You'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel just a wee bit bad for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at this point. After a strong run at Martinsville, he was pacing the field at Talladega. He led the most laps at the track, and appeared well on the way to another strong finish. Possibly something more. Could we dare to dream? Could we dare to hope ... ?
To his credit, Earnhardt didn't even try to pretend that this was anything other than a monumental, day-killing screwup. "I got into Jeff and didn’t hit him square and turned him down the racetrack and ended up wrecking him," he said. "Just didn’t hit him square, misjudged the push I was going to give him and did it incorrectly."
And to his credit, Burton didn't blame Earnhardt, even though Burton was mad enough to kick his car as he climbed out of it. "He didn’t mean it," Burton said on television after the wreck. "He didn’t do anything wrong. We just didn’t get lined up. It got a little hectic getting into (turn) three, and I think I moved a little bit more than he thought I was and we just didn’t get lined up right. It won’t be the last time it happens."
So what are Junior's fans to take from this? Plenty. Yes, the wreck was unfortunate, but at Talladega, these things happen. On balance, this is two good weeks in a row that Junior's run well. And yes, he's at the two tracks where he's most comfortable, but you've got to snag the low-hanging fruit before you go for bigger prey ... wait, I'm mixing metaphors here, but you know what I'm saying. Anyway, take heart, Junior Nation: all is not yet lost.