Stock Car Racing NASCAR Dale Earnhardt JR Daytona 500 2017
Earnhardt 'freakin' pumped' to be back in racecar
Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Kelly Crandall / Image by LAT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the happiest guy in Arizona on Tuesday.
One of 13 drivers scheduled to test at Phoenix International Raceway over the next two days, Earnhardt revealed he'd texted his Hendrick Motorsports crew that he was "freakin' pumped" to get going.
After missing the last 18 races of the 2016 season with a concussion, Earnhardt is now less than a month away from his return to racing. Meaning any chance at getting the behind the wheel, even for testing, is a more than welcome opportunity.
"It's been a while," Earnhardt said of his excitement level. "You miss the camaraderie and the friendship that I have with my road crew. I think they miss me, so that makes you feel good. They seem excited that we're working together and we're back together, and when you go out there and you're able to learn and put laps down. The communications right there with me and [crew chief Greg Ives], we're communicating really good."
He did, however, have one minor setback.
Like many drivers, testing was never high on Earnhardt's favorites list. However, Phoenix is just the second time Earnhardt has had the chance to be in a car since the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. The previous drive was a private test held at Darlington Raceway conducted for Earnhardt to receive clearance to return to competition.
This time around, the endless laps of gathering data and the long list of objectives the No. 88 team will make their way through doesn't bother Earnhardt.
"You got to really understand what the objectives are, try to motivate yourself to be a part of learning everything you can, be an asset to the team and the guys," Earnhardt said. "If you're sitting on your phone and playing around, you need to talk to your crew chief and discuss with him and listen to what [the team] is talking about and try to be a part of the team when you're here.
"You forget and lose sight of that sometimes. Over time you get lazy. So, I'm excited. I'm happy that we're here and the car's good. We'll see how it goes."
In the cockpit, Earnhardt is right back at home. He felt he needed no time to get acclimated to the car again aside from small changes he noticed with areas such as the dashboard.
"But as far as driving the car," Earnhardt said, "I feel real comfortable out there."
Whether that holds true when the season begins has yet to be seen. This year marks Earnhardt's 18th at the Cup level, and while he knows his fans are looking for him to have success, he doesn't feel he needs to prove anything.
Excitement aside, however, there is something admittedly different for Earnhardt going into a new season.
"I'm just a little nervous whether there will be any kind of learning curve," Earnhardt said. "I hope there ain't ... I hope there's no rust to shake off. I'm really anxious to kind of get out there and have some success. Go out and run well and check that box [off] that we're right where we need to be."
Earnhardt tables contract talks for 'couple of months'
Saturday, 18 February 2017
RACER Staff / Image by LAT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has waited a long time and diligently worked his way back to his No. 88 Chevy after taking half of 2016 to recover from concussion systems. And he still feels he has a few years of racing left in him. So even though he's in a contract year, those discussions are simply going to take some time.
"I told (team owner) Rick [Hendrick] I'd like to get a couple of months under my belt to get confidence in my health," he told a group of reporters Saturday. "When I got hurt last year and what I saw it put the company through, how I saw it frustrate certain aspects of the company, it put a strain on our relationships. Our [sponsors] were worried about my future.
"Rick and everybody was worried. I don't want to do that again. So I want to get some races under my belt and get confidence in my health before I can commit to him. I don't want to make any promises I can't deliver on.
Making his first competitive laps since July 9, 2016 on Saturday, Earnhardt said he was not nervous to be back behind the wheel.
"Just trying to put as many laps as I can behind me and get further and further into this deal to where the events from last year become more of a distant memory and don't define me as who I am so much anymore," Earnhardt said after clocking in 11th fastest during practice.
Last edited by senor honda; 02-19-2017 at 12:58 AM.
02-19-2017 12:56 AM
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