Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been an enthusiastic adopter of Twitter following his second Daytona 500 victory to open the season, but after his early crash last Monday at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s most popular driver got down to business.
Earnhardt was back in the car the next day for a tire test at Michigan International Speedway that saw him and several other drivers hit trap speeds in excess of 215 miles per hour.
That took up a good deal of his time this week, but today at Darlington, he also said that he didn’t want to be seen as slacking off following the Texas incident.
On Lap 13 of the Duck Commander 500, Earnhardt ran his left side tires into the infield grass. The impact severely damaged his car, which then skidded into the wall to end his day.
“Twitter is a bit of a playground and I don’t want to horse around if we are not doing good,” said Earnhardt. “I don’t want to be on there goofing off and making light of the situation because it was a frustrating mistake.
“It was something I don’t take very lightly. Just being able to get back in the car and test at Michigan was a big help for me to get past it and to get focused on the next race.”
Unfortunately for him, Darlington is far from what you’d consider an ideal “rebound track” and he knows it. Even so, he’s eager to get Texas behind him.
“This is a tough event at Darlington,” said Earnhardt, who has never won at the track where his father, Dale Sr., triumphed nine times in his career. “We’ve got some decent runs here but we haven’t really come here and had a race that we thought we lost.
“This is going to be a tough place to come rebound, but we are going to give it our best. I’m just glad to be back at the track. Go ahead and get a race or two in the bank and put [Texas] behind us.”
Earnhardt was 11th fastest in “Happy Hour” before today’s qualifying, which starts at 6 p.m. ET.
Marco Andretti wanted to do something really special to honor the 25th anniversary of grandfather Mario Andretti’s final Indy car win in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway (now known as ISM Raceway).
So the third-generation Andretti, along with his team, Andretti-Herta Autosport, came up with a plan and design that will take longtime race fans back in time when it appears early next month for the Phoenix Grand Prix.
Marco Andretti’s No. 98 Oberto Beef Jerky Circle K/Curb Honda will be decked out in the colors of the car his grandfather won his last race on the one-mile short track 25 years ago.
“When the idea of a throwback livery celebrating my grandfather’s final win was thrown around, Oberto was ready to get to the drawing board,” Marco Andretti said in a media release. “The black, white and red car resembles many of my family’s race cars and was a big part of my life growing up.
“It’s really cool to be able to add one of my cars to that family legacy.”
The car is a virtual double of the legendary Newman-Haas Racing and Texaco/Havoline-sponsored car Mario drove on that celebratory day in the Valley of the Sun 2 ½ decades ago.
Various events and ceremonies during the April 6-7 race weekend will honor the senior Andretti. That includes several of his former competitors who will be on hand to celebrate with Mario, including Emerson Fittipaldi, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy, Arie Luyendyk, and of course, son Michael Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti.
Check out what happened on that day 25 years ago: