Junior: ‘Amelia’ ‘needs to be parked for awhile’ – Nascar
TALLADEGA, Ala. — Perhaps it’s time for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to break up with “Amelia.”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver and Chevrolet Chassis No. 88-872 — affectionately dubbed “Amelia” by Junior after trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart — had their moments, winning twice in four restrictor-plate events in 2015, but things went sour early between the power couple in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, as they did in the season-opening Daytona 500.
RELATED: ‘Amelia’ goes spinning at Daytona
The first caution of the race flew when the No. 88 driver appeared to lose control while driving in the midst of the lead pack on Lap 49 of the scheduled 188-lap event. “Amelia” suddenly spun, and No. 5 Kasey Kahne slammed into his HMS teammate, doling out significant damage.
“Just got loose. I was in a bad spot with the wind. It pinned the nose real hard off the corner and the car was a little bit loose off the corner that run,” Earnhardt explained at his hauler. “Real, real tight the first run (which) is why we fell back, we were just on the splitter real bad pushing. I could only run the top, I couldn’t even run the middle or the bottom because the car just would plow across the race track.
“So, we missed something this morning, I don’t know, but the thing shouldn’t have been on the splitter that hard. We couldn’t fix that. You have to put packer in the front or something when it is on the splitter as bad as it was. It was still on the splitter that second run. I had a lot of wheel in the car in the middle of the corner and then the back was swinging on the exit with the adjustments we made on the pit stop. Just a bad combination … We just got to look at what we are doing on our adjustments and try not to do that.”
Earnhardt, who said “the same thing that happened at Daytona to us,” took his car to the garage to assess the damage, his crew working to get his ride back on track shortly after the halfway mark, 46 laps down.
Not long after, the No. 88 again ran into trouble after making hard contact with the No. 19 of Carl Edwards on Lap 110, forcing its hood up over the windshield and catching on fire.
“We were just out there riding around and something broke on the 19 and he came up into us and we were just out there chilling out, having fun,” Earnhardt said.
More importantly, it appeared to cause a problem with the No. 88’s steering wheel, which completely came off.
“Oh, it (came) off. Yeah, I didn’t have it on there. Luckily it was under caution,” said Earnhardt, who managed to corral his machine without taking another major hit. “I just grabbed the shaft and steered the car that way. Ripped the skin off my hand, but I wasn’t going to let it hit the wall. That was just a freak deal. … We’re working on something to keep that from happening going forward.”
The car did not return to the track after that, saddling Earnhardt with a 40th-place finish and likely resulting in a final resting spot for “Amelia” in Earnhardt’s car graveyard.
“Hell, I’m going home. I’m done,” Earnhardt said.
“We need to park the car for a while, too.”