Dale Jr. on ‘Dega knockout quals: “It just wasn’t much fun”

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Shortly before the start of today’s knockout qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a colorful way of setting the stage for the proceedings on Twitter.

Things didn’t go ‘terribly wrong’ as Earnhardt was able to keep his car in one piece after riding in the draft in a bid to set a fast time.

But things didn’t go very well for him either, as he was unable to advance from the first round of qualifying for tomorrow’s Aaron’s 499.

Earnhardt, a five-time ‘Dega winner in Sprint Cup, will start 31st on the grid. After his qualifying run, he seemed to be suffering from a case of ennui.

“It just wasn’t much fun,” he told MRN Radio. “We’re out there in the draft running along. I don’t know, we just didn’t run a fast enough lap with Bowyer around.

“It wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be honest with you. I’d like to do some heat races [on restrictor plate tracks] or something. It’d be a little bit funner than this.”

When Fox TV caught up with him, he didn’t deviate much from his radio comments, adding that he found today’s exercise “pretty boring.” He later went back to Twitter and shook off his sub-par Saturday.

Earnhardt was one of several past Talladega winners that failed to get out of Round 1 in today’s qualifying, including the two victors from last year’s ‘Dega events, David Ragan (spring) and Jamie McMurray (fall); McMurray will roll off 33rd tomorrow and Ragan shall start 41st.

Others in this particular group included Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer, whose qualifying fortunes were only slightly better. They’ll start 28th and 29th respectively.

“It’s kind of luck of the draw on getting the right run and when you get the right run [it’s about] those guys continuing the entire lap, and we were just unable to do that,” McMurray told MRN of his experience.

“Fortunately, it’s at a place where qualifying is not as critical. We’ll just fight from where we are, and I think our McDonald’s Chevy is really good. It’s disappointing not to make it in, but I don’t think it will matter at Lap 5.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.