- Associated Press - Saturday, May 4, 2013

TALLADEGA, ALA. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. left his car and Talladega Superspeedway last October angry and hurting.

He said the wait-for-the-big-one mentality in Talladega-style racing was “bloodthirsty” and that he’d look for a different line of work if all the races were like that.

Going into Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, Earnhardt said he wishes he could take back some of those words spoken in the heat of the moment and, it turns out, when he was facing the effects of a second concussion in six weeks.

Tony Stewart triggered a 25-car pileup trying to protect the lead, and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth won under caution.

“I was just really, really mad that I couldn’t just get through that wreck and not have that happen,” Earnhardt said.

A lingering headache prompted Earnhardt to visit a neurosurgeon four days later, and he learned of the concussions. Earnhardt sat out the next two races.

The popular driver, who’s a huge fan favorite in `Dega, said in retrospect he was “not myself” and got swept up in emotions when he lashed out.

“I’ve regretted making those comments and I think I overreacted and overstated my feelings quite a bit,” Earnhardt said. “It’s frustrating when you run around and we spend all day running 495 miles and then crash in the last five, the whole field crashes.

“It’s really frustrating to sort of accept that as what I decided to do today. I got up (that) Sunday morning and decided to run 495 miles to crash in the last five miles, and now I’m going to go home and I’m all right with that. That’s hard to wrap your brain around.”

Earnhardt has built plenty of much fonder memories at Talladega, where he has won five Sprint Cup races and one on the Nationwide series. Running up front is one way to steer clear of some of those crashes.

“I don’t think about Talladega when I come here for a race such as this weekend in a bad way,” he said. “I think of it as a place where I’ve done well. I think about it as a place where we need to win and we can win.

“I know what I need to do to win at places like this and we can make it a good weekend. And if I drive the way I need to drive, I’m not in position to be in a wreck. I’m up front where I’m supposed to be. That’s my feeling inside, is I’m supposed to be up front.”

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