Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the most laps in the Amp Energy Juice 500, but he also led the list of cars that went to the garage with damage from an accident Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I got into Jeff and didn’t hit him square and turned him down the race track and ended up wrecking him,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We just didn’t hit him square, misjudged the push I was going to give him and did it incorrectly.
“I cost his crew a great race car and opportunity to win. He had a really fast car, I apologize. … We were racing along there, probably more racing than we should have been doing, but it is fun. I just kind of caught up and got a little overzealous there getting ready to push Jeff.”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver led a race-high 24 laps as he was seeking his first win since June 2008.
“You want to be up front and you have to put your car toward the front for your sponsors and your fans,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You have a lot of people here to please and you feel that responsibility to be up there all the time every lap you can be up front.
“Everybody has that same mentality. We are all just kind of racing around. It is fun and pretty exciting. [There are] just times as you seen with my accident and I guess the last couple that we have had, just sometimes you make mistakes and I made one today.”
Burton realized Earnhardt Jr. made a mistake, and while frustrated, he wasn’t angry with him.
“When you push like that and draft like that, it is going to happen,” Burton said. “I did it all day long. I had a few times when I thought I was [going to] turn somebody around and didn’t.
“It is just the nature of the beast. He did not do anything wrong. I’m not mad about it. That is kind of like how our year has gone. Fast race cars. We put ourselves in position to win races and then stuff seems to happen. [It’s] been that way all year.”
Burton’s car was too damaged to continue and he finished 41st, dropping two spots in the standings to 10th.
Earnhardt Jr.’s team spent 25 laps in the garage before he returned to the track and finished 40th. He remained 19th in the standings.
“As soon as I turned him, I felt terrible about it,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I just respect him so much. He’s taught me a lot in my career.
“I didn’t show him as much respect as I should have but I didn’t have any intentions of spinning him out. I was racing a little bit hard out there.”