Second Not Good Enough

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Despite his best finish of the season and a stirring comeback Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped out of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup qualifying group.

Junior started the weekend on a high note by winning the pole for Sunday's Pennsylvania 500, his first Bud Pole Award since September 2002.

But that success didn't last long when he spun out and was shuffled to the back of the pack.

However, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was able to adjust Earnhardt Jr.'s shocks during the unexpected stop on pit road, a move that helped the Budweiser No. 8 Chevroleat handle much better.

"It drove pretty bad and was getting progressively worse," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We didn't deserve to run second. We didn't have a second-place car. We're pretty lucky."

The runnerup finish to Kurt Busch was a better-than-expected end to Earnhardt Jr.'s day, but still cost him in the standings.

Junior fell to 13th, flip-flopping with Busch for the final Chase transfer spot.

Earnhardt Jr. knows it could have been worse.

"If we don't run second, we lose a lot of points to Kurt," Earnhardt said.

With five races to go to make the Chase, the pressure is starting to mount for Earnhardt Jr. and company, who would be locked in this tight battle had it not been for a 100 point penalty handed down in Darlington back in May.

"I think we're a better team than 12th, or 13th now. We're way better than that," Earnhardt said. "We've just had a lot of bad luck. And we cheated and we got caught. Those are the type of things that hurt us a lot in points. But we're way better than this."

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