Dale Earnhardt Jr. now has nothing to lose, and is loving it

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Relaxed, spitballing and almost-40-year-old Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a good, happy Dale Earnhardt Jr.

And a calm, cool, collected Junior might be trouble for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field this Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Following his Kansas debacle where he ended 39th, Earnhardt Jr., like Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne, currently sits outside the top eight, the drivers who advance to the Eliminator round.

It seems Junior has the field right where he wants them.

“I always win in weirdest times and the oddest circumstances, so everything’s lining up for me this weekend,” he said during his media availability Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We should be competitive this weekend. We know what the situation is with the points, and how important it is to come in and win the race. I’m winless in a points-paying race here since I started my career.”

If it doesn’t sound like it makes sense, Earnhardt Jr. attempted to explain why he felt in such a relaxed state of mind this week.

“When you say it’s ‘must-win,’ that don’t make it sound like its easier,” he said. “But as soon as we had trouble, now there’s two kinds of approaches.

“One is to run well and hope nothing bad happens. The other is you can kinda just go for broke. I feel less pressure now than I did before the race at Kansas. Under this circumstance I feel like less pressure. I think we’re good enough, and I believe we’ll run well.”

With Johnson and Brad Keselowski also sitting outside the top eight at the moment, Earnhardt said he’s not worrying about them in terms of trying to advance.

“Those are the two of the most successful guys, with championships and how they run. But I can’t worry about them, and what are my odds versus them,” he said.

“I’m not counting points or worrying about scenarios. My job is to help Steve (Letarte, crew chief) put together the strategy. We’ve been very good at doing that this year.

“In this situation where nothing matters, is where we do the best. Daytona 500, we could be so risky and aggressive on our calls, and it paid off. When this Chase started, we reverted back towards being reserved and calculated, and it netted us average results.

“We have our backs against the walls but we can be aggressive again. And that’s where Steve is at his best. If the car’s competitive, we can be around with a shot.”