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Pedley: Junior Explains His Class With Class

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 3 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets in some practice laps at Kansas Speedway on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Kansas City, Kan. – It’s real easy for people to criticize Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his lack of consistent success by saying he lacks the intensity, drive and demeanor of his late

father. It’s especially easy for people who never really knew Dale Earnhardt Sr.

But the fact is, the son’s level-headed approach to racing is a direct and calculated tribute to the father.

So said Junior prior to practice for Sunday’s STP 400 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway on Friday.

The whole topic of Junior’s racing emotions came up during a press conference at which a recent column in the Charlotte, N.C. newspaper was brought up.

In that column, the author talked about how Earnhardt Jr. handled the disappointment of running out of gas while leading on the final turn of the final lap of the Coca-Cola 600.

“Classy” was the way the author, Tom Sorenson, described how Junior bellied up to the disappointment bar afterward and talked about coming up a couple hundred yards short

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a credit to his father. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

of winning the race.

Junior, on Friday, was asked if he saw the column and if so, what he thought about it.

“I did see the column and I don’t really know really why that’s the case,” Earnhardt said.

And, he went on and explained his tendancy toward  keeping his cool during hot moments, “I don’t want to disappoint anybody. My father raced in this sport for a long time and he raced in front and worked and talked and worked with a lot of people that I work with today.  A lot of people that are in this room and a lot of people in that garage. Being his son, I don’t want to disappoint anybody.

“I don’t want to say anything that’s going to make anyone ashamed of me or I just want to run good and I want to run well, but I want to act right too. In the end, I want people to say that I was a good person and I was honest – when I don’t race anymore or whatever.  That I was a good guy to be around and a good sport about things.  Mainly, I just don’t want to humiliate what my dad did for the sport and what he did for himself, what he did for our family name – don’t want to do anything that’s going to tarnish any of that.  That was probably all it’s about.”

People who have spent time with Junior, who have seen him against the backdrop of the real world, have maintained that is all about right.

They talk about a young guy with unequalled pressure on his shoulders doing his level-headed best to stay level headed.

People around Junior get dang snappish when they hear and read that he is an
embarrassment to his father.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Or so I’m told.

My direct interaction with Earnhardt has been via press conference and a handful of

Dale Earnhardt Jr. heads to a disappointing finish at CMS. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

one-on-one interviews.

But I have always been impressed that he remains the same person after the recorder is turned off and the notebook put away than he was before.

More of that real-person aspect of Junior emerged Friday  when he was asked about a video that is making the rounds on the internet. It’s a video of a female fan watching the Charlotte race and then bumming out when Junior runs out of gas.

“That’s the way I take a Redskins loss, I take a Redskins season the same way,” he said. “I’m as bitter as I was at the end of the season…I’m still as bitter about it.  When you’re passionate and you care – it’s a cliché, but when that’s all that matters you’re ticked until things get right or you’re upset until things get right no matter what.  I can definitely relate.

“That again, that extends itself or that tells you a lot about the way the world is today and what kind of world we’re living in. Everything is going to go straight to the internet.  That’s a way for people to express themselves, get their feelings across, show what they’re thinking, what they want – for people, I guess for those people it was a way to release those emotions and get it out. Have to tell somebody. Sometimes you get ticked off or get tore up about something and you have nobody to talk to – I guess that’s a good outlet for them.”

Sorry, I just can’t find anything in there anywhere that requires harsh criticism.

And my guess is that Senior would be darn proud of the way his son has handled the critics.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 3 2011
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • linda says:

    This is why he has so many fans that love him cause he is a decent and caring person.

  • Bill H. says:

    Dale Sr. never did anything “in the heat of the moment.” He was at al, times in control of himself and his car. Abuse was not in his vocabulary, and I would say that Junior has done an exemplary job of honoring his father from the day he entered the series. Like Terry, I am not a fan, but I have always respected the kid.

  • Terry says:

    Jim …..I have alway’s like this kid. I am not a fan but he drives clean and doesn’t apear to be anything but what you see. He is just a good guy in a strange place. Stuck between carrying the load of millions of fanatics……yet being made richer by the minute for it.
    He seems to be his own man……that is all you can ask.
    Terry