I'm looking forward to it because I don't feel 30 and I don't act 30 so it don't bother me to turn 30. Obviously, the older you get, the more credibility you attain from people and the more sensible your actions and thoughts and words are. With turning 30, I look forward to garnering more respect like I did this year and last year. I would really like the day to come to when I can walk into the NASCAR hauler and say something or ask them to consider something and it truly gets considered. They listen to what you have to say, but there are guys in the sport now like Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace who are way up the ladder and that get the considerations and come in there with their opinions and those are the ones they listen to. I'm looking forward to being that guy one day, and hopefully, the older I get, the better they'll listen. Other than that, it's just really cool turning 30. I was talking to Matt (Kenseth) last night and he was freaking out when he was turning 30. And I said, Man you're married and settled and I'm the one who should be freaking out. It was just the opposite I guess. I have to change the bars and clubs I go to I guess, and try to hang out with the more adult crowd. I'm looking forward to it. My sister apparently has a surprise birthday planned for me. I'm looking forward to finding out where it's going to be and who is going to be there.

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