I wrote a lengthy column today on Dale Earnhardt Jr., concentrating on his race for relevance in 2011 (and also about the 10-year anniversary of his father's death, which came at the Daytona 500 in 2001). Here's the link.
I couldn't get quite all I wanted into the column, so here are 3 odds and ends I picked up and wanted to share:
1) Earnhardt, a diehard NFL fan, picked the Packers and Steelers to make the Super Bowl at the beginning of the playoffs in some sort of contest. He now picks Green Bay to win it all and says he is a great admirer of Packer QB Aaron Rodgers.
2) Earnhardt was quite adamant about the fact that the races at Pocono are too long. I got into this only briefly in the column, but here's the full quote from Dale Jr. "Then you go to Pocono, and it's entirely too long, obviously," Dale Jr. said. "It's an obvious, glaring issue with everyone that's there -- but it's like this huge, pink elephant that nobody wants to talk about. Obviously, maybe there was some kind of a guarantee or promise made in the deal years ago, and it's something they won't change."
On the same subject, Earnhardt also said he thought shorter races were far more likely than a shorter season.
"It's so challenging [to cut the NASCAR season]," Earnhardt said. "There is tons of money involved and tons of livelihoods involved -- and people's careers and opportunities are involved. So I don't believe we'll ever see a shorter season. But I do believe that in my lifetime I will see the shorter races across the board at 80 or 75 percent of the events."
3) Earnhardt's friend Tony Stewart said earlier in the week that his friend Dale Jr. "has always been under pressure. It’s just a matter of him delivering. Every time you add a different crew chief and it doesn’t work out, it’s that much more pressure on him." Earnhardt has another new crew chief this year -- Steve Letarte -- as he tries to improve on last season's 21st-place overall finish.