Saturday Talladega Notebook: Earnhardt Jr. regrets his harsh criticism of plate racingTeam owner Michael Waltrip hasn't announced a driver for his No. 55 Toyota next year, but he wasn't shy about naming the man he wants in the car -- and it's hardly a surprise.
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Remember the harsh words Dale Earnhardt Jr. had for the racing at Talladega last October?
"I don't even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain't got much choice," Earnhardt said after finishing 20th in a wrecked race car. Some of his other comments about racing at restrictor-plate tracks were even more inflammatory.
Earnhardt said Friday at the 2.66-mile superspeedway that the depth of his criticism had a lot to do with the blow he took during the late crash that wiped out half the field in the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
In that wreck, Earnhardt suffered his second concussion in six weeks, having sustained the first at Kansas in late August. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet missed the next two races, at Charlotte and Kansas, before receiving medical clearance to return to competition.
Knowing he was hurt at Talladega, Earnhardt let his frustration influence his words after the race.
"I hate to blame the concussion, but the feeling that I had physically when I got out of the car, I knew that I had set myself back somehow with the concussion thing," Earnhardt said. "And so I was really angry with that, because I had spent four weeks to get where I could feel like I was great.
"And then now I'm going to take two steps back and have to do all that again. I was really, really mad that I couldn't just get through that wreck and not have that happen. I don't care if I'm in the crash and out of the race, but to get out of the car and feel concussed and feel like, ‘Oh, shoot, man, now I've got to go through the process again, and you're not supposed to have them close together,' …so you just have all kinds of worry running through your mind.
"It had me really, really angry--and not myself, obviously. So I've regretted that. I've regretted making those comments, and I think I overreacted and overstated my feelings quite a bit."
VICKERS IS THE MAN
Team owner Michael Waltrip hasn't announced a driver for his No. 55 Toyota next year, but he wasn't shy about naming the man he wants in the car--and it's hardly a surprise.
Waltrip wants part-time driver Brian Vickers to take a full-time role in the car next season with Aaron's as his sponsor.
"We've raced with Aaron's for 14 years, and we hope that we can sign something that will put that deal together for the near-foreseeable future to come--three years or so," Waltrip said Saturday during an interview session in the Talladega media center. "We're working hard with Aaron's. We've targeted Brian Vickers as the guy we want to drive our car.
"We think that Brian's a future champion of the Cup series, so we want Brian to drive it, and we want Aaron's to sponsor it… I think both Aaron's and Brian are very into making that happen. It would just be a matter of getting the details worked out in order to be able to announce it soon."
Vickers took on a part-time schedule in the No. 55 Camry last year. In 10 races with MWR, he has posted six top 10s. Mark Martin, the primary driver of the car, has announced plans to exit the car next year, opening the ride to a full-time driver.
News that Kurt Busch is going to test an IndyCar May 9 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway raises the inevitable question: would Busch consider doing an Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double if the logistics could be worked out?
Though it's not a realistic possibility this year, given the time frame, Busch says he would be open to the possibility in the future.
The car he's testing is owned by Andretti Autosport, and the opportunity came about through Busch's association with owner Michael Andretti, who last year contemplated a move to Cup racing. The discussions included car maker Dodge and involved Busch as a possible driver.
Though Dodge ultimately decided to exit NASCAR racing at the end of the 2013 season, Andretti and Busch got to know each other through the negotiations. Busch sees the testing opportunity at Indy as a possible broadening of his career.
"It's not every day that Michael Andretti is going to lend you a car to drive," Busch told FoxSports.com on Friday. "If they can move time trials a little bit, and if this draws as much interest as I believe it's going to draw from the sponsorship side, this could be a 13-month adventure.
"That's what this opportunity is for -- it's to define my adventurism and turning that adventurism into a reality."
Three drivers have done the Indy/Charlotte double--Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon.