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The driver of the number 88 car ended a 143-race winless streak at the Quicken Loans 400 in Michigan on June 17 and ranks third in the Sprint Cup points standings.

DAN PATRICK:Do you expect to win the Sprint Cup title this year?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think we can be part of the story line. You've got to look at the defending champion, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson, with all his trophies. But I think we can be part of the mix. Last year we finished well, but we weren't in the battle for the title.

DP:After winning at Michigan, did you forget how to celebrate?

DE: Why?

DP:It'd been a while.

DE:[Laughs.] I thought you saw my celebration and didn't like it.

DP:No, not at all. Explain what you do to celebrate.

DE: We do the burnout for the fans in front of the grandstand and go to Victory Lane and do the hat dance—put on all the [sponsors'] hats and take pictures. After all that, we went home with family and friends and talked about it all night.

DP:How many hats do you have to put on in Victory Lane?

DE: Probably two dozen.

DP:At what point did you think, I'm going to win the race?

DE: I started thinking about that specifically with about 60 laps to go. I was looking in the mirror thinking, Someone's about to come up here and challenge us or steal it away. Somebody's going to get faster. But it just never happened. With about 60 laps to go I said, Maybe I'm the guy with the dominant car. That's when I started to get a little nervous.

DP:Was it more special to win on Father's Day?

DE: I hadn't even thought about it. I had a lot of people tell me it was a great Father's Day gift.

DP:If you have a son, will you want him to be a race car driver?

DE: Of course. I have a niece, and she races now, and I can't wait to spend all my money on her.

DP:Do you want her to race in NASCAR someday?

DE: She's racing these little cars at a go-kart track. I hope she wants to keep digging and have fun with it. She's pretty good.

DP:What would you have done if you weren't a race car driver?

DE: I was going to be a mechanic in a dealership, changing your oil.

DP:Did you have to become a race car driver?

DE: It was kind of a dream, and I didn't think it was a choice. I really didn't know if it was going to work out. My mind-set [was]: I'm the son of the seven-time champion, this great figure in the sport; if I become some old guy working at the dealership down the road, that's just going to be the way it is. And I was going to have to live with that somehow.

DP:Would that have been easier in a way because you wouldn't be constantly compared with your father?

DE: I don't know. Nothing against working at the dealership—that was [one of the most fun] times in my life. I would have felt I fell pretty short of my goals in life if that happened. I dreamed of being bigger than that.

DP:Were you any good at changing oil?

DE: One of the best.

"I had the opportunity to play another season. I'm going to be 33 years old in a few days, and nobody is knocking down the door for a 33-year-old running back to come play and have a major role."

—LaDainian Tomlinson, future Hall of Famer, on why he announced his retirement on June 18


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