NASCAR: No beef between Junior, Busch
By Mike Cranston
CONCORD ó Dale Earnhardt Jr. was frustrated as he climbed out of his car following a testing session Monday.
But Earnhardtís angst wasnít directed at his fansí newest villain.
His throng of supporters loudly blamed Kyle Busch for the wreck Saturday night that ended Earnhardtís best chance to end his winless drought. But Junior was more concerned with the hit he took in the Sprint Cup standings after a possible win turned into a 15th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway.
iThe only thing Iím upset with is not being able to get the points out of it I should have been able to get,î Earnhardt said after the morning test at Loweís Motor Speedway. iWeíve been working hard to stay consistent all year. I want to get as good of a finish I can with my car each week.î
While Earnhardt hasnít won since 2006, heís been consistently good in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports. He had seven top 10 finishes in the first nine races, and when Denny Hamlinís dominance in the first 381 laps of Saturdayís short-track race ended with a flat tire, Earnhardt moved to the front.
But after Hamlin stopped on the track instead of limping to pit road, the caution let Busch ó whom Earnhardt replaced at Hendrick ó get on Earnhardtís bumper for the restart.
They raced side-by-side until Buschís car appeared to get loose and they made contact in turn 3. Earnhardtís No. 88 Chevrolet spun and hit the wall.
The winless streak would hit 72 races.
Earnhardt said Saturday night he needed to watch replays before commenting on the wreck. Outside his hauler Monday, Earnhardt was careful not to take a shot at Busch.
iIt was just hard racing,î Earnhardt said. iKyle has his style of driving. I would have been a little more ó I donít know. Maybe I would have ran as hard at it as he did. I donít know what I would have done.î
After finishing second Saturday to Clint Bowyer, Busch moved into the points lead ahead of Jeff Burton. It came with Busch facing boos and insults from Earnhardtís fans.
iItís nothing new to me. Iím used to it,î said Busch, whose aggressive style has helped cultivate a bad-boy image. iI pretty much told them, íGrow-up, thatís racing.í We were racing hard and I feel like there are a lot of worse cases in this world than someone getting spun out in a race.î
It doesnít mean the 23-year-old Busch didnít learn from the close-quarters wreck.
iWe probably could have given each other a little more room,î Busch said. iI probably could have dove further to the bottom, Junior probably could have run somewhat similar to the line he had been running on the previous run than he was on the first couple laps of that restart.
iHe was trying to find something that would work better for his car so he could get away from me and we just made contact. Unfortunately, he got the worst brunt of it.î
Earnhardt remained in third place, but he trails Busch by 104 points. That stuck most with Earnhardt on Monday.
iIíve been real proud of that with what weíve been able to do this year and the way weíve been consistent,î Earnhardt said. iItís a little bit of a bruise on the stats. It wonít show at the end of the year how good we really were that weekend. I want to minimize that throughout the season.î
Saturday marked the third time Busch and Earnhardt have wrecked in less than a year. Earnhardt, who blamed himself for a crash at Kansas last year, expects to talk to Busch to avoid another frustrating day of lost points.
iHopefully once me and him have a chance to talk about it we can come to some kind of understanding of where we wonít have to deal with it ever again,î Earnhardt said. iThen we can just go out there and race and try to race each other with a little more respect and have a better outcome.î