It was the biggest non-secret of the entire week leading up to the NASCAR All-Star race. Who would win the fan vote and have an entry into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race?
It was of course no contest at all.
With no eligibility to make it into the main event, Dale Earnhardt Jr. by far NASCAR’s most popular driver, either had to race his way into the field via the Sprint Showdown race or depend on the fan vote.
Although he feigned a bit, saying he wanted to race his way into the field, Earnhardt knew he was a shoo in to win the fan vote. That’s why despite finishing 6th in the Sprint Showdown, Earnhardt climbed from his car knowing his night was far from over. He didn’t however take the fan vote for granted.
“I see it a whole lot different from this side of the fence than a lot of people do,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t take it for granted. I knew my fans were working really hard. They’ve done a great job over the last several years of locking up the most popular driver award. All the credit goes to them. They do all the work, support us so much, really believe in what we’re trying to accomplish. “
Sadly for those legions of fans who voted Earnhardt into the All-Star race, he failed to deliver. He was never a factor the entire evening and came home in 14th. Earnhardt, perhaps resigned to the fact that he didn’t have a car to win, used the 100 laps to gather information for next week’s Coca-Cola 600
“Steve (crew chief Steve Letarte) will go through everything and check everything out. We definitely know we need to be better,” Earnhardt said. “We had one set of sticker tires that was coming to the front and got up to 10th and the caution came out, so, that was kind of frustrating. We feel like we can definitely improve on this. It is an old car, a couple of generations old. We will bring a better piece next week.”
Earnhardt added that he was happy to have been on track.
“I am; I’m glad. I was real thankful to be in the race,” Earnhardt said. “Very productive for us to be in there and be running and trying stuff. We changed a lot of things every opportunity we had. We did learn several things. Got a great feeling for the car and what this setup was doing and what we can probably do to make it better.”
He was also grateful to the fans who voted him into the All-Star race.
“I was appreciative that the fans voted me in,” Earnhardt said. “I was a little bit embarrassed that we didn’t have enough car to get in there. A little bit ashamed that we haven’t run well enough over the last several years to avoid this process. But the fans did that for me. I would not be doing none of this without them. I probably wouldn’t even want to be racing without the support of the fans. They make this sport what it is. It is such a cliché but it is so true when you get down to the bottom of it. Probably wouldn’t be doing all of this without them supporting us. I was glad they got me in that race; got me a little more fun and I’ll have to pay them back somehow.”