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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr.talks Daytona 500, Danica Patrick and his desire to win

It's 2012, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ready to start his racing season once again.
At media day at Daytona Thursday, he had a lot to say, about Daytona, Danica, and a lot more:
As far as Daytona goes, he said that of the 43 who start ... "at least 35 have a good shot at it," which is basically everyone once you get rid of start and parks.

I would agree with this to a point, it's definitely the most wide open race of the year as far as who can win, but no chump is going to come out on top. Trevor Bayne earned his win last year by mastering the two-car tango, and this year promises to be a whole new ball of wax with the return to more pack racing, which should benefit Dale Jr. -- who has never liked the 2-car style.

Defending Danica
He also had a lot of good to say about Danica Patrick, his Nationwide team's driver, who will be making a much hyped debut at Daytona. He had harsh words who claim that Danica is all hype and no talent on the race track.
“I think she does great driving. I’ve watched her in the Nationwide Series and thinks she does a great job. People may need to watch more Nationwide races. People comment without having any knowledge. They can make ignorant statement just based on what they want to believe. What they want to accept and not accept. I’ve watched her race and I think she does great and I’ve enjoyed watching her race. She made my team better and I didn’t even think about that. We’ve been asking the question for so many months of what she would do for this sport and what has she done for the sport but one of the things I didn’t anticipate was how she made my team better. As a person she’s good to be around. She’s engaging and fun for Tony (Eury) Jr. and the team to be around. They enjoy going to the track with her and working with her. So my company improved working with her. We didn’t take a step back. As the year went on our company progressed. So that was great. I was real happy about that because I own the thing.”

He's going to be defensive of his driver, of course, but this a big year for Danica. She did make strides last year, but she'll need to keep up to the new level she has set (running decent, with an occasional stint up front) and not fall back to how she started (in the back, way back, making dumb mistakes) to really win the true NASCAR fans over. Honestly, i bet most would love to see her succeed. It's up to her to do so, and she has the equipment to make it possible.

Time to win
As far as himself, Jr. said one thing is on his mind: winning.
"I'm frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating. Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here. This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.”
That's good to hear, because it's a big year for him too. I can hardly remember his last victory (his lone win with Hendrick) and the doubts about his ability to compete with the big boys will continue until he does start to win. I know he can, but will he? That's a big question heading into 2012.

And just like Danica, I think most people do want him to win. It is good for the sport, even Brian France openly admits he wants Jr. winning. Most fans probably agree.

He is still NASCAR's favorite son. Just think how big of an impact on the sport it would have if he was up front and winning regularly.

It used to happen, trust me I remember, and it can happen again if he can finally get the right combination of good car/good driving/good relationship with crew chief.

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