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Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to get fired up and help boost NASCAR's slumping TV ratings


Dale Jr. -- Hey, mon, no sweat (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he doesn't want to talk about reports of a possible change in crew chiefs, and insists he and Casey Mears, despite their hot run-in at Phoenix are still good buds.
   "Me and Mears are cool," Earnhardt says. "We've been buddies. What happens on the track stays on the track.
   "It's good to be on probation every once in a while, I guess."
    Maybe Earnhardt can make amends with NASCAR officials by putting on a good show here -- NASCAR sponsors and executives will all be hoping that Sunday's 500 miler will produce better TV ratings than seen so far this season. Last Saturday night's Phoenix 500 pulled a very disappointing 3.6 rating, almost 20 percent off last year's race. Average ratings for Fox' eight Sprint Cup races this year are down more than 10 percent from 2008.
    "Me and Casey are real good friends, so we definitely wouldn't go the week without having a discussion about it," Earnhardt said. "He's having a better season this year but is still not satisfied. And I'm definitely in the same position he is, and we're just trying to run better.
   "It's just frustrating.
    "I knew that he had made a mistake because Casey doesn't run over people, but I just lost my cool. It happens.  
    "I just hated leading the race and running good and then getting wrecked running 20th. That's all that was."
    NASCAR doled out six-race probation penalties to both Earnhardt and Mears for their bumping.
    "NASCAR had the same penalties for the same infractions before, so they can't really change the way they do the penalties without getting a lot of fuss, especially if I'm involved," Earnhardt said. "I don't care. I don't think it’s a serious issue.
    "I don't want to put anybody in danger -- anybody coming out on the race track, you know, people walking across the race track or whatever.
    "I don't know enough about Phoenix to have known better to known if that was a safe place to do something like that….
    "Maybe it's best that they continue to penalize people for doing those type of things, just for the safety of the spectators and officials.
    "Six weeks probation is a good penalty, because as a driver you're taught to watch yourself the next six weeks, and you get back in the habit of acting more professional on the race track.
    "So it's good to have the penalty…but it's good to have the fireworks too. I think they have to go hand in hand.
     "I wouldn't have done it if my car wasn't torn up. I don't want to tear up my car if ain't torn up, but it was already wrecked.
    "I think NASCAR did the right thing…and I think they did the right thing in the past…and they’ll do the right thing in the future."

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