“You still even after you’ve got this plan that you’ve talked about and thought about and maybe you spent time with your crew chief and your team,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Maybe you spent a week on it, who knows? You still feel as helpless as a guy with no plan at all just because so many things are out of your hand, but I think you can psyche yourself out and you can definitely anticipate negative results and negative things happening so much that you almost guarantee that as your fate.”
Earnhardt Jr. said blocking out bad thoughts and trying to remain positive is the best way to try to have success at Talladega, amidst the chaotic, chance-nature of the race.
“I think if you think positively ‘Man, this is going to work,’” Earnhardt Jr. said. “‘I’m going to make the right choices when things aren’t quite working right. I’m going to keep striving and pushing and I’m going to make this a good result. I’m going to get something out of this today.’ Typically it works out. Typically that attitude is going to prevail over ‘Man, this isn’t going to work. Every time I come here I’m going to wreck. Every time I come here I’m going to have trouble. I can’t figure it out. Why even try?’ That attitude never works.”
Earnhardt Jr. said it’s easy to second-guess every little decision at Talladega, but pointed to last spring’s race at Talladega as a perfect example of how one little decision at the end of the race can pay dividends.
“A choice to change lines a couple of laps ago might have you just going backwards with no option to get out,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You are trapped in that box, trapped by the cars around, just sort of ride that decision out for a few more laps. That is kind of frustrating, but you have to stay positive I think to not end up in that crash or not end up having a terrible result because you make all these terrible choices. You have to stay positive and keep pushing. And try to stay positive—I mean you will make five bad decisions, but that one right decision you made might be the one that gets you where David Ragan ended up. Just like that, he wins the race. You just got to keep plugging away and you are going to make a lot of bad decisions—you just got to get ready for that.”
Earnhardt Jr. is easily one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR, so he was asked about whether NASCAR needs another popular driver, Danica Patrick, to demonstrate success on the track. Earnhardt Jr. turned from being a positive thinking proponent to sounding like a philosopher.
“I don’t think the sport wins or loses either way,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Obviously, I mean if she is successful it is a plus, but no matter what happens to any of us, the sport goes on. The health of the needle doesn’t move a whole lot depending on individuals. It’s really a sport of so many people and so many different drivers and so many different personalities. You move one out and put another one in. I don’t think the needle moves a whole lot no matter who we are—me or anybody.”
Earnhardt Jr. finished 17th earlier this year at Talladega. A year ago, Earnhardt Jr. finished 20th at Talladega. Despite his most recent disappointing results, Earnhardt Jr. said his attitude has allowed him to enter this weekend’s Camping World RV Sales 500 race at Talladega confident he can get a win.
“Every time you show up here thinking that this might be the weekend that you get it kind of turned around and put things back in the right direction,” he said. “It hasn’t been going great here, as great as I want it to go here lately. We have torn up a lot of cars and been frustrated most times when we leave here. I still come back as confident and excited about the opportunities as ever. That is the way we feel this weekend.”