Earnhardt Jr Looking Ahead

He's running a retro paint scheme but that's the only step back in time this weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who would rather focus on this week's Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway than last Saturday's incident with Kyle Busch.

The much-celebrated tangle between the two remains a hot topic of discussion around the NASCAR world except for the two combatants, who haven't yet spoken about the incident at this point.

"No, we haven’t," Earnhardt said. "We probably will. It ain’t no big deal. There ain’t no big rush.”

While "Junior Nation" might be up in arms over the accident that cost Earnhardt a chance to end his two-year winless streak, the driver of the No. 88 has remained calm about what happened.

"I think it’s because we’re so busy and there are so many things going on," Earnhardt said of his diplomatic approach in the aftermath. "There are things that I’ve got to do during the week and my schedule is so busy that I just ain’t got time for it. I’m in a bad enough mood just with the grind of the season that I just don’t let those kinds of things get to me and get under my skin. I don’t want to make an issue worse for me. I don’t want to give anybody ammunition for me."

"We’ve got a lot of critics out there and a lot of supporters too, and I know they would have rather me have been a little more vocal and a little more angry about it. But there are just a lot of different reasons. I’ve got better things, more important things to worry about and if I let that get under my skin, everything I do this week is going to be a pain in my butt so it makes for a long week.”

Earnhardt is hoping the weekend isn't a long one as he tries to tackle the new Darlington pavement, which was installed on the 1.366-mile track over the off-season.

The new asphalt has been met with high reviews so far as well as higher speeds than in the past.

Oh, it’s remarkable. The track’s great. It’s in good shape. It’s pretty warm today and we’re running in the corner really fast and the track surface is holding up really well.

“The speeds are pretty insane," he said. "The grip is good. It’s going to be interesting to see, really, how the cars are on 40 and 50-lap runs. Everybody is out there running three and four laps and doing okay, but it’s going to be interesting to see who falls off a lot and who don’t and who can maintain that kind of a pace. I think it’s possible for somebody to be able to maintain a really fast pace."

"It’s going to be very physical just driving that hard and that fast. It’s going to be very physical on your body. It’s different. It’s pretty neat though.”

The colors on Earnhardt's No. 88 are pretty neat as well. The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is sporting a retro Mountain Dew paint scheme at Darlington.

"It’s really cool," Earnhardt said. "I went to the shop. The car looks good. I came here and got in the fence a little bit and put a little stripe on it and man, it looks really realistic now. And it’s fast. It handles good. I’m really happy with the guys and the preparation and really, how great the car looks."

Earnhardt thinks it will look even better if he rolls into victory lane Saturday night at the historic track.

“I’d love to win here because the track has a lot of history," he said. "A lot of great names have been in victory lane here. It’s so tough to win. It’s such a tough race track. And when you’ve won here, you’re considered one of the tougher guys in the sport when you can conquer this race and conquer what this track throws at you. It’s going to be a new ballgame with the pavement, but you’d still take just as much pride in winning at Darlington.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2008

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