Dale Earnhardt Jr. Spent Darlington Week Trying To Forget Richmond

Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat at home and thought about racing at Darlington all week long – and not because it's one of his favorite tracks.

Mostly, Earnhardt Jr. thought about Darlington because he was eager to forget his disappointing 19th-place result last week at Richmond.

"It was hard to get over what happened last week," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "It bothered me all week long, and I just couldn't wait to get to the racetrack to do something good and turn it around. We were on such a good (roll) there throughout the first part of the year. That kind of a deal (at Richmond) just really gets to you. You wanna get to the track and get it back like you were."

So what did happen at Richmond, exactly?

Crew chief Steve Letarte realized the intensity of the Richmond race had started to pick up – and thus the caution flags had started to wave more often, too. So he gambled with a fuel mileage strategy in hopes that Earnhardt Jr. would stay out and catch a late caution.

But the expected caution never came, and Earnhardt Jr. had to give up a position in the top 10 to pit under green. The driver was furious after the race.


As such, the driver said his frustration level was "really, really high" after the race – and said it should have been.


"I think I should have been frustrated," he said. "I know Steve was frustrated and the guys were disappointed. That's the way you're going to feel when you don't maximize your potential and you don't do as well as you can. We should have done better.


"We had a pretty good opportunity to do better, and we didn't."

Earnhardt Jr. added it was "just a missed opportunity" and noted, "You don't always make the right call every time out."

"We were out of sequence and when you come into your pit window, common sense says to come in and get fuel to finish the race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That's what you should do every time. You can't gamble on NASCAR throwing a caution at the end of all the races like you normally see. They didn't do it last week. You can't get yourself out there (and get) bit like that."

Immediately after the race, Earnhardt Jr. met with Letarte and the two talked it out. By the time they left the track that night, Earnhardt Jr. said, the driver and crew chief were on the same page.

"I thought that was good," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I was upset how we finished. He took a lot of responsibility, but we're a team and we race together. I believe in his decision at the time we made it, and I'd do the same thing again if he told me to stay out. ... We believe in each other. It shouldn't hold us back, as far as how that all went down."

As for Darlington, Earnhardt Jr. has had mixed success and said, "I don't really know what my track record is here."

"Steve says they were real good last year, so I'm looking forward to getting in the car and practicing," he said.

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