Racing drivers often are thought of as fearless, but in reality, they’re just better at suppressing their fears than most people are.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted after Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway that, although he started from pole, he was more nervous than usual heading into the contest, according to NBC Sports. Earnhardt, who has a history of concussions, knew that, of the remaining races, the Alabama 500 presented the biggest risk of injury.
“This was one I was worried about, in the back of my mind I was a little concerned,” Earnhardt said. “You can’t win the race if you race scared. I’ve raced scared here before and you don’t do well when that happens, so you have to block it out and take the risks and hope it’s not your day to get in one of those accidents and it wasn’t.”
Plate races are known for having big wrecks, but by any standards, the Alabama 500 had a very high attrition rate, as just 24 of the 40 cars finished the race and it was red-flagged three times. One of those 24 cars was Earnhardt’s No. 88, which avoided a few big incidents, likely due to the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s ability to forget about his nerves and get on with the job.
“I think that anyone who questions our desire to be here and compete this year and our desire to run hard and face can look at the risks that we took this afternoon, knowing that any of those crashes would have probably given me a bit of an injury that would have held me out of the rest of the season,” Earnhardt said.
Although Earnhardt kept his car from sustaining any terminal damage, in avoiding a late-race pileup, he damaged his splitter. As a result, he wasn’t able to hang with the leaders in the closing laps, ultimately finishing seventh.
Thumbnail photo via Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports Images
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