Earnhardt Jr. rocked,
but rolls on
By Dave Rodman- NASCAR Online - RICHMOND, Va. (May 13,
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is resilient, redoubtable and right now, on a roll in the NASCAR Busch
Series Grand National Division.
Witness his day on Thursday, which saw him come into Richmond International Raceway
leading the standings in his title defense; wreck his primary car badly at the opening of
the 90-minute afternoon practice session; then come back to qualify 4th for Friday night's
Hardee's 250 in a car in which he had scant practice time.
When you're hot, you're hot.
"Yeah, not too bad for a backup car," Earnhardt Jr. said, grinning under a
Florida State University baseball cap that graced his close-cropped bleached-blonde locks
on this overcast day in Richmond. "That's what it's all about -- being able to get
your backup ready in a short time like this.
"This car won three of four races (Milwaukee, St. Louis, Richmond -- it's other race
was Nazareth, Pa.) that we took it to last year. I'm disappointed that we tore up the
primary car like we did. Anytime you can handle a situation like this, like our crew did,
you know you've got a championship crew."
The crew has staked him to a 19-point lead over 1998 championship protagonist Matt Kenseth
after 11 races of 32 this season. But that was despite a 34th-place finish last weekend in
the New Hampshire 200, after an accident inside the last 10 laps of the race at New
Earnhardt creased the right side of his ACDelco Chevrolet between Turns 3 and 4 early in
the mid-afternoon practice session. He was one of about four drivers who bruised RIR's
"The track's real slick but I don't know why it happened," 'Lil' E' said of his
wall-banger. "I don't know anything about sealers, asphalt -- good or bad. It's
The surprising element -- on a track that was last treated with "sealer" in
March 1998 -- was that Earnhardt Jr. dominated the Autolite Platinum 250 in winning
Richmond's fall race in 1998. He also ran second in the 1998 Hardee's 250.
"We come here with the same set-up we ran at the first race last year,"
Earnhardt Jr. -- who doesn't hide his mistakes in the least -- said. "I saw a couple
cars that were loose. We were loose and maybe we should have come in and tried to fix it.
"I was hoping the tires would come in but maybe it's the difference in the track
between last year and this year. Maybe this will be all the bad luck we'll have."
qualifies 4th for Hardee's 250 in a backup car May
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to go to backup after
crashing in practice. The damage to Earnhardt's primary machine looked fairly minor, but
the rear end was bent too severely to repair on site. The car Earnhardt qualified won
races last year at Milwaukee, Gateway and Richmond, and dominated a 4th at Nazareth. The
top-five qualifers are 1. 57 Jason Keller Chv 00:21.616 124.907; 2. 60 Mark Martin Frd
00:21.665 124.625; 3. 99 Kevin Lepage Chv 00:21.809 123.802; 4. 3 Dale Earnhardt
Jr. Chv 00:21.822 123.728; 5. 32 Jeff Green Chv 00:21.838 123.638.