Dale Earnhardt Jr. changes tune about new rules’ impact on strategy

A few weeks ago, when he nearly won the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a risky fuel strategy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pretty much said it was these new NASCAR rules rewarding race winners that was responsible for an exciting finish.

Junior already had won a race — the season-opening Daytona 500 — and that all but guaranteed him a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. And so instead of playing it safe by stopping for fuel and collecting points at the end of the race, he was able to stay out and go for the win.

At least that’s what he said in the post-race news conference.

A couple of media types pretty much called nonsense on that, saying Earnhardt had done the same thing in the past, before the rules were changed.

And today, when somebody asked him if he could be more offensive at Martinsville, Va., site of this weekend’s race, because of the new rules, Junior pretty much called nonsense on himself.

“Yeah, we have had that happen in the last couple of years regardless how the points system is stacked up,” he said. “I can tell you though as far as being offensive, defensive, you are only as offensive as your car will allow you to be.”

Notice he said the car, not where a guy stands in points, determines a driver’s mindset.

“If your car is fast enough, you want to drive it as far as it can go. You definitely have to be offensive all the time and always try to be aggressive in how you drive the race track.”

So if Junior said you always try to be offensive and aggressive in how you drive the race track — regardless of the new rules and where you stand in the points — it has to be true.

At least this week.