Saturday, March 15, 2008

G-rated interview

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- The last time Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited a Nextel Cup victory lane, a slipped profanity triggered a controversy that ended when NASCAR docked him 25 championship points.

Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, as he climbed his No.8 Chevrolet, Earnhardt Jr. was reminded to keep things clean.

Tony Eury Sr., Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, told his driver to watch what he said.

"Now, don't cuss," Eury Sr. said.

"I'm glad he reminded me," Earnhardt Jr. said.

Nothing profane came out of Earnhardt Jr.'s mouth during his post-race interview with NBC, and he was thankful.

"I was really scared I was going to slip up because I have a lot of bad words in my vocabulary," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I will always from here on out be nervous about that. I made that mistake. It was a mistake. I'm human."

The 25-point penalty cost Earnhardt Jr. the points lead after Talladega, but his victory in the Checker Auto Parts 500 at PIR moved him to within 47 points of Kurt Busch.

That's outside the 25-point window created by the penalty, but Earnhardt Jr. isn't too worried.

"Being in (third) still ain't first," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It doesn't really matter. I'm not going to dwell over that."

He was able to joke about the penalty, saying he'd get more attention if he finished 25 points or fewer behind than if he won.

"It would be great exposure for me and my team and my sponsor, and if we do lose the championship, we're trying our best to lose it by 25 points," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That'll get us all kinds of exposure, probably moreso than winning the championship.

"We all have our secret agendas. I mean, really, I don't worry about it too much. I don't feel any pressure going into the last two races. We've already had reasons -- like the penalty and the mistake I made last week -- why, in the end, we lost this championship. All we can do now is race."

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