With all eyes on Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the Daytona 500 as he made his return to racing, it only was fitting he was the first to fall prey to NASCAR’s new Damaged Vehicle Policy. Despite the fact that it forced him to end his day early, though, Dale Jr. said he’s in favor of the rule.
During the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s weekly podcast, “Dale Jr. Download,” he explained he’s very much in favor of NASCAR’s updated regulation.
Under the policy, teams have just five minutes from the time the car enters pit road to repair damaged sheet metal, body parts no longer can be replaced and any car that has to go to the garage or behind the pit wall for repairs isn’t able to return to the track. Additionally, if a team gets the car repaired and on track in under five minutes, it must maintain a minimum speed throughout the race, or the driver will be required to return to the pits.
“So, thoughts on the five-minute clock? I’m good with it,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t want to drive that car anymore, if I’m not out there with a good car, competing and trying to win.
“My top reason is because it just sucks; it’s boring. That goes in the boring bucket.”
Earnhardt’s team got his No. 88 repaired just under the five-minute mark during the 500-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, but he wasn’t able to get up to speed and was forced to retire. That was fine by him, however, as he said his car’s alignment was so far out of wack, he probably would have hit the wall if he tried racing.
The 42-year-old wasn’t the only big name to not finish the Great American Race. In fact, the wreck that took him out was caused when Kyle Busch hit the wall, and another crash roughly 20 laps later collected Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
While many attributed the high-attrition rate to NASCAR’s new race format, Earnhardt said he”s not convinced that’s the case. If you ask him, restrictor plates were the catalysts for all those accidents, not the stages.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images