Cooler head prevails

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, talks with a crew member during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 3, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Now that he’s had a few days to think about it, Dale Earnhardt Jr. regrets his post-race criticism of crew chief Steve Letarte for the decision to stay on the track for a late-race restart last Sunday at Martinsville.

Earnhardt and Brad Keselowski were the only two drivers to stay out on the track for a restart on Lap 482 of 500 and took the green flag side-by-side on the front row.

Keselowski held the sixth position against those who had come to pit road for tires, but Earnhardt dropped like a rock and ultimately finished 21st in his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after a two-week hiatus because of a concussion.

After the race, Earnhardt questioned the decision to forego a pit stop in no uncertain terms, but on Friday at Texas, he was much more conciliatory.

“When we made the decision to stay out, I was positive coming to that restart,” Earnhardt said. “I was positive about what we were doing. When he made the decision for us to not pit, I didn’t immediately throw my hands up in the air at that moment. I was still like ‘All right, you know I’m going to go as hard as I can go here.’

“I really didn’t think we were going to be as bad as we were on that little run after that restart. So I really wasn’t that upset about it at all. Then we had the restart and the car was real tight, real slow and just in the way. People were all over me trying to get by me. … I was just getting more and more frustrated.”

That’s what led to Earnhardt’s outburst after the race.

“I think I lost control of my emotions a little bit in how I expressed my opinion after the race to him, to you (media), to everybody,” Earnhardt said. “Because, looking back now, I really wasn’t that mad about it. I didn’t even think it was a bad call when we made it.

“I was being a bit of a backseat driver or armchair quarterback after the fact. He had done a great job being real supportive of me, and I need to realize he is trying to help me. He’s not trying to throw me to the wolves. He is trying to help me win races.”

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