Last season was an interesting year for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he had a solid season on track, including making the chase and a win at Michigan International Speedway. However, he also had a two race break in October due to a concussion.
Earnhardt Jr. was forced to sit out two races – Charlotte and Kansas – after suffering two concussions back-to-back. The first concussion was suffered as a result of a crash well testing at Kansas in August, followed by the second concussion after the 25-car wreck at Talladega Superspeedway.
Though in looking back, Earnhardt Jr. says that he is feeling great and that is behind him as he felt good to get in the car and run the final four races of the season.
“Get any kind of doubts or questions that you personally had about yourself or your recovery out of the way,” he said. “I felt like all that went really good the last several weeks. As far as how I felt in the car was great.”
In those final four races of the season, Earnhardt Jr. scored a pair of top 10s – a seventh at Texas and a 10th at Homestead. Earnhardt Jr. says he doesn’t look back at that experience much, but more the positives from last year. Earnhardt Jr. made the Chase while scoring a win, 10 top fives and 20 top 10s in 34 starts.
With the new car for this season, Earnhardt Jr. says you want to come out strong and looking at the positives from last year help.
“To find motivation and excitement I look back on how well we performed throughout the year,” he said. “How we were leading the points and how things were going mid-point in the season. How strong we were in the summer, which had been, traditionally for me was a terrible time for me historically. For some reason last year we were really strong in the summer time. Just as a team we have improved ever since Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and I started working together.”
Looking forward to the 2013 season, Earnhardt Jr. looks to continue working hard and use the lessons they learned to help figure out what works with the new car.
“I think that if we apply ourselves and stay focused we can have a real solid year,” he said. “It was a disappointment not to finish as well as we had hoped in the Chase and really go for the championship. We felt like we were a strong enough team at certain parts of the year to definitely do that. We definitely have some unfinished business and feel like we can put forth the same effort and the same results this year.”
Earnhardt Jr. feels his time is now to win a championship in his 15th year in the Sprint Cup Series at the age of 38, as long as they keep working hard.
“If we can continue to do that and keep applying ourselves and keep working and not get complacent about certain things, then we can be one of those teams that are sitting there in Homestead with a shot at it,” he said. “I really believe that.”