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EARNHARDT DISAGREES WITH PUNISHMENT THE TALLADEGA WINNER WANTS NASCAR TO RETHINK HOW IT PENALIZES DRIVERS FOR USING FOUL LANGUAGE ON AIR.
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EARNHARDT DISAGREES WITH PUNISHMENT THE TALLADEGA WINNER WANTS NASCAR TO RETHINK HOW IT PENALIZES DRIVERS FOR USING FOUL LANGUAGE ON AIR.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits he was wrong to cuss during a live TV interview last weekend but says that NASCAR wasn't right to penalize him so harshly.

NASCAR fined Earnhardt Jr. $10,000 and 25 points for saying a four-letter word in an interview with NBC after his Talladega victory. The incident dropped Earnhardt from atop the points standing and led NBC and MRN radio network to delay their broadcasts to keep such language off the air. The networks' policy will go into effect for Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.Earnhardt, speaking publicly Friday for the first time about the incident, said he wants NASCAR to change its penalty for such infractions and encouraged his fans to let NASCAR know their feelings.

"I think the punishment was more severe than the crime," said Earnhardt, who trails series leader Kurt Busch by 12 points, pending an appeal.

"That's the only part I have a problem with is just trying to understand where you can take points off the scoreboard after how hard we worked that day. We earned every one of them."

After winning last weekend, Earnhardt was asked during the NBC interview how the victory compared to the 10 wins his father had at that track.

"It don't mean (expletive) right now," Earnhardt said.

The 25-point fine was the same penalty NASCAR issued two Busch series drivers earlier this season for saying the same word as Earnhardt in live interviews.

Points are more valuable to drivers than money because points determine where a driver finishes in the standings and how much he'll earn. The Nextel Cup champion will make more than $5 million. That's why Earnhardt hates losing points.

"I told NASCAR ... change the penalty," he said, suggesting fines of $100,000 or more.

Penalties for off-track behavior trouble some drivers. They don't like losing points for something that happens when they're not in the car.

"You can't expect to go out and run a 500-mile race like we did last week two inches apart and come in hot and sweaty and losing 7 pounds and a guy just rams a mic in your mouth and asks a question," Rusty Wallace said. "You can't expect to be sharp and calculated and perfect and ready to roll.

"I've given (NASCAR President Mike) Helton some (expletive) before. I say you guys are up in your ivory tower with the air condition burning and fully catered and people running cokes and drinks for you and you can do whatever you want. We're down here busting our brains out running 200 (mph), putting a show for everybody and make one slip and our (expletive) is in trouble.

"I'd like to ride those cats around for 500 miles one time and see what they've got to say. Bounce them off those dudes at 200 mph and see if they change their mind, I think they would."

Not everyone agrees with Wallace.

"We all have a responsibility," Kevin Harvick said. "We're role modes. We can all have personalities, but you don't have to act like a (expletive) to do it."

Earnhardt said maybe he needs to change what he says.

"It's hard changing who you are," he said. "I've got a lot of friends that tell me all the time to clean it up a little bit. I'm 30 years old (as of Sunday); it's hard to change."

Earnhardt also said he'll rely on his fans - several who sang "Happy Birthday' to him after he qualified eighth - to help him with NASCAR.

"I want my friends to just speak for me to NASCAR in a sensible manner," said Earnhardt, who has had many followers already contact NASCAR this week. "Everybody needs to voice their opinion on things like this. I hope my fans will speak up for me."

\ Contact Dustin Long at 373-7062 or at dlong@news-record.com

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