While Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains one of the most discussed and interviewed drivers in NASCAR regardless of his success, his answers are often of the basic-facts-and-no-more variety, clichés that serve the purpose of conveying information but little insight.
Thursday night, Earnhardt sat down with NASCAR Race Hub's Steve Byrnes on SPEED for a wide-ranging interview that offered up a few more glimpses into the life of NASCAR's most popular driver. Let's delve in, shall we?
First off, he discussed how important it is for drivers to focus, and what can happen when they let that focus slip even for an instant: "During the actual race itself, you'll do things and then you'll make a mistake or make another mistake and they kind of pile up and when the race is done, you look back and you go, ' Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes in that race, where the week before was smooth sailing.' So, there's days where you foul up a lot. I think concentration level in a race car is above any other sport. If you don't really have it going for you that day, and you're not really focused and not appreciating and respecting that, you're going to have trouble."
But here's an interesting tidbit, one that will fuel the detractors: "I don't know if everybody is going to agree with this, but for the most part, the car is the key factor," he said. "If a guy's not running well, in most cases, it's the car. The crew chiefs or other people might say it's more the driver. But for the most part, the deciding factor is the equipment you're driving and whether it will go around the corner as good as the other guy's car. The percentage of decent talented drivers is much larger than it used to be years ago, at least in my opinion. There's more talented guys in the sport and guys that can win races than there's ever been."
He also talked briefly about his raffle of a new Camaro, and you can see more at windalejrsride.com. And from there, it was on to the personal questions, like where he is in life: "I still like to party. I still like to get with my friends and try to pull an all-nighter. We can't pull them like we used to. I still like to do that. I still get the bug to cut up and have fun. But I think back to five, 10 years ago, how we did it all the time, and I just can't even imagine it." (Aside: Forget raffling off Camaros. "Pull an all-nighter with Junior" would be one hell of a contest. Or one hell of a euphemism, whichever.)
As for family? Well, let's see: "I have no real interest in being married. I'd like to have kids one day, but that's not something I've got planned out." So, yes, we'll have to wait a little while for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. ... other than the rock band, of course.
Last word: How long will we see Junior on the track? "I feel like I'm about halfway into my career. I feel like I could go another 10 years."