Dale Earnhardt Jr. took responsibility Monday for his steering wheel coming off during Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway and explained what happened Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The incident happened after he returned from his first crash in the race. He was involved in another incident and finished last in the 40-car field.
Here’s what Earnhardt told “The Morning Drive” about his steering wheel coming off briefly:
“It’s kind of embarrassing to be honest with you anytime your steering wheel comes off because it is the driver’s responsibility. My interior guy, Adam Jordan, wants to take some responsibility, but when it comes down to it, I’m the one that gets into the car and straps myself in there and puts the steering wheel on. It’s my job to put on the wheel and make sure it’s on.
“Me and Adam, have a really good system. We’ve never had an issue in the past. For whatever reason, I think crashing out and repairing the car, it was starting to sprinkle, the caution had just come out, everybody was kind of out of their element and not in a comfortable place.
“I jumped into the car and was hustling, trying to get back on the track. I couldn’t wait to get back out on the track and get back out in the draft even though we were 40 laps down.
“I did not pull on the wheel to check to see if I had it on. I had put it on hundreds of times. I thought it was on. So, luckily, as we were pacing around, we got to one (lap) to go (until the restart) and were going down the backstretch and (crew chief Greg Ives) said, ‘Alright, check your belts and your wheel one more time before we get going here.’ I yanked on the wheel and it came right off.
“We were going pace speed (70 mph) … and the car veers to the left because of the castor in the front end. Any time you pull the wheel off of a race car at an oval track, it is going to go left because that’s the way front geometry is set up. It takes off to the left and I grab the steering shaft and it started spinning in my glove, but as soon as it hit the grass it was so easy to turn. Once I understood that, I threw the wheel back on real fast.
“They waved off the restart, which added more insult to injury there because I went down into the grass and NASCAR freaked out, ‘What’s going on?’ Then to get up on Monday and see that it’s gotten a lot of attention and people are wondering why steering wheels are coming off this year makes it even more embarrassing. It’s just a mistake. I own it. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt or no one else was hurt or no one’s race was ruined by it. It has given me a wakeup call that I need to be more careful when I get into the car.’’