Saturday, April 16, 2011
Updated: April 17, 10:07 AM ET
Since Junior won 100 races ago ...
By David Newton
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. was behind his Nationwide Series hauler on Saturday when the interview turned to how Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show turned into a 25-point fine for him after his 2004 victory at Talladega Superspeedway, knocking him out of first place in the Sprint Cup standings.
Stick with me.
And to clarify, the person used the word "booby" instead of breast in asking the question.
"Come again," Earnhardt interrupted. "Did you say boobies?"
Many confused heads nodded an affirmative.
"He did," NASCAR's most popular driver said. "I was just checking."
The question then was rephrased to ask if Jackson's move that forced the FCC to crack down on objectionable content on television, which led NASCAR to dock Earnhardt for saying "it don't mean s--- right now" when asked what it meant to win at Talladega for the fifth time, cost the sport's most popular driver a shot at the title.
For the record, Earnhardt went from 13 points up in the standings to 12 behind with seven races left in the inaugural Chase. He finished in fifth place, 138 behind Kurt Busch.
"Ah, no, man," Earnhardt said. "That's a helluva
"Yeah, I like it," Earnhardt said.
At least Earnhardt wasn't being asked about the 100-race losing streak he'll carry into Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega. He'd much rather talk about when he was on top of his game.
And Earnhardt was at the very top in 2004. He won one other time after Talladega to finish with a season-high six victories. He was the restrictor-plate king, winning five times and finishing second two others during a seven-race stretch at this 2.66-mile piece of real estate.
That was when 40-car packs were in vogue instead of two-car tandems and your radio wasn't clogged with voices from rival drivers and spotters in an attempt to maintain sanity.
"When I was winning races [at Talladega], I felt like I was winning those races because the package we ran put it more in the driver's hand," said Earnhardt, back in his comfort zone of conversation. "The package we have puts it more in fate's hand, puts it more in luck and fortune's hands."
Earnhardt understandably would rather be in control.
"I've got to learn how to make this package work for me, whether it's how the COT drafts or how I'm racing with the car or my decisions I'm making," he said. "Something's not right where we're not winning races here.
"For whatever reason, I was suited better for that era and the way the cars drafted and the package they had. I've got to figure out the magic for this one."
Earnhardt, more than maybe anybody in the garage, doesn't like the tandem racing. He hopes it goes away fast so he doesn't have to talk about it anymore.
"This is a bunch of crap," he said.
Earnhardt prefers not to talk about the losing streak, either. He'd rather talk about the solid start to this season, being sixth in points, and how well his team is running with new crew chief Steve Letarte.
But since we're in a retrospective mood with halftime malfunctions and how Talladega has changed, it seems like a good time to look back at all that has changed since Earnhardt last won.
And a lot has changed since June 15, 2008, when Earnhardt won at Michigan International Speedway.
Stick with me.
• 1. Barack Obama becomes first black president.
• 2. IRL darling Danica Patrick becomes NASCAR darling for JR Motorsports.
• 3. Jimmie Johnson wins third, fourth and fifth straight Sprint Cup titles.
• 4. Second Whisky River opens in Jacksonville, Fla.
• 5. Jennifer Hudson loses 80 pounds, goes from size 16 to 6.
• 6. "Two and a Half Men" goes to 1½.
• 7. Lindsay Lohan goes to rehab three to four times and jail just about as many.
• 8. Jessica Simpson dumps Nick Lachey, then gets dumped by Tony Romo.
• 9. Michael Jackson dies in Neverland.
• 10. Tiger Woods' mistress count closes in on his major count.
• 11. Tony Stewart becomes a team owner.
• 12. Kyle Busch grows up.
• 13. NASCAR Hall of Fame shuns Darrell Waltrip twice.
• 14. Nine babies born to Cup stars, two to Matt Kenseth.
• 15. Jon and Kate Gosselin go from no-names to household names to D-list.
• 16. Massive oil spill in Gulf of Mexico.
• 17. Price of gas tops $4 a gallon.
• 18. Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne win races.
• 19. Earthquake and tsunami wreak havoc on Japan.
• 20. Michael Vick goes from prison to Pro Bowl.
• 21. Kyle Busch wins 12 Cup races.
• 22. Kyle Busch wins 31 Nationwide Series races.
• 23. Kyle Busch wins 17 Truck Series races.
• 24. LeBron James goes from most beloved to most hated in Cleveland.
• 25. Butler reaches two Final Fours.
• 26. California bans trans fats in restaurants.
• 27. John Edwards has an affair and a baby.
• 28. Jeremy Mayfield is banned from NASCAR.
• 29. Twitter changes how news is reported.
• 30. The New Orleans Saints win first Super Bowl.
• 31. The Los Angeles Lakers win two NBA titles.
• 32. Petty Enterprises becomes Richard Petty Motorsports.
• 33. Conan O'Brien replaces Jay Leno only to have Leno replace him.
• 34. iPad technology is introduced.
• 35. Daytona International Speedway gets a hole and then a new surface.
• 36. Bedbug infestation spreads across the U.S.
• 37. Brett Favre goes from Packers to Jets to Vikings to retirement to controversy.
• 38. ABC's "Monday Night Football" goes to ESPN.
• 39. Giants win first World Series since 1954.
• 40. University of Connecticut women win record 90 straight basketball games.
• 41. Singer Donny Osmond wins "Dancing with the Stars."
• 42. Dale Earnhardt Inc. merges with Chip Ganassi Racing.
• 43. All 155 passengers survive a plane crash into Hudson River.
• 44. Tony Stewart goes on three diets.
• 45. Ashley Force Hood becomes first woman to win Funny Car national event.
• 46. Mark Martin goes from semi-retired to full time to second in points.
• 47. Michael Schumacher ends three-year retirement with return to Formula One.
• 48. Tony George is ousted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by family.
• 49. Mel Kiper seemingly evaluates more than 100,000 prospects for NFL draft.
• 50. FDA approves food from cloned animals.
• 51. Physicist builds world's smallest transistor.
• 52. The electric eye is invented.
• 53. Organic matter discovered in Saturn's mystery moon.
• 54. Jimmie Johnson wins 19 Cup races.
• 55. Denny Hamlin is fined for comments on Twitter.
• 56. Kevin Harvick becomes funny.
• 57. Jack Roush survives a second plane crash.
• 58. Simon Cowell leaves "American Idol."
• 59. More than 100 major league players test positive for steroids.
• 60. Record six no-hitters thrown in one major league season.
• 61. Chris Brown gets more publicity for hitting Rihanna than for any of his music hits.
• 62. Obama wins Nobel Prize.
• 63. Matt Kenseth ends 76-race losing streak.
• 64. Jeff Gordon ends 66-race losing streak.
• 65. Kentucky Speedway is given a Cup date.
• 66. California and Atlanta tracks lose Cup dates.
• 67. Brett Favre ends record streak of 297 consecutive starts.
• 68. Cam Newton gets game, gets title and gets caught.
• 69. Three more Harry Potter sequels released.
• 70. Brian Vickers gets blood clots, gets benched and returns.
• 71. Dario Franchitti leaves NASCAR to win two championships in the IndyCar Series.
• 72. Kevin Conway wins Cup rookie of year award without being real Cup driver.
• 73. Start-and-parkers are born.
• 74. George Steinbrenner dies.
• 75. Sarah Palin becomes a political juggernaut.
• 76. Bristol Motor Speedway stops selling out races.
• 77. The Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and lose it again.
• 78. Kasey Kahne drives for Dodge, Budweiser, Toyota, Red Bull.
• 79. Britney Spears goes from crazy train to crazy hot again.
• 80. NASCAR gets new simplified points system.
• 81. Facebook goes from 100 million users to 600 million.
• 82. NASCAR builds Hall of Fame.
• 83. Hardees introduces a turkey burger with a hot Turkish model.
• 84. Austin Dillon wins twice in the black No. 3 truck.
• 85. Roger Federer wins four more Grand Slam titles.
• 86. The longest total eclipse of the sun (six minutes, 38.8 seconds) takes place.
• 87. The cost of a loaf of bread goes from $1.68 to $2.28.
• 88. CBS cancels soap operas "Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns."
• 89. Michael Phelps sets Olympic record with 11 gold medals.
• 90. Michael Phelps gets caught in picture inhaling from marijuana pipe.
• 91. Record 877 snowfalls are set in the U.S.
• 92. Manny Ramirez gets caught twice for performance-enhancing drugs.
• 93. Rex Ryan promises two Super Bowls to Jets fans and delivers none.
• 94. Lady Gaga becomes new Madonna and hatches from an egg.
• 95. Tom Brady marries Giselle Bundchen -- twice.
• 96. X Games star Travis Pastrana moves to NASCAR.
• 97. Michael Waltrip becomes a comedian.
• 98. NASCAR goes from wings and splitters to spoilers and "have at it."
• 99. Earnhardt family switches loyalties from Duke's to Hellman's mayo.
• 100. Earnhardt wins most popular driver of the year award three more times.
And if you need one more, Earnhardt had "boobies" mentioned for the first time in a press conference.
Beats talking about losing streaks.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.