Math Appeal

It's back to school time across the country and for many Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans, math is the most popular subject.

Junior kept his slim hopes of making this year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" alive last Saturday night at Bristol with another top-10 finish.

He finished ninth to stay mathematically alive in the championship chase with only two races left to qualify. Earnhardt, Jr. is fifteenth in the standings, 117 out of the final transfer spot.

It wasn't easy for Earnhardt, Jr. Saturday night who started 41st in the 500-lap grind. He had to battle back from being a lap down several times and was the recipient of the "Lucky Dog" award three times.

But in the end, Junior was able to get back to the front and was pleased with the top 10 afterward.

"Man, that was fun," he said. "I know a lot of people are probably wondering how we got a top-10 out of this, but this ol' Budweiser Chevrolet was fast, and we passed a lot of cars to get that top-10. Starting so far in the back hurt us because we had a lot of traffic to deal with."

On two separate occassions, Earnhardt, Jr. was involved in incidents that brought out the caution and damaged his Monte Carlo.

"So much happened I barely remember the two incidents," he said. "There were people bouncing all over each other out there. I know the first one I ran into somebody when everyone was checking up from the wreck ahead of us.

"The second was kind of the same deal. We were lucky to get no real damage other than flat-spotting the tires. Our incidents were minor compared to some of the stuff I saw out there."

He'll have to step up his recent surge even further the next two weeks if Earnhardt, Jr. has any chance to make the "Chase."

As the series heads to California Speedway this week, Earnhardt, Jr. has to improve significantly on his disappointing 32nd place finish at the two-mile track back in February.

If he doesn't, you can forget about math. Earnhardt, Jr.'s title hopes will be history.

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