DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

The ideal situation at the end of restrictor-plate race, says Dale Earnhardt Jr., is to pair up with a teammate you can trust.

Barring that, you've got to be downright piggish, says the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

"I've won races working with a teammate before," said Earnhardt, who will try to win his second Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night. "I've won races being the most selfish guy out there. It just depends on what you need to do and what is happening and who is around.

"If you've got an opportunity at the end of the race . . . if your teammate happens to be the guy that you're working with, that's the best-case scenario, because we have seen that work a lot of times here."

Sometimes, however, a teammate simply isn't available.

"If (hooking up with a teammate) doesn't look like that's going to happen, or that's not an option or not going to materialize for you, you need to really be as selfish as you can be," Earnhardt said Thursday before NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Daytona International Speedway. "Just be the biggest jerk you can be out there, and that's the way it's got to be if you want to get to Victory Lane.

"You ain't going to do it by expecting favors. You just have to go out there and take it from people, and if you can get to Victory Lane, you don't have to worry about having somebody tell you that was stupid. It is tough. That's not my mentality.

"I don't think of myself as a jerk, but you kind of have to be one if you want to win at the end of these races -- more times than not."

BACK PROBLEMS MEAN MINIMAL TRACK TIME FOR HAMLIN

Rather than risk injury in Sprint Cup practice or in a Nationwide race, Denny Hamlin will confine his on-track activity to Friday's Cup qualifying and Saturday's Coke Zero 400.

Hamlin has been suffering from back problems this week after racing at bumpy Kentucky Speedway last Saturday night.

"There's a few things," Hamlin said of his back issues. "There's some torn discs, some bulging discs -- just a lot of different things that happened over time. It's just gotten progressively worse. Kentucky's not the smoothest of racetracks we've gone to with our progressive setups these days. Evidently it took its toll.

"The next day it just got real tight by the end of the day, and then I sat down for dinner and couldn't get up. I have a history of back spasms now for probably four years, and it just flared up again. This is about as bad as it was at its worst in 2008 or so. I'm just now starting to get mobile again and being able to get around."

Hamlin is an avid golfer and basketball player but said the back problems pre-date his involvement in those sports. He withdrew from Friday night's Subway Jalapeno 250 earlier this week and opted out of the two Cup practice sessions on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Hamlin won't have a relief driver standing by for Saturday's race.

"I don't plan on having a relief driver," Hamlin told the NASCAR Wire Service. "If something happened, and I didn't feel well, there'd be somebody around that could help, but I don't plan on having one. I could probably (practice) today, if I had to, but of course it's not race day, and I've got two more days before I really have to get in 'go.' "

Hamlin just signed a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing and said he has provisions in his contract that cover potential medical issues.

"As far as insuring a problem like this, we have stuff in place to help out when stuff like this happens," Hamlin said.