Dale Earnhardt Jr. Not A Darlington Lover; McGrew Discusses Failed Richmond Strategy

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a fan of old-time NASCAR racing, spending his free time by watching hours of historic race tapes.

But he is not a fan of racing at NASCAR's most historic track, Darlington Raceway.

"I don't know man, this place is probably the catalyst for my retirement one day," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "I'll probably come here when I'm 45 and run a race and say, 'The hell with it.'"

Earnhardt Jr. has reason to be frustrated. He hit the wall on the second lap of practice on Friday morning, which caused his No. 88 team to go to a backup car.

"We came here with a real loose setup and it got out from under me," he said. "I wasn't even going fast, I was still a second off from what we're running now. Just got loose and hit the wall."

The damage wasn't severe, but crew chief Lance McGrew worried that there could be some problem with the car (like a bent frame) that the crew couldn't see. So to save practice time and to play on the safe side, McGrew called for the backup.

Earnhardt Jr. scraped the wall again with the backup car, but he shrugged off the incident and said the car was fine.

"I'll probably hit it a bunch more before the weekend is over with," he said, chuckling.

The 88 didn't run well at Darlington last year and this is Earnhardt Jr.'s first visit to Darlington with McGrew, so the team came to the track with something "totally different," the driver said.

Said McGrew: "I think that's a big deal today. We unloaded and we couldn't go off any history here at all, so we threw something together based on what our teammates have done or have been doing here, and it was just too loose. It was just a situation where he got a little bit high, and as soon he tried to pull it down, it snapped loose. It happens.

"I wish I had a notebook and could say 'I was here with Junior and we were really good in practice and got loose in the race.' We don't have that notebook, here.''

Earnhardt Jr. didn't want to talk too much about his struggles at Richmond last week, answering a question about the car by saying, "I don't know. I'm just the driver. Go in there and talk to Lance."

Looking back, McGrew said he made the wrong call at Richmond by opting to pit rather than accept the wave-around (twice). He felt the car needed adjustments, and Earnhardt Jr. could race for the free pass and catch a caution.

But while racing Bobby Labonte for the free pass, Earnhardt Jr. cut a tire, and the race was effectively over.

"Normally we have 11 or 12 cautions at Richmond and we had like, five or six, so it's a big difference," McGrew said. "You've got to go with history there. ... We figured this will be a short run and we'll get the lucky dog and we'll be good. It just didn't work out.'

"I thought it was (right call) at that point in time. But hindsight 20-20, no, it wasn't.''

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