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CUP: Earnhardt Jr. Still Mad About Speeding Penalty

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was still mad Tuesday about the speeding penalty he was assessed at Bristol Motor Speedway. And that could be good news for Junior Nation.

Earnhardt Jr., who went on a profanity-laced tirade on his in-car radio after the penalty on Sunday, said that being a little bit angry can motivate a driver. And he has no anger toward crew chief Lance McGrew, who at one point told Earnhardt Jr. not to “lay down” on him and stay focused.

“Everybody goes through that,” Earnhardt Jr. said prior to testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I think that in the heat of the moment, you’re going to get [angry] and you’re going to fire off some shots and I was really really mad about that damn speeding penalty, and I needed to say some [stuff] to get calmed down a little bit because I was so [angry].

“Running my mouth, that’s my pop-off valve. It gives me a little bit of relief, so I could get back to what I was doing. It’s however anyone really interprets it. It’s open for interpretation, I guess. Lance handled it pretty good. I was at no point mad at him. We haven’t really gotten into it since we started working together over anything. We’ve got a pretty good balance between our personalities to keep us from doing that.”

Earnhardt Jr., winless in his last 62 races, was running fifth at the time of the penalty. He rebounded to finish seventh in the race.

“You’re going to have days where you get a little hot on the radio and I haven’t really been hot on the radio in a long, long time,” said Earnhardt Jr., who began working with McGrew last May. “And we ain’t run worth a [crap] in a while, either. There ain’t been no reason to … complain when you’re running like [crap].

“So when we’re running pretty good and you can almost reach that top five or see yourself almost in a position to get a win and it gets snapped away from you that quick, man, it’s hard to bite your tongue. It’s hard to sit there and just take it and not show any emotion.”

Why was Earnhardt Jr. angry? He was angry because teammate Mark Martin’s pit stall was just before the end of the timing zone, so Martin could go over the speed limit in the zone since his average speed would be below the speed limit because of the time it took to make the pit stop. Earnhardt Jr.’s pit stall was just beyond the line, so when he followed Martin, he was over the speed limit.

Although he wants NASCAR to use technology that would track the cars’ speed at all times to determine whether anyone is speeding on pit road, Earnhardt Jr. said he wouldn’t ask NASCAR about it.

“There’s no point in asking,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “They ain’t going to do nothing about it. They like how they’ve got it and that’s the way it’s going to be. … It [angers] you when that happens to you. This is the [freaking] real deal.

“We’re out there racing our [butt] off, I’m busting my [butt] to get in the top five, and now it’s gone like that, as soon as I got there. I was [angry]. I probably overreacted but there is an underlying story to the issue.”

But being angry can be OK, he said.

“As soon as that happens, all you can think about is how do I get back to where I was?” Earnhardt Jr. said. “How do I regain all that [position] that I just lost? It’s really dire, it’s all about survival and doing everything that you can to gain what you lost because it’s a pretty [freaking] upsetting and disappointing situation.

“Sometimes it can definitely be a motivating factor.”

Despite the anger, Earnhardt Jr. did finish seventh and is now eighth in the standings. Last year, he finished the season 25th in points.

“I’m happy with how things are going in a positive manner and we’re doing better, but we’re still real thirsty to get better,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We had a top-five car Sunday, but we want to be better than that. I can see where even Sunday when the car was pretty good and we were competitive, there are just little things that the car does, where you’re knowing we need to roll the center a little bit better.

“So we as a team need to be more successful in getting the left front to work in the middle of the corner, things like that. Those are all things that we have to dig deeper within ourselves to figure out and learn and understand.”

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