Earnhardt forced to park Amelia early at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) Dale Earnhardt Jr. parked ''Amelia'' early at Talladega Superspeedway, came back and then had to try to control his favorite car minus the steering wheel.

If that's his last go around with Amelia, it was anything but boring.

Earnhardt's beloved car, rebuilt for the track where he's won more than any other active driver, bobbled 49 laps into the race Sunday and NASCAR's most popular driver started a wreck that collected Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, as well as Matt DiBenedetto.

Just like that, his bid for a seventh Talladega victory was over. But the day got worse shortly after Earnhardt's return to the track.

Earnhardt's steering wheel came loose after contact with Carl Edwards, forcing him to try controlling the car by clutching the steering column as it left the track. He just pulled the wheel out and plopped it on the dashboard before climbing out.

This one wasn't the fault of Amelia or Earnhardt as Edwards' car got loose and turned up the track into him.

''The steering wheel came off and I was trying to get it back on and the car was headed toward the wall,'' Earnhardt said. ''Well, I wasn't going to let it hit the wall, so I grabbed the column and steered it with that. Tore my hands all up, but didn't hit the wall.

''We have to look at something to keep that from happening anymore. We were just out there riding around and something broke (with Edwards) and he came over and got into us. We just had no luck this weekend.''

Amelia might be left in the garage for some time, but Earnhardt was certainly ready to call it a day.

''Hell, I'm going home. I'm done,'' he said. ''I think we need to park the car for a while, too.''

On the first mishap, Earnhardt headed to the garage with damage to the left front of his car.

Hendrick Motorsports rebuilt the Chevrolet that he drove to four victories in six starts over a 13-month period. He had also wrecked in Amelia at Daytona in February but crew chief Greg Ives repaired the car for Talladega.

''We had a real bad problem at the first run, the splitter was on the ground real bad,'' said Earnhardt, who had been running back in the pack after starting third. ''I was really tight and couldn't run anywhere, but up against the wall. We made some adjustments to help the car and the splitter was still on the ground really bad.

''I got in a bad area with the wind and the air and it just got loose and spun out. The same thing that happened at Daytona to us. We just got to look at what we are doing on our adjustments and try not to do that.''

He said changes to the car made it too loose off the corner. Again, it was a familiar feeling.

''Same thing we did at Daytona,'' Earnhardt said.

Kahne said he wasn't sure exactly what happened after seeing Earnhardt go left and back right.

''I'm surprised something like that happened right then,'' Kahne said. ''It wasn't like it was four-wide or anything. It was fairly simple at that point in time, I thought.''

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