This week at RIR

Junior's mature stance

Moreover, Earnhardt does not deny his taste for plate racing.

"I really enjoyed the race other than (the final wreck)," he said. "I enjoyed the hell out of it. I enjoy racing at Talladega. I kind of like running in the big packs."

That's the rub of restrictor plates. They level the playing field, so to speak, creating three- and four-wide packs on tracks banked high enough to produce speeds approaching 200 mph.

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Such aerodynamics are impossible at more compact venues such as Richmond International Raceway. They can be incendiary at Talladega and Daytona.

But Earnhardt was quick to remind of the many safety upgrades adopted since Bobby Allison's 1987 airborne crash at Talladega and his dad's passing 14 years later.

"People have raced in this sport under far, far more dangerous situations," Junior said. "We're in pretty good shape right now with how safe the cars are, what NASCAR's done to try to keep things within reason. ...

"It's hard to tell whether the wreck Sunday was an oddity or whether that's something that could easily happen again, because we haven't seen it since Bobby's wreck at the same track at the same spot. We haven't seen it in years. But how easily could that happen again? I think that's the question you've got to ask yourself."

Amid all the Talladega fallout, Earnhardt also answered questions about his tame-by-comparison entanglements with Kyle Busch at both Richmond races last season. Busch love-tapped Earnhardt out of the way in May; Earnhardt returned the favor in September.

Neither took the checkered flag. Clint Bowyer won the spring race, Jimmie Johnson the summer.

"It was pretty wild," Earnhardt said. "That was pretty disappointing how the first race finished. The second race was a little rough, too. ...

"I like racing Kyle. ... But hopefully we don't have any of that going on this weekend. Hopefully we can all try to win a race and not be bouncing off each other."

Well said, but as Junior knows all too well, racing is a contact sport. And for some, the more the better.

Russ Friedman 400

On Page 3

Coming Friday

Russ Friedman 400

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Richmond International Raceway.

TV: Fox 35 43,

coverage at 7.


On Page 3

• A glance at this week's races.

Coming Friday

We catch up with three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who has won three times in the last four races at RIR.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at For more from Teel, read his blog at