Dale Earnhardt Jr. on safety: ‘We see the consequences of being bullheaded’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits he didn’t focus as much on safety earlier in his career but said in an interview with The Charlotte Observer that he’s more proactive and the sport is also.

Earnhardt touched on a variety of subjects during the interview, including:

How his view on safety has evolved: “I look at pictures of my old late model car that I used to race that didn’t have a headrest in there. You thought that you were a sissy if you had a headrest. The headrest was only thought of to hold a guy that had a weak neck; if you had a headrest you were a baby.

“I didn’t put any effort or any thought into making things better or how does stuff work and what would happen in this situation. Then we have these accidents where guys are injured or even killed, and we learn from those accidents.”

How the outlook of drivers toward safety has changed: “I know there’s more guys today who would rather go slower to be safer than there probably were back then.

“We used to never say a word about slowing the cars down because fans don’t want to hear that we’re slowing the cars down. It was considered not being macho or a tough driver, not being fierce.”

On injuries to fans at races: “It’s not OK, and I hope the response isn’t just put the fence back up (at Daytona International Speedway).”I hope that somebody is trying to come up with an idea of a barrier that’s better than what we’ve got.”If a car that heavy and going that rate of speed gets into whatever they put there, it’s going to destroy it. Is there an option that puts the fans in a better situation? Is it more than one layer? Is there a fence and then another fence? What is it that can sort of help us avoid this situation again?”On if there is any reason Daytona and Talladega should no longer be a part of the NASCAR schedule:“Absolutely none. They will always be a part of it even if they have to make some major changes to the speed of the cars or whatever they’ve got to do, we’re always going to be racing there.”

Earnhardt also spoke to The Charlotte Observer about the first drivers council meeting with NASCAR in late May at Dover. The first item discussed was what makes a good race.

“For the last probably 10 years we didn’t even know what a good show was,” Earnhardt said. “The drivers had an opinion what a good show was, NASCAR had an opinion what a good show was and it might not still be the same thing.

“NASCAR I think wants pack racing and drafting and passing. Tons of passing, tons, tons – if they could pass every straightaway at speed that would a great show for NASCAR, which it would be great to watch,” Earnhardt said.

“I think the drivers’ opinion of what a great show is, is a bit old-school. Something from the ’80s and the ’90s. Not necessarily in the fact that fifth place was a lap down because that stuff is not going to happen these days because the sport is too competitive. But off-throttle time, guys sliding around, tires wearing out, tires not making a fuel run, having to really take care of it.That’s the kind of thing we want to encourage.”