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When Earnhardt speaks, it pays to listen

15 August 2009

Dale Earnhardt Jr. may not be a threat to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year, but the sport's most popular driver is without peer when it comes to shaping public opinion.

The way Earnhardt sees it, NASCAR needs to continue its efforts to improve the quality of racing - starting with the Sprint Cup racecar itself.

"What I am getting at is I think we need to open our eyes a little bit - everyone," Earnhardt said Friday behind his transporter. "I think media could address it a little stronger. I think that drivers could be a little more vocal about it. I think NASCAR could probably be a little more urgent in improving our product.

"That includes where we are with this COT (Car of Tomorrow) and where we feel like its development is - and where we feel like its future goes and where we feel like this car goes, how it evolves. I just have a sense of urgency over the last couple of weeks, I guess, to see if we can't do better."

Earnhardt said NASCAR's successful introduction of double-file restarts at Pocono in June prompted him to think beyond that change to competition.

"I think where that comes from is the double-file restarts and the spark that really put into the racing," he explained. "I enjoy it. I think all the drivers enjoy it. I think the fans love it. We need more of that.

"We need to do that - things that are tangible, such as the cars themselves - and think of more ideas we can do within the races to add more of that. The double-file restarts gave us an opportunity to be exciting for only a moment, and we need to figure out how we can maintain that throughout the entire race."

Jeff Gordon saw merit in his team-mate's position.

"I feel like this car is not the best car for giving the drivers comfort and confidence to be able to really do what they need to do," Gordon said. "I feel like the teams are in a box. They're not really able to adjust on the car to fix it if the car is tight in the middle (of a corner) or loose in and tight. You're kind of strapped there.

"We've gotten it better over time, but I still don't think we're ever going to get it where we need to. The double-file restarts have definitely created a lot of excitement, but if we don't have cautions, it seems like we're back in the same box."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


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