Earnhardt Jr. Says Brickyard is Big

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I think that it’s an important race, anybody who wins here gets to put their name along a list of names of legends and not only in the stock car racing realm, but also in open wheel and all kinds of other different series.” (Photo: Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – Dale Earnhardt Jr. considers Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one of NASCAR’s crown jewels.

As far as Earnhardt is concerned, Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 is one of the most elite races in the Sprint Cup Series.

“It’s in the top-five or three,” said Earnhardt. “I would never place anything above the Daytona 500. Being that is our biggest event, our marquee event. It’s second or third. I don’t know that you can place importance on races specifically so much so that you can put them in order.

“I think that it’s an important race, anybody who wins here gets to put their name along a list of names of legends and not only in the stock car racing realm, but also in open wheel and all kinds of other different series.”

Part of the allure of Indianapolis is its history according to Earnhardt, even if the top tier of stock car racing has only contributed to it for the past 20 years.

“Yeah, this place does have a lot of history,” he said. “It is a fun race track to drive on just because of the history and everything that has happened here and all the races that you’ve watched growing up.”

The Earnhardt Indianapolis legacy of course includes the 1995 Brickyard win by Dale Sr., who came close to winning the inaugural event the year before. Although Earnhardt Jr. didn’t compete in the Sprint Cup Series until 2000, he did have previous Indianapolis experience.

“The first time I came here I ran an IROC (International Race of Champions) and just got destroyed by everybody out there,” Earnhardt chuckled.

But despite the disappointing outcome, Earnhardt got a taste of racing at the historic track and figuring out what it takes to be successful around the 2.5-mile layout.

“The shape of the track is unique compared to anything else we race on,” Earnhardt said. “It’s a real technical track and if you are just looking at the race track you would assume that all the corners look relatively similar. The car must go through each corner pretty much the same and what you might be fighting in one corner you would probably assume you would fight in all of them.

“But to be honest all the corners are really different and as odd as it is they are extremely different from each other.”

Earnhardt also addressed the sponsorship situation on the No. 88 Chevrolet, which has a dozen races without backing this season.

“We have had a lot of good conversations with a few potential partners about what we can do in 2014 and beyond,” Earnhardt said . “Anybody who has got any sense about how the corporate world works knows that it’s too late into the season, too late in the year to expect to put together a package for the rest of the season that is going to turn into a multiyear deal.

“It’s just all the dollars and cents are accounted for at this point in the year.”

Earnhardt is focused on securing a spot in the Chase with seven races to go in the regular season. He comes into the Indianapolis weekend fifth in the point standings and in relatively good shape to make the playoffs.

But he’s winless after 20 races and in order to get a higher Chase seed, needs to find his way to Victory Lane preferably a time or two before Richmond rolls around in September.

If he’s able to do that on Sunday, it would make an even bigger impact.

“It’s a pretty big deal and there is a good amount of envy to the guys that have won this race before, more so than I feel at other race tracks that I haven’t won at,” said Earnhardt. “I would say it’s a pretty important race, it ranks right up there.”

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