Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runner-up effort in the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS was impressive, but didn’t come easy at Bristol Motor Speedway. Earnhardt suffered an issue with the ECU unit right after the start of the race and lost two laps to the leaders. But by lap 146, he had moved back to the lead lap in 27th position. “Junior” methodically made his way back to the front and had a shot at the win in the waning laps before finishing second. This was the fifth top 10 finish in eight races so far for Earnhardt and the #88 team.
Here are some Q&A’s from the post race media center interview/debrief:
THE MODERATOR: “We are also joined by our second-place finisher, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. This is second runner-up finish. Could you talk a little bit about that great come back?”
DALE EARNHARDT JR: “Yeah, we got the Roush system on our cars for the stuck-throttle issue, and just warming the brakes up, I engaged that system to kill the throttle. I was warming the brakes up like I always do, and apparently I applied too much pressure and it killed the motor. We’ll work on that and maybe raise that threshold a little bit because I wasn’t really using the brake that much. So I just needed to cycle the ECU, reset that, came to pit road and did that. I probably could’ve done it on the track and saved ourselves a lot of trouble, but you don’t know what’s going on at that particular point, and you listen to the first thing anybody tells you when it comes to direction, and the first thing that my spotter said was that if I need to pit, I need to come on now. We got on pit road, cycled it, lost a couple laps. Greg did a good job getting the wave-arounds and knowing when to take them and stuff, and we got back on the lead lap. We had about a 10th-place car. We weren’t really that good all day. We tried a setup that we’ve never really ran here before, just trying to learn a little something going forward, and we’ll go home and science it out a little bit. We got real lucky the last three restarts to be on the outside line. We restarted 10th, 6th and 4th, and when you restart 4th you’re typically going to come out in second place after that. I was hoping we didn’t have any more cautions after that. So it was good. We’ll take it.
Q. So it’s a system where if you brake really hard, it kills the engine?
EARNHARDT JR.: “Yes. If your throttle is stuck and you mash the brake to a certain, you’re going to mash the (expletive) out of that brake when the throttle sticks, it’ll shut the motor off. That’s a system, that’s one of the two systems that you have to choose from in this sport. The other is a button on the steering wheel. I don’t like the button on the steering wheel, because when the throttle sticks, I ain’t going to think mash a button. I’ll be in the fence before it’s over with. So the brake thing works too good.”
Q. How did you keep yourself from just panicking when you had the problem and you tried several times to get a lap back and it took several times?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: “Yeah, I turned 40. Quit panicking. It is what it is these days. You know, as I got older, I tried harder to enjoy what I’m doing, and not get really upset and too out of shape when things aren’t going our way, plus I know Greg and them guys are on the pit box trying everything they can, and for me to — they’re the only ones I’m going to be able to yell at, so for me to — it doesn’t do any good to be hollering at them or upset or just lose your mind, and the over-the-wall guys especially, we don’t really spend a ton of time with the over-the-wall guys, and they’re real sensitive. They’re big ol’ guys and athletes, but they’ve got big hearts, too, so you can’t be screaming and coming unglued because they don’t want to work for people like that.”
So now you know the rest of the story regarding why Dale Jr’s motor shut off at the start of the Food City 500.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!