Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Blaney say they’re friends, but that friendship seems to keep being tested.
First, Junior was miffed at how Blaney called him out — not to mention a choice name — over the team radio at Phoenix a few weeks ago.
And then there’s the supposed make-good gift – a case of beer – that Blaney promised to make amends, but apparently has yet to deliver to Junior’s camp.
Adding to the tension is the incident they were involved in at Martinsville Speedway in Sunday’s STP 500.
“Well, we’re friends,” Earnhardt said in an exclusive interview with NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “Friends usually don’t run over each other on the racetrack.
“I kind of got loose in front of him, but he didn’t do me any favors. He had a run, I slid the back end up in front of them. I ran him in the fence on the front straightaway, so I kind of understand if he was a little upset.”
Earnhardt went so far as to say that maybe he and Blaney – even though they’re still friends – may need some time away from each other on the racetrack.
“We don’t need to be racing around each other until we can figure out how to do that without any problems,” Earnhardt said.
Asked about his radio transmission Sunday that Blaney would receive no more free beer after the spin, Earnhardt joked it probably wouldn’t have much of an impact.
“Well, he has his own beer,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t think that really bothered him too much when I said, ‘No more free beer.’ ”
But somehow, some way, Earnhardt said he has to impress things upon Blaney to right their respective ships on the racetrack.
The question that Earnhardt keeps asking himself is how?
“I don’t know what it is that will get his attention,” Earnhardt said of Blaney. “Maybe I need to buy his house back from Brad (Keselowski) and raise the rent. I don’t know what I need to do.”
But the little tiff between friends likely will run its course. As for when, who knows.
“He’s a really good guy,” Earnhardt said of Blaney. “Got a ton of talent. Really good talent. Awesome on social media, great personality. I hate this has happened the last few weeks.
“I almost am old enough to be his daddy (Earnhardt is 42, Blaney 23). I don’t want to preach to him too much. Hopefully we won’t have any more problems the rest of the year.”