Earnhardt feels embarrassing draft after wreck at Daytona
Regarded as usually the best at working the aerodynamic drafting at Daytona and Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks being the trigger of a huge multi-car wreck in testing two weeks ago at Daytona as one of the “most embarrassing moments” of my career.
Earnhardt made that revelation Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour stop at the Hendrick Motorsports complex where his No. 88 Chevrolets are prepared.
Earnhardt made his red-faced error on the first day of drafting practice for the new generation Sprint Cup cars. Trying to give Marcos Ambrose a push, Earnhardt turned the Ambrose car in the middle of a pack, setting off the crash that damaged several cars and resulted in a number of teams missing the final day of practice.
“I think it was embarrassing because of the attention and focus put on the new car,” Earnhardt said. “After that accident, no one wanted to draft. I didn’t, either.
“I realized that it was a new car and everyone was there to learn things and undercover specifics about the car, and that was taken away from the teams because of my mistake. I felt like I shorthanded a bunch of guys in that test.”
The wreck won’t have any bearing on Earnhardt feeling that he can race in the draft well.
“It was a mistake but I feel pretty good about my abilities,” Earnhardt said. “It’s not going to affect my confidence of how I’m going to drive out there. I don’t like being that guy who made something happen. You don’t want to be in that conversation.”
In one of the early surprises of the year, Earnhardt’s car owner Rick Hendrick admitted that Earnhardt’s car does not have sponsorship for all the races.
Hendrick said Earnhardt, the sport’s most popular driver, has sponsors through the end of the summer and is not worried about filling out the rest of the year.
“We’re looking for the right fit,” Hendrick said. “We’ve turned down some companies because they weren’t right. And we’re looking at 2014 and 2015 as well as this year.
“We’re not looking for just any company. I don’t want to devalue it. I’d rather sponsor it myself through Hendrick cars. We spend about $100 million on advertising so I might as well do it.”
RACE AROUND THE CLOCK
The 24 hours of Daytona, the first major race of the year, starts Saturday and ends Sunday at Daytona.
Among the favorites are cars owned by Chip Ganassi that will have his NASCAR, IndyCar and sports car drivers sharing the seat.
Another entry with NASCAR connections is a GT-class Ferrari fielded by Michael Waltrip and his Cup team co-owner Rob Kauffman. Waltrip convinced his Cup driver Clint Bowyer to be part of team.
It will be the first sports car race for dirt-track graduate Bowyer, who is worried about racing against Prototype class cars that are considerably faster than the GT cars.
“What bothers me is those guys are about 50 miles an hour faster and you don’t know if they are going to pass you on the right or left,” Bowyer said. “I’m really not looking forward to that at 5 in the morning. In Cup, you know where the faster cars are going. But there doesn’t seem to be any pattern with this other racing.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway president Marcus Smith said the format for the All-Star race in May will change and will be announced in the near future. ... Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing announced jet manufacturer Cessna and other brands from Textron will become sponsors of the No. 1 Chevrolets driven by Jamie McMurray. Cessna replaces Bass Pro Shops, which went to Tony Stewart. ... The pre-race concert before the All-Star race at CMS will feature country singer Billy Currington. ... Tommy Baldwin is changing the number of his cars that have Dave Blaney as driver from No. 36 to No. 7. Baldwin is making the switch in honor of his late father, who drove No. 7 in Modifieds. ... Daytona International Speedway revealed an artist’s rendering of a potential makeover for the track’s frontstretch grandstands. The changes include update entrances, a triple-deck grandstand topped by new suites. ... Hendrick said it will enter Chase Elliott, now 17, in seven Truck races and five ARCA events.