How badly does Dale Earnhardt Jr. want to win? Not enough to wreck someone on purpose.
Opinions were mixed following last weekend's Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Some felt Junior should have used his bumper to move Kevin Harvick out of the way, while others appreciated the clean way Earnhardt raced.
"I don't think that would have been the right thing to do and I wouldn't want anybody to do that to me – just take me completely out of the race under any circumstances," he said. "I don't have a history of doing that.
“On the internet, it's easy to say a lot of things. But everybody knows how I race. I try to race respectful; I want the same in return. If it's near the end of the race, I expect to run hard and be aggressive and I expect the guys to race me hard and be aggressive. And I think that's kind of what went down this past weekend."
Earnhardt said he did try to get to Harvick, possibly to loosen him up. But Harvick, whose rear bumper had been partially knocked away from earlier contact, "didn't have much of a bumper to get into. So when I ran into him, it was like a pillow fight. … He just drove off the nose of my car and went about his way."
In wondering what he could have done differently, Junior's focus isn't on how he could have stopped Harvick from driving away from him, but rather on how he could have kept Harvick behind him.
"If I hadn't overdrove the corner and gotten loose and tried to run a tighter radius in that corner, I don't know whether Harvick would have run me over or not, but I would have been in a little bit maybe better position off of that corner to keep the lead for at least the next lap maybe," Earnhardt explained. "You know, you think about all those things and you learn a lesson and hopefully next time in that situation I do a better job of it."
Earnhardt wound up finishing second, running his winless streak to 99 races and counting. When asked how close his team is to getting back to victory lane, Junior didn't have an answer, but did say he feels like they "should have finished in the top five every week this year so far."
In six races, Junior has three top 10s and just the one top five. He sits eighth in the standings.
"We still got a step or two to go," he said, "but we're getting better and we feel pretty competitive every week."