Pocono International Raceway has an incredible history in NASCAR. The Tricky Triangle has bested many of the top drivers, but some have been rewarded with momentous and hard-fought victories.
Names like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Benny Parsons, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Tim Richmond, Harry Gant, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, and Jeff Gordon have persevered and claimed victory at Pocono Raceway.
And, on Sunday when the Pocono 400 was contested, a new name was added to the list of victors, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It was Earnhardt Jr.’s first win in 29 starts at the track and his second victory of the 2014 season, tying him in wins with teammate Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.
Having the freedom to not worry about the Chase – Earnhardt Jr. is guaranteed a berth as long as he remains in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 – has made Earnhardt Jr. able to take it easy this season.
“…it made the rest of the year a lot more relaxing, a lot easier, less stress and it makes it fun, because you can just go to the race track and just race and not worry about points.”
“We can go to Michigan confident, happy, and a track where we really run well at and we can have fun this summer knowing those two wins have got us good and locked in pretty good,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
It had been a decade since Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed a multiple-win season (2004).
Winning at Pocono is especially sweet for Earnhardt Jr.
“You know, I just wanted to win at Pocono.”
“It feels good to finally get to victory lane here. I really enjoy racing here, and I used to come here as a kid because it was a summer race. Just always wanted to win at this place, so it feels so good to finally do that,” Earnhardt Jr. said during his post-race press conference.
As Earnhardt Jr. reaches a milestone birthday later in the year, he’s learned what is truly important in his life.
“Winning races is great, but it’s nothing unless you enjoy who you’re doing it with, and when you can do something great and it’s with people you enjoy being around, man, it really adds to it, so this is why it’s so special right now.”
Earnhardt Jr. is thrilled he hopped on the social networking bandwagon, namely Twitter, to interact with his fans and fellow friends.
“That interaction is unlike any other, and I get as much out of it, I think, as the fans that are following me.”
Earnhardt went on to explain, “It definitely has some sort of a small effect on your personality a little bit, to have that kind of support directly right at your fingertips, knowing everybody is behind you 100 percent every day.”
“You want people behind you and pushing you and motivating you. It does a lot of positive things for me.”
And, as for Earnhardt Jr.’s detractors and naysayers, he cares not at all.
“I don’t worry about that as much anymore. I’m turning 40 this year, and the overrated talk is very behind me.”
Earnhardt Jr. said, “You just kind of go along and do your job and enjoy what you’re doing, and I’ve got to maximize what’s left of my career and have as much fun with it as I can, try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
“I took it for granted, and don’t take anything for granted anymore when it comes to being at the racetrack and working with my team and how hard it is to get good and get competitive and how hard it is to get the right people in the right place.”
In this part of Earnhardt Jr.’s career he has become enlightened and sees things clearly.
“I feel I’m such a lucky guy to have this second opportunity almost to be competitive again…”
Competitive, lucky, feeling good, relaxed, and fully ‘in the moment’, look for Earnhardt Jr. to continue his strong streak in 2014.