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The enigma that is Dale Earnhardt: And it's about time for him to start kicking butt again, isn't it?


Dale Earnhardt Jr. now has to dig his team out of a big hole (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   So will Dale Earnhardt Jr. have his head in the game this Sunday?
   First, he's suddenly 250 points down in the NASCAR standings, and he and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. have to start chipping away at that.
   So they might not be looking for any more headlines these next few weeks, just some good solid finishes.
   If Goodyear has a good tire for this Shelby 427, it could be a good race. The track, three years after it was repaved, has earned some racy characteristics, especially those first turn bumps.
   "Reminds me a lot of mid-90s Charlotte," Earnhardt says. "It is getting bumpy out there, but it is pretty fun.
   "They did a good job massaging the tire, and changing some of the characteristics of the tire. It seemed pretty comfortable, and they gave us a little more grip. So we can drive the cars, and feel what the car is doing."
    But what is Earnhardt himself doing?
   "It is tough when you get in a hole like we are, ain't no doubt about it, man," Earnhardt concedes. "All you can do is go back to the track and hope something good happens…hope you can regain some ground.
   "But it is going to take a lot of races.
    "You are going to have to string a lot of runs together to come out of the hole we are in.
    "But we have done it before.
   "It is very frustrating.
    "We could have just as easily had two good runs. Either we beat ourselves or something bites us.
    "Hopefully we'll turn it around and get some runs together in the next 10 weeks that will put us back up in the top-15."
    Of course the weekend here didn't start off that well either. Earnhardt had trouble with a broken fan blade on his Nationwide car in practice – "It went into the oil cooler, and knocked a hole in the oil cooler and pumped all the oil out of it."
    When things aren't going your way, the deal sometimes seems to just snowball.
   "When you put pressure on yourself, you tend to do a little too much, or over-do it," Earnhardt frets.
    "We just have to figure out some way to manage the pressure, manage the expectations, and get results.
    "I just need a little luck too. I ain't had all bad luck. But it just seems like I ain't living right.
    "Hopefully I can get things turned around and get my karma going in the right direction.
     "Daddy told me one time -- when I was a rookie in the Cup series and I had to take a provisional at Rockingham, and I felt terrible -- He said 'Your best day will be tomorrow.'
    "He said 'You are going to have bad days…and the next day will be better.'
    "But I don't think I am any better at dealing with bad days now than I was then: because there are other people in your life that are the opposite -- They don't put up with bad days.
    "You have a lot of people giving you different impressions on how to deal with stuff like that.
     "When you feel like you are right -- even when you know you might be wrong -- you try to stand up for what you believe in.
      "I always try to be honest, and I have never really tried to intentionally lie to somebody.
     "But then I have never said I was always right about everything."

You don't think it's tough being Earnhardt? We're not quite sure what this Vegas promotion is all about, but we know the man when we see him (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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