Talladega took Earnhardt Jr. back to Myrtle

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 8, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 8, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Trophies are nice, large paychecks are better but for Dale Earnhardt Jr., the relief that comes from winning a Sprint Cup Series race may be the biggest perk of all.

On Friday morning at Kansas Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. was asked about the outpouring of emotions that resulted from the victory he posted last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

He said the emotion No. 1 was relief but for an interesting reason. The victory likely put him in the year-ending, 10-race, 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and in doing so, it will allow him to continue his love affair with the actual racing of stock cars.

“You just get back to the core values and just enjoying racing and driving,” the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet said. “You don’t have to worry about points.  You don’t have to worry about when you are going to win and answering questions about when you are going to win.  You don’t have to worry about a speck of doubt within the team or morale within the team. You can just go race and have fun.”

The kind of fun that can get pushed to the sidelines when racing becomes a bill-paying job.

“We used to go race at Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) every weekend,” Earnhardt said. “We didn’t care whether we won the track championship or not.  We just loved racing.  We couldn’t wait for our 100 lap feature.  The whole process of getting there, going and sizing your tires, getting the car ready and qualifying, the whole process was so much fun.  You can get right back down to the core of that.  Going through the whole weekend and just enjoying yourself because the pressure of the points, winning, the expectations, all that stuff can sort of zap the enjoyment out of it a little bit.  We had so much fun last year and now we get to do it all over again.”

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