Last weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway was atypical for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. was committed to working with teammate Jimmie Johnson in a tandem from the beginning of the race, with the game plan to ride around the back of the pack and stay out of trouble.
But not only did the pair stay out of trouble – they stayed out of contention for the win.
"We all sort of collectively sunk the ship as the race went on," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "We collectively learned our lesson and we won't do that again."
Looking back, Earnhardt Jr. admitted the race was "a bit of a disappointment" for the fans, now that the "new has worn off" from the two-car draft.
So what's Earnhardt Jr.'s solution? More testing.
"We need to go test," he said. "We need to take a lot of race cars and test a lot of things. Get creative and unique with a lot of ideas. Get everyone on the same package and really go thoroughly through it."
He pointed out the preseason test at Daytona each year accomplishes very little in the big picture ("really just burning fuel," he said) and would be an ideal time to work on finding the right package to break up the tandems and improve the quality of racing on plate tracks.
Earnhardt Jr. would like NASCAR to work on making the spoiler "more narrow" and "smaller," while working on softer rear shocks.
"I think the spoiler is way too big," Earnhardt Jr. said. "When I look at the spoiler, I can't imagine there was a whole lot of study that went behind how effective it would be, what it would do. It's just a big piece of steel, as wide as it can possibly be and pretty tall."
The ultimate goal would be to reduce the size of the hole each car creates in the draft, thus allowing for more downforce on the cars behind. The current body style has a larger greenhouse, which thus creates a larger hole in the air and allows the second car to pull behind the lead car and drive away.
That's something Earnhardt Jr. – and many fans – would like to see eliminated.
The hope is by altering the size and design of the spoiler, along with changing the shock package, a "beach ball" effect would be created between two cars, preventing them from connecting nose-to-tail as easily as they do now.
What would Earnhardt's ideal change to the cars look like? Something similar to the aerodynamic package used from 1998 to 2004, he said.
That package saw smaller, rounder spoilers that arguably produced some of the best plate racing in recent memory.
How did NASCAR get away from that driver-friendly, fan-favorite package? In Earnhardt Jr.'s eyes, the sanctioning body "detuned" the cars so much that it has put teams in a box.
Prior to the introduction of the new car, crew members were able to push the envelope, work on molding the fenders, adjusting the body to make it as aerodynamic as allowed under the NASCAR rule book.
Now, that rule book allows for much less innovation and wiggle room.
Earnhardt Jr. said this has made things in NASCAR "super duper damn level" and has forced the "geniuses" in the garage to work "with their arm behind their back."
He pointed out innovation and creativity have led to some of the best advances in the sport – but that is not happening with the more stringent rules NASCAR has in place.