In the many interviews Dale Earnhardt Jr. did immediately following his Sprint Cup Series victory last Sunday at Pocono, he repeatedly made mention that he was having "the time of his life" right now and believed the crew members on his team felt the same way.
Earnhardt has won a pair of championships in what is now the Nationwide Series, won a pair of Daytona 500s and has enjoyed a fair share of success in Victory Lane, so what is so special in 2014 that leads him to say that?
Certainly it can't all be about winning his second race of the season, and it isn't. I asked Earnhardt after the win Sunday, what all goes into him making that statement. Here is his complete answer:
"When I go to the garage or when I go to the shop and visit with (my crew guys) and talk to them, my car chief, Jason Burdette, brings his son over to my property to run around our little go‑kart track, and Steve (Letarte) and I have a great relationship off the race track. I let his son into our clan, in Clash of Clans a couple months ago. That's been a thrill for Tyler.But we had to clean up the language a little bit, but he's having fun," Earnhardt said.
"We do a lot of normal things together, and there's a real appreciation for each other individually as people. There's a great ‑‑ we're real fortunate because there's not a guy in that group that's hard to be around. We're all easy going, and everybody really gets along. We set aside our flaws and really enjoy the relationship and working together, and we've done that for a couple years now. But now that we're having success, it makes it a lot more fun. But the fact that we can get along when things weren't the best, I mean, that team had just ‑‑ Jeff (Gordon) and that team split up and we all knew what kind of talent he is, and so the way they wrapped their arm around me and put me under their wing and made me feel comfortable and made me confident and made me feel worthy of the opportunity to work with them was great. They've been just genuine, genuine people, Burdette and Kevin Meander and all the guys are just so genuine. They're real. Their feelings and relationships are real.
"I'm enjoying that. I said it out there in victory lane. 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."