Chase Dreams End For Junior

For the second time in the last three years, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will not be part of the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" and forced to play spoiler during the season's final ten races.

The chances Earnhardt, Jr. would somehow find his way into this year's playoff field Saturday night in Richmond were remote at best.

With a 128 point deficit to make-up, Junior needed a perfect race - and catastrophe for Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch - to have any shot at a berth in the top twelve.

He didn't go down without a fight.

Earnhardt, Jr. kept the Budweiser No. 8 near the front of the field for most of the Saturday night shootout in Virginia.

And when Harvick and Busch received damage in a lap 242 multi-car accident on the frontstretch, the legions of Junior Nation in the grandstands and no doubt in front of their television sets roared in anticipation that indeed a miracle was in the works.

But those hopes went up in smoke, literally, when for the fifth time this season Earnhardt, Jr.' suffered a blown engine, this one finally knocking him out of the ranks as a possible champion in 2007.

"It’s disappointing," a tired and dejected Earnhardt, Jr. said as he crawled out of his disabled racecar. "We lost another motor tonight. We’ve run good every week, we just can’t finish races. We deserved to be in Chase. We ran top-five almost every week.”

It seemed like every time Earnhardt, Jr. tried to rally in the late several weeks, he was thwarted by problems under the hood.

The latest example came Saturday night.

"We broke another motor and they seem to fall apart when they plug them into my car," Earnhardt said. "I don't know what it is but we've had a good car all year long."

So NASCAR will have to endure another "Chase" season without one of its superstars. Two years ago, Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon were on the sidelines while Tony Stewart missed out on the championship season a year ago.

This time it's Junior's turn - again.

"There ain't no reason to get all upset and bent out of shape about anything because there's cooler stuff right around the corner and there's all kinds of things to be excited about, and I'm not just talking about next year," he said.

"I'm saying every day in life, you know? We'll have fun and laugh and enjoy ourselves as we race for the rest of the season. Hopefully, we can win some races there in the last 10 to put a period on what's been pretty much an up and down season."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2007

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