Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first pole in almost four years — he started first in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway — the NASCAR world has been buzzing about whether he’ll race in The Clash — an invite-only, exhibition event at Daytona in February.
His pole win qualified him, and he wants to do it. But given his recent concussion history and the fact that he’ll be newly retired at that point next year, he gave the final decision to his wife, Amy, who was never crazy about the idea.
Via NBC Sports:
“Amy doesn’t want me to run it,” Earnhardt said Tuesday after unveiling his Southern 500 car at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I’ve got a pole and kind of want to run it. But we’ll see if she warms up to it.”
And then Tuesday night, Amy took to Twitter to briefly explain her reasoning for saying no to The Clash and said it simply is “not worth the risk of his health.” While many fans understood her logic, plenty attacked her for it.
Saturday, ahead of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, Dale Jr. took responsibility for the backlash, spoke about the challenges of his concussion recovery last season and acknowledged “she handled it well.”
“She had to put something out ’cause she felt like she needed to say something. I put her in that position, and it’s probably my fault for throwing her under the bus like that. But she’s been there for everything, and a lot of folks that may have a different opinion about it weren’t there through the whole process. So if anyone knows how difficult it was besides me, it’d be her. It wasn’t a lot of fun for her.”
Popular responses to the Earnhardts’ health concerns include asking why he’s even waiting until the end of the season to retire from full-time racing. But Junior pointed out a major difference between The Clash and the general race schedule.
He said that the “real big potential” to wreck during the exhibition race compared with others makes it dangerous and has even turned into an internal NASCAR joke with drivers asking why they even do it anymore.
“My first reaction (to winning a pole) was that I got the opportunity to run The Clash. It sounds like a great idea right off the bat, but maybe it’s not worth it. But I feel much more in control of my own fate in the remainder of this season than anything I do beyond that — than I do being out there in The Clash, to be honest with you. Even though it’s a pretty cool race to be in, if you just look at the past history — at least my history — it’s been feast or famine. You either run really good or end up tearing it up, and it’s just probably not even worth it.
“But if it’s something she feels strongly about, we have to sit down, and I have to hear her out. But I kind of threw her under the bus there and probably should have never even mentioned it, but it put her in a tough spot and she felt like she had to voice some sort of statement about it. And I thought she handled it well.”