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Kansas Notes: Junior Approaches The Big Four-Oh

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 3 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a big birthday coming up. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. will turn 40 years old next Friday. This Friday, during a press conference at Kansas Speedway, he was asked about the birthday that many view as the beginning of the end, and of the 16 years he has spent as a Sprint Cup driver.

In typical Earnhardt Jr. style, Junior was laid back and appreciative.

Oh, and the concept of “fun” got a lot of play in his response, too.

“Definitely accomplished more than I thought I would when I was younger,” the Hendrick Motorsports superstar said. “I just wanted to make it and being the son of a guy that was so successful. The more success he had it seemed like the harder it would be for me to make it. I would just be sort of a chapter in that whole thing, but I’m real happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish and who I have been able to work with and the friends I’ve been able to make.

“It’s just fun getting to know all those people that helped get this thing going and move it from race to race. The accomplishments as far as just the statistics it’s definitely exceeded my expectations. We are still winning races and running good so maybe we can get a few more wins and have some more fun before it’s over. Definitely having this birthday come up makes you reflect quite a bit back on not so much the decisions or any regrets you have, just the fun stuff you have done and is the next 40 years going to be just as good, because the first 40 were pretty great.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. arrives in Kansas City at a opportune time. He’s here just in time to lend moral support to the Royals, who are Major League Baseball’s Cinderella story this week.

Earnhardt’s father became friends with Royals manager Ned Yost years back when they went on a hunting trip together.

Yost, a former catcher in the majors, wears the No. 3 to honor Earnhardt Sr.

Now, Yost is a fan of Earnhardt Jr.’s.

“I read a couple of articles where he was real pleased with how we did in Daytona,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Knowing his friendship with my Dad it’s pretty cool that he is watching me. That meant a really good deal to me. He is a genuine guy with a genuine appreciation and friendship with my father. It means a lot to me that he follows me still to this day and I think that I want to see him do well as much.

“I have seen him in different circles. He has been on iRacing a little bit over the last several years, seen him on there. Just different things, but we don’t really have consistent contact with each other, but there is a mutual respect for sure.”

During practice a week ago in Dover, Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a steering wheel. Yes, while the car was at speed.

Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson was asked Friday if he’d ever broke a steering wheel while his car was rolling.

Kind of, he said.

“I scared the hell out of a reporter one time in my off-road truck,” Johnson said. “I took the steering wheel off and handed it to her when we were going down the road (laughter). That went over well on a press ride. She started beating me with the steering wheel (laughter). I put it back on; like OK, OK!”

During his meeting with the press Friday, Carl Edwards, who is moving from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing next year, was asked about testing in 2015.

Edwards let the media know that this is this year and next year is next year.

“I don’t know,” Edwards said. “I haven’t thought about that too much. I am not trying to avoid your question but I have made the decision not to worry about next year. As much as the competitor in me wants to start planning for next year I think the right thing for me to do is focus on driving Jack’s 99 Ford and get the most I can out of that. I think as soon as I start thinking about anything else it could hurt us just a little bit and right now we can’t afford that.”

Anybody out there think becoming a father would have turn Clint Bowyer all serious? Didn’t think so.

Bowyer talked about becoming a father Friday. As usual, it was goo theater.

“What a wild experience – all your friends and family, peers and everybody is trying to warn you and tell you that it’s going to change your life,” the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said. “You’re like, ‘There’s no way.’ Then all of the sudden that little gremlin comes out of there and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’ I was probably not the norm as far as spectator in an event like that.

“In the room there I was high-fiving people and I was kind of pushing the doctor out of the way at one point because I was trying to get a better view of him coming into the world. Of course the nurses are trying to hold me back and they’re like, ‘You can’t get that close.’ I’m like, ‘Get the hell out of my way, here he comes.’ It was a lot of fun.

“We were all laughing. An amazing experience. He’s running really good during the day — you think this is way too easy, this is no problem at all. Then his engine drastically takes a turn for the worst about the time you’re trying to go to sleep on that really comfortable couch over in the corner that’s about this wide and basically like sleeping right here on this tabletop, he starts really screaming very loud. The nurses tend to come in to do paperwork at 3:00 AM, which is really handy. They want to ask you about your education and things like that and you’re like, ‘Lady, can we wait until daylight maybe — that would be a good goal,’ — 3:00 AM is not a good time in the morning to be talking to me with him screaming, her pissed and now I am. It’s been a wild deal and Cash (Bowyer’s son) is awesome.”

Good things he didn’t have twins.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 3 2014
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