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

1 Comment

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.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.