Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat on the stoop of the No. 88 hauler, holding his head and grimacing repeatedly. It wasn't exactly clear what was causing him pain – his head, the way his car was mangled at the end of Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega or how much he has grown to dislike the restrictor-plate racing he once loved.
Perhaps it was all of the above.
Earnhardt Jr. made his strongest comments to date about restrictor-plate racing after a last-lap crash triggered by Tony Stewart collected his car along with at least 19 others.
"If this is what we did every week, I wouldn't be doing it," he said after finishing 21st. "I'll just put it to you like that. If this is how we raced every week, I'd find another job."
The driver, who fell to 10th in the point standings and is now all but eliminated from NASCAR's Chase, said he felt OK ("I just took a lot of hard shots") and had no idea how the wreck happened ("I couldn't see, really").
But regardless of the circumstances, Earnhardt Jr. now despises the type of racing seen at Talladega and Daytona, where he used to be a master.
"I don't even want to go to Daytona and Talladega next year," he said, "but I ain't got much choice."
Told many fans might have thought Sunday's race was entertaining, Earnhardt Jr. seemed incredulous – and almost angry. He said people who wanted to see a big crash such as the one on the last lap were "bloodthirsty."
"I can't believe nobody is sensible enough to realize just how ridiculous that was," he said, looking at a group of reporters. "That is ridiculous that all those cars were tore up. And everybody is just, 'Ho hum, no big deal.' That's not alright."
Asked for suggestions as for what NASCAR could do to fix the problem, Earnhardt Jr. said he was just a driver, not an engineer. But he wondered aloud why smart people couldn't come up with a way to separate the cars a bit more than they are now.
"Everybody can get on the chip about it and get all excited about what just happened, but for the longevity of the sport, that ain't healthy," he said. "I don't care what anybody says. It's good for the here and now – it'll get people talking today – but for the long run, that's not good for the sport, the way that race ended and the way the racing is. It's not going to be productive for years to come."
As for his championship hopes? Earnhardt Jr. didn't know where he was in the standings, but it was obvious he realized his position (52 points behind leader Brad Keselowski) wasn't good.
"We'll keep digging," he said. "We'll see."