Earnhardt Jr. takes blame for stirring up debate
indianapolis — Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his own statement Saturday.
He defended his wife’s Twitter post — and blamed himself for putting her in a position where she felt she had to speak out.
Five days after Amy Earnhardt wrote it wouldn’t be “worth the risk” to see her husband compete in next year’s Clash at Daytona, the 42-year-old driver explained outsiders don’t understand what the family endured as he recovered from concussion-related symptoms last year.
“She’s been there for everything,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “A lot of folks that may have a different opinion about it weren’t there through the whole process. If anyone knows how difficult it was beside me, it would be her. It wasn’t a lot of fun for her.”
Earnhardt spoke about six hours before making his final Brickyard 400 qualifying run at Indianapolis. He’ll start 13th.
The series’ most popular driver announced in April he would retire after this season, in part because of his injury history. Two big crashes last summer forced him out of the final 18 races, and he missed two races during the 2012 playoffs also because of concussion-related symptoms.
But Earnhardt appeared to reopen the possibility of returning to Daytona after winning the pole there three weeks ago, his first since September 2013. To be eligible, drivers must win at least one pole during the previous season, be a previous Clash winner or be a former Daytona 500 pole winner who still competes full-time on the Cup series.
On a recent podcast, Earnhardt said he told team owner Rick Hendrick that competing in the Clash would be something his wife “needed to warm up to.” She hasn’t so far. “I’ve received many comments on Dale Jr running the 2018 Clash based on whether or not I give my blessing,” she wrote Tuesday night. “Considering his struggles last fall with his injury, we are very blessed that he is now healthy, happy and able to enjoy his final season . . . and hopefully many years beyond racing. So my answer is simple. It’s not worth the risk to his health.”
While some Earnhardt fans were upset with the response, Junior said his wife felt she needed to take her opinion to the public.
He also suggested his immediate reaction following the polewinning run left his wife in a tough spot . . . .
Kyle Busch won the pole position as he chases an unprecedented third consecutive Brickyard 400 victory. Busch earned the top qualifying spot on his final lap with a speed of 187.301 mph on the 2.5-mile oval. Kevin Harvick was second at 186.332, and Jamie McMurray qualified third.
XFINITY SERIES: Rookie William Byron bobbed and weaved through the final two laps and held off Paul Menard to win the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis.