Dale Earnhardt Jr. praises, feels bad for Bowman; looks forward to Xfinity title race

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During his weekly podcast on Monday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. both praised and lamented what happened to Alex Bowman in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Bowman once again was filling in for the sidelined Earnhardt, who has still not been medically cleared to race due to concussion-like symptoms.

First the good about Bowman:

“Alex really did an amazing job,” Earnhardt said on The Dale Jr. Download. … “Greg (crew chief Greg Ives) and those guys did an awesome job, giving him a great car all weekend, gave the kid a pole, man; he was thrilled about that.”

Then there was the tough luck outcome when Bowman and Matt Kenseth made contact late in the race, ending Kenseth’s hopes of advancing to the Championship 4 round this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Man, this whole day has been miserable, watching that race,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know how you fans do it. For the longest time, I haven’t felt that way since watching Dad race. I remember it so clear now, all the nerves and sick feelings in your stomach.

“I knew the end would come down to a lot of cautions and where you lined up … it didn’t work in our favor.

“I know (Bowman) feels like he had the best car, and he did. But you can’t control a lot of things, like at the end. … Alex carried the weight of that on his shoulders really well. I know he certainly regrets getting into the 20 car … and regrets how it ended for Matt (Kenseth) and for him (Bowman).

“… He’s a solid dude. … But man, that sucked.”

Earnhardt on watching the race from a fan’s perspective, rather than as a driver:

“I just can’t believe how the day went,” he said. “It was hard being a fan. I really got a new appreciation for what that’s like. I had forgotten what it was like. I’m seeing so many new perspectives, a lot of them unintentionally, that’s changed the way I see everything about it and will be different when I get back in the car and try not to forget what I’ve learned.”

Earnhardt on looking ahead to returning to racing in 2017:

“I’m going to get in that thing next year and it’s going to be as good or better than when I got out,” he said. “I feel like a very lucky guy in that regard. I’m getting excited for next year, getting back on the track and cutting some laps and just being a driver. I miss it, especially since I’m getting healthier more and more.”

Earnhardt will be at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend to cheer on JR Motorsports drivers Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier in their Chevrolets as they battle the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones for the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase Championship.

JRM will be down one significant person in Saturday’s title race. Sadler’s crew chief, Kevin Meendering, has been suspended for the race by NASCAR after lug nuts were found missing from Sadler’s car after the last two races (Texas and Phoenix).

“It was a tough week for our Junior Motorsports gang,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to have a suspended crew chief on the 1 car going into Homestead, but we’ll make the adjustments we need to give the 1 car the opportunity to try to win that championship.

“I’m proud of that company to have two cars in the Chase, two cars to make it to the final round. … There’s a lot of pride there for everybody at Junior Motorsports. I’m excited to see how all those guys do Saturday. I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday.”

One day after he hopes one of his drivers wins the Xfinity Series Chase Championship, Earnhardt will be on hand Sunday for what he hopes will be a special finish in the deciding race for the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

“I want to be there to shake Jimmie Johnson’s hand if he wins that seventh championship,” Earnhardt said.

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