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Notebook: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Steady diet of plate racing would leave sour taste

The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The SportsXchange

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Matt Kenseth left Talladega with the trophy.

Brad Keselowski left with the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. left with a bad taste in his mouth.

After spending half of Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 fighting to regain the lead lap after a pit road speeding penalty, Earnhardt was in position for a decent finish until a massive wreck in the final corner wiped him out.

After NASCAR sorted out the finishing order skewed by the 25-car pileup, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet was credited with a 20th-place finish, dropping him to 11th in the standings, 51 points behind Keselowski, who ran seventh.

"If this is what we did every week, I wouldn't be doing it -- I will just put it to you like that," Earnhardt told reporters after the race. "If this is how we raced every week, I would find another job."

What Earnhardt finds most objectionable is the inescapable close-quarters racing that inevitably produces multi-car wrecks.

"The way we are going ain't the right direction," Earnhardt said. "There are plenty of engineers out there. I'm just a driver. There are plenty of smart people out there that can figure something out where, when one guy gets in trouble, we don't have 30 cars tore up at the expense of it.

"I don't care what anybody says. For the good of the sport -- I mean it's good for the here and now and it will get people talking today -- but for the long run that is not going to help the sport the way that race ended and the way the racing is. It's not going to be productive for years to come.

"I don't even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain't got much choice."

By the time Earnhardt gets to Daytona in February, however, the racing package will have changed. NASCAR is introducing a new generation of cars for 2013.

NO LOVE FOR THE BLUE DEUCE?

After the race, team owner Roger Penske and Paul Wolfe questioned the finishing position of Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge, which was fourth in the running order when caution froze the field after the last-lap wreck.

NASCAR rules, however, stipulate that a car will be scored where it blends back into line, even in the case of a wreck on the final lap.

"When it comes down to the end of the race, you freeze the field," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "You have that time, but we score it by all means. We have a lot of video, a lot of replay and things like that. It's about maintaining reasonable pace and other things. It took almost an hour to get our top 15 or so, and that's how we do things."

Pemberton said the Penske camp was satisfied with the explanation after viewing video of the final lap.

"Once they saw the video, they were good with it," Pemberton said. "If you froze the field, there was a car on its roof that would have been ahead of other cars, too, and that wasn't the case. As we walk through these things, everybody appreciates the effort that we took.

"Once we show them the evidence and where cars merge in, everybody understands. There's always a discrepancy or an argument over one spot here or there, but once you talk through things, everybody understands."

Penske Racing president Tim Cindric affirmed Pemberton's statement on his Twitter account. "NASCAR ruled @keselowski didn't maintain speed," Cindric wrote. "After watching the replay, probably fair."

MORE HOT WATER FOR KURT BUSCH

Kurt Busch's tenure with Phoenix Racing may have ended Sunday, but the ripple effect of his last ride in the No. 51 Chevrolet is ongoing.

Already on probation for two incidents earlier this year, Busch faces possible sanctions from NASCAR for creating a safety issue at Talladega.

After leading six laps of Sunday's race, Busch's car lost fuel pressure on Lap 99 and spun off the front bumper of Jamie McMurray's Chevrolet off Turn 2. Busch's car hit the wall and sustained significant damage.

After climbing from the car and removing his helmet, thereby breaking radio contact with his team, Busch got back in the car and attempted to drive away, as emergency equipment fell from the rear of his car.

"I got out of the car and surveyed the damage, saw that it could still roll so I jumped back in," Busch told a gaggle of reporters after NASCAR parked him. "I remembered, with these (fuel-injected) engines, they will run at 20 percent of fuel pressure to get it back to the garage. So I tried like heck. That is the competitor in me, which is the desire that I have and that is what gets misconstrued all the time.

"This is the way my life works. Today is a perfect example. I'm leading, I wreck, I run out of gas, I'm still that competitive guy that tried to get back in the race, and now NASCAR is yelling at me because I don't have my helmet on and I'm trying to get it to the garage so the guys can work on it. Now I'm in trouble. Now I have this little storm right here. This is my life. I'm not complaining -- I put myself in a lot of these situations, but it's on to good things now moving forward. I got all the bad luck out of the way. This year has been a great year to test me in every way."

Perhaps Busch hasn't dispatched all the bad luck. NASCAR called him to the hauler after the race and will consider additional action early in the week, with an announcement probable for Tuesday.

"We just talked to Kurt about his situation, him getting back into the race car and about being around the workers that were around back there," Pemberton said. "He made an effort to get back in the car and get back into the garage, and we felt like it put some of our folks in harm's way. We just talked to him about that.

"We parked the car for his actions, and we called him in the hauler about driving off with medical equipment on the car and our workers that were trying to tend to the situation. We'll talk more, probably earlier in the week."

Busch was fined and placed on probation for driving through Ryan Newman's pit stall after wrecking at Darlington in May. After a confrontation with a reporter at Dover in June, Busch was suspended from competition for 10 days, forcing him to miss a race, and his probation was extended through the end of the year.

Busch is scheduled to make his debut with Furniture Row Racing next Saturday night at Charlotte. He recently agreed to drive for the Denver, Colo.-based team next year, replacing Regan Smith in the No. 78 Chevrolet.

"AFTER THE LAP" TICKETS ON SALE

Tickets are now on sale for one of NASCAR's premier fan events, "After the Lap," a popular part of Sprint Cup Champion's Week in Las Vegas. Hosted by ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little, After the Lap is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT at PH Live at Planet Hollywood.

The "NASCAR After The Lap" sweepstakes also is under way. One lucky fan will win a grand prize package that includes a 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 truck, round-trip air fare for two to Las Vegas, two nights at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and two VIP tickets to NASCAR After The Lap.

To purchase tickets and enter the "NASCAR After The Lap" Sweepstakes, fans can visit NASCARafterthelap.com. Tickets are $20 each, with proceeds benefitting The NASCAR Foundation. Sweepstakes entries will be accepted up until November 18 at 2 p.m. ET.

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