To be a successful NASCAR driver and earn the respect of your peers you need a lot going your way. You need the right crew, a fast car, and according to one of the top names in the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr., you also need to have confidence in yourself.
In a recent interview given to USA Today, Dale Jr. admitted that he has been struggling with the last part of that formula.
"If your confidence isn't there, you can be with the greatest team ever, but it's going to affect you, it's going to have a negative effect," Earnhardt told USA TODAY Sports. "So that's important that my confidence gets better as well as the team progresses. As we start to progress, it's important that I do the same thing."
Coming off of one of his most consistent seasons where he had 20 top-10 finishes, Earnhardt is poised to reestablish himself as a top driver. That is, if he can look past mistakes of the past and regain the swagger that he had in his younger days.
According to Dale Jr., having confidence and having it recognized by other drivers can majorly impact how they react to each other on the track. Recognized confidence can make it easier for a high profile driver to make it to the front of the pack, thus translating into better results.
"When you run good, they treat you differently," Earnhardt said. "As a driver, you know who belongs up front. When you see a guy struggling for a long period of time, you're like, 'Man, get to the back where you belong.' … It's sort of an elitist kind of thing. It's really cutthroat.
In order to get to the level of respect that Earnhardt is wanting, he is going to have to build on the success of last season and not fall back into the rut he was in from 2009-2011. It was those lean years that caused Earnhardt to lose faith in his abilities and to question his place in NASCAR.
"It's like, 'Damn. What's it going to take to get back to running like I want to run or like I think I can run or how I've run in the past?'" Earnhardt said. "You wonder, 'How much has the sport changed?' and 'Why is it so difficult?' and 'How did it become more competitive?' and 'Where did you lose your way?'
Dale Jr.'s quest for redemption continues on Sunday, February 24th as the NASCAR season kicks off with the Daytona 500. The race can be seen at 1 pm on FOX.
James LeBeau is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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