Dale Earnhardt Jr. says his profanity-laced rant over the team radio at Bristol was because he needed to vent about frustration from being penalized for speeding.
Some personal comments from his crew chief didn't help, either.
On the team radio at Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. exploded in a tirade against NASCAR's pit road speeding rules and teed off on crew chief Lance McGrew. Before testing Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. explained why he was so upset.
In regard to McGrew's "Don't lay down on me" comment (in other words, encouraging his driver not to quit), Earnhardt Jr. said the words pressed his buttons in a big way.
"He was like, ‘Don't lay down on me,' and that pisses me off, because that's a little touchy subject with me," Earnhardt Jr. said, patting his chest. "People have always been giving me shit about my motivation – all my career. Whether I'm not focused enough, whether I've got the desire, the passion, all that stuff.
"Anytime anybody sort of touches on that type of shit, it pisses me off. Plus I wasn't in a good mood at the time."
Earnhardt Jr. said it wasn't unusual for crew chiefs and drivers to "fire back at each other every once in awhile," and said he didn't think it was a big deal.
As for his comments about the pit-road speeding penalty, Earnhardt Jr. said he had to release his anger and know he was being heard in order to focus on driving.
"I had to cuss my ass off just to calm down," he said. "I personally can't get back to what I'm doing just by sitting there and cussing by myself or punching the dash or whatever these other drivers do. I can't get calmed back down.
"I have to tell somebody. I have to know somebody's hearing my side of it, you know what I mean? And then I'm like, ‘Alright, I'm alright. Back to work.'"
Earnhardt Jr. was nailed for speeding because he was .06 mph over NASCAR's 5-mph tolerance for exceeding the pit-road speed limit. His frustration came from the location of his pit box in relation to the timing lines on pit road.
At larger tracks, there are several time lines which allow NASCAR to tell whether a driver's average speed between the lines exceeds the limit. But that allows some drivers whose pit stalls are before the line to go faster right before they slide into their box.
Earnhardt Jr.'s pit stall was after the time line, and when he gassed his car, he got caught. He knew what happened, but was simply frustrated.
"It just pissed me off to say, ‘I worked my ass off, I just got into fifth [place] before that happened and I have to go all the way in the back of the field because of sixth-hundreths of a mile an hour?'" he asked incredulously. "I mean, fuckin-a! I understand that they give you five miles an hour, but why give you five? What's the point in the tolerance? It's just frustrating."
The sport's most popular driver suggested a better solution for NASCAR would be to figure out a way to track speeds on individual cars. Technology (like on display during tests) has advanced to the point where a car's speed can be monitored, he said.
Earnhardt Jr. said his pit road speeding issue at Bristol might be indicative of a larger issue. At short tracks, drivers often have difficulty getting their pit road speed set by the pace car, so they must rely on an RPM number calculated by their engineers (drivers don't have speedometers in their car and instead use tachometers which give RPM readings).
"They say ‘Pace car is at pit road speed, get your fucking tach,'" Earnhardt Jr. said. "Well, I can't get it, it's all over the place. Cars are going and weaving and shit before the race starts. At Bristol? It's a fucking short track.
"My [RPM calculation] was 5100. So I'm running 5000 down pit road all day long and I was OK until I gassed it to go to my stall like everyone else does, but I shouldn't have done it, because I know that I passed the timing line."
On a final note before walking away, Earnhardt Jr. wanted to make sure his fans understood he didn't intentionally dodge the media after the race. He parked his car at the exit of Turn 1 rather than drive into the crowded garage and then bolted.
He would have given an interview after the race, but reporters didn't find him before he left.
His reason for a quick exit? Earnhardt Jr. has decided not to helicopter out of some tracks anymore in an effort to save money. So in an effort to get to the airport faster, he's trying to make a quick escape to beat traffic.
"We're hauling ass after these races and doing it the old-school way," he said. "It's kind of fun. Saves me a couple grand every week, anyway."