Dale Earnhardt Jr. on spin-out scandal: I like to see NASCAR drop "the big hammer"

(CBS News) Dale Earnhardt Jr. weighed in on the scandal that's recently rocked NASCAR, in which the organization is accusing one driver, Clint Bowyer, of intentionally spinning out in order to benefit another driver -- Martin Truex Jr. -- on his team. The punishment is harsh -- a $300,000 fine was levied against the Michael Waltrip Racing team, and its general manager, Ty Morris, has been suspended indefinitely.

Note to Self: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Responding to the scandal, Earnhardt Jr. said, "NASCAR thinks it's justified," but when pressed what he thinks, Earnhardt said, "I like to see the sport -- I like to see NASCAR drop the big hammer. I like to see the sport handled sternly and handled fairly and the integrity of the sport and the health of the sport is of the utmost importance to me as a driver."

Earnhardt Jr., who was behind the driver who is accused of spinning out on purpose, said the move looked "kind of odd." He recalled, "Just where he spun and how he spun and how he had slowed down the car prior to spinning. It appeared to me that he was trying to find a safe place to, you know, get the car spun out there, but it's nothing we haven't seen before."

Earnhardt Jr. continued, "I mean, I, myself have admittedly spun a car out to bring out a caution. I had a flat tire at Bristol several years ago and spun the car out to get a caution so I could have my tire changed and not lose any laps."

However, Earnhardt Jr. said the difference between his move and the one alleged in the recent race is that he "admitted it and I owned" the decision. Earnhardt Jr. said he was penalized and fined by NASCAR.

Turning to this season, Earnhardt Jr. called the year a "clunky" one for his team.

"We've had real fast cars. Great runs," he said. "We've had some trouble with engine failures and been involved in wrecks. I'm excited about our chances when I push real hard -- 10 races we got to put together the best 10 races we can and all 12 teams really have a shot at it. There's no clear favorite -- no one guy that stands above the rest."

The son of an icon, Earnhardt Jr. said his father -- who died in a crash at the Daytona 500 on February, 18, 2001 -- taught him to be able to shake things off as you pursue your goals with tenacity. He said, "You need to be able to shake off that want to bother you -- the bad finishes, other drivers, something's just not working out, some plan -- either in a race or outside the race car -- you got to shake those things off."

Great racers that stand above the rest have "fearlessness and guts," Earnhardt Jr. said. "There's a unique raw speed the guy has that you can see when the guy is in the car. ... They just have a raw ability to get speed out of a race car and get it around a corner faster than the next guy."

As a kid watching his father reach the height of his career, Earnhardt Jr. said he was "in awe" of what his father was experiencing. "All I wanted to do was drive cars," he said. "To be able to do this and not have to work for a living, that was going to be incredible."

  • Amanda Cochran

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