Time Running Out

Despite good runs last Saturday night in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman still have a lot of catching up to do in order to make the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" championship.

Both drivers posted top-10 finishes in "Thunder Valley" Saturday night, however neither could make up much ground in the standings.

Earnhardt Jr.'s fifth-place finish was a nice rebound from the previous three races of frustration, but with Kurt Busch coming home in sixth Junior could only gain five points in his quest to take the 12th and final Chase transfer spot.

"We didn’t get the win like I wanted to," said Earnhardt Jr., who is still winless in 2007. "My team did a great job and we ran well all night. We’ve been running real well, but had stuff happen to us in too many races."

While still pressing to make the playoffs in his final days as a member of DEI, Earnhardt Jr. also has his sights set on making a trip or two to victory lane before the season ends.

“I want to win," he said. "If I can’t make the Chase, I want to win a race. When we don’t make (the Chase) everybody makes a big deal over it – they talk about it pre-race and talk about it post-race,” he said. “It’s a bummer when you see that and watch that. You’re just trying to let it go under the radar when you can’t get it done.

“I’d be more ticked off if I didn’t win a race this year because we’ve run well all year. You don’t get credit for running fifth but blowing up.”

Newman can share in Earnhardt Jr.'s frustration. He too has been putting together better finishes this year and a recent streak that has kept him in playoff contention.

But he trails his teammate Busch by 175 points with two races left to qualify for the Chase. Making up ground by getting to victory lane would suit Newman just fine, who is winless this season - a far cry from the eight victories his notched back in 2003.

"I still feel as a driver I'm fully capable of winning those eight races plus per year," Newman said. "The team and the people are what make the difference. We've had pretty much every member of the team, besides the truck driver, change positions or we have new people. We're kind of starting over. We are rebuilding. 2003 was pretty much the last year we had that full-time group of guys we had in 2002."

Both Junior and Newman have three top 10s each at California Speedway, the site of this weekend's event.

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