Clock Ticking for Dale Jr

Dale Earnhardt Jr

With seven races remaining till The Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr's post-season hopes are riding a seven-point cushion. (Photo: Getty Images)


When Dale Earnhardt, Jr climbed out of his AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet Sunday, one of the first questions he was asked concerned his thoughts about being ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

“Well, how far ahead of 11th?” Earnhardt responded. “I think that’s the most important part.”

When he was told the answer was seven points, he was quick to admit the margin was pretty tight and was something he needed to pay attention to.

With only seven races remaining before the field is set for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Earnhardt’s post-seaspm hopes didn’t get a boost from his 15th- place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. After all, he turned in an eighth-place finish in last year’s event.

“Well, 15th ain’t awesome,” Earnhardt said. “But it’s certainly better than what we have been putting on points-wise lately. We had about a 15th-place car last week and I have just got to stay calm and take what the heck I can get instead of trying to make something happen and ruining the day like I did last week. Today, I just tried not to go crazy cause I was really getting frustrated with the way the car drove. I was trying not to flip out in there and just try and get what I could get.

“I definitely thought we would come here and run better than we did. We were a little disappointed to say the least in how the car ran today. I think we got a pretty good finish out of it. We probably could have maybe tried to stay out instead of pitting at the end there and make it work, but I think we would have ended up somewhere around 15th anyway. So that’s just the way it was.”

Earnhardt believes that a new tire was the chief culprit in the difference between his 2010 and 2011 Loudon finishes.

“We tried to run the same setup and we weren’t very good in practice and we messed around,” he explained. “None of us were really good. I think track position was real important and why a couple of guys on our team got decent finishes. None of us were really that strong. The No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) was really good. We’ll look at what he did and try to come back and do a little bit better job. We didn’t do a good job. We tried really hard. A lot of effort, but just struggled all week with the car and getting the balance that we need in the car.”

One thing appears to be certain. Earnhardt and his crew will be throwing out the notebook the next time they return to NHMS because of the new tire.

“I think we definitely will try and start from scratch when we come back next time,” Earnhardt said. “We struggled all weekend. In practice we just didn’t really have the speed we had last year. We’ve just got to figure out why.

“I mean, every damn week they change the tire. We had a pretty good-running tire here, but I guess the government is getting on ‘em about how they build them, or something, and they had to bring a new one here. Some kind of new construction. I didn’t like it, but we can figure it out and get a setup going and try to figure it out where it will drive good.”

The No. 88 team has ten days to find some answers before they roll off the hauler for practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29 leading into the Brickyard 400.

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