Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. backs wife's "not worth risk'' opinion on Daytona

INDIANAPOLIS — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday defended his wife's Twitter post — and blamed himself for putting her in a position where she believed she had to speak out and upset some of his fans.

Five days after Amy Earnhardt wrote that it wouldn't be "worth the risk" to see her husband compete in next year's Clash at Daytona, Earnhardt said that outsiders don't understand what the family endured as he recovered from concussion symptoms last year.

"She's been there for everything," Earnhardt said. "A lot of folks that may have a different opinion about it weren't there through the whole process. If anyone knows how difficult it was beside me, it would be her. It wasn't a lot of fun for her."

The most popular driver in NASCAR's Cup series announced in April he would retire after this season, in part because of his injury history. Two big crashes last summer forced him out of the final 18 races.

Earnhardt appeared to reopen possibly returning to Daytona after winning the pole there three weeks ago. He said he told team owner Rick Hendrick that competing in the Clash would be something his wife "needed to warm up to."

She hasn't.

"I've received many comments on Dale Jr running the 2018 Clash based on whether or not I give my blessing," she wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. "Considering his struggles last fall with his injury, we are very blessed that he is now healthy, happy and able to enjoy his final season … and hopefully many years beyond racing. So my answer is simple. It's not worth the risk to his health."

KYLE BUSCH ON POLE: Kyle Busch won the pole position as he chases an unprecedented third consecutive NASCAR Brickyard 400 victory today in Indianapolis.

Busch earned the top qualifying spot on his final lap with a speed of 187.301 mph on the 2½-mile oval. Kevin Harvick was second at 186.332, and Jamie McMurray qualified third.

It's the second consecutive year Busch has claimed the Brickyard pole. The only other Cup drivers with back-to-back pole wins at the Brickyard are Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1996 and Ernie Irvan in 1997 and 1998.

"Obviously, we've had a really fast car," Busch said.

Busch is trying to become the second driver to win three consecutive races at Indy. Former Formula One star Michael Schumacher won the U.S. Grand Prix four times in a row, all on the road course.

Earnhardt qualified 13th.

XFINITY: Rookie William Byron bobbed and weaved through the final two laps and held off Paul Menard to win the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis. The victory margin of 0.108 seconds was the narrowest in race history. Busch was 12th, failing in his bid to become the first driver to win five consecutive races on Indy's 2½-mile oval. Byron, 19, blocked Menard while completing the final laps with a deflating tire. "I can't believe that tire held," Byron said. "But it is awesome, man."

NHRA: Leah Pritchett took the No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position in the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. Pritchett set an elapsed-time track record with a 3.733-second pass at 326.24 mph during the fourth and final qualifying session. Courtney Force topped Funny Car qualifying, Drew Skillman took the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec was the fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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