Earnhardt Starts Chase On High Note

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted his fourth top five of the season on Monday at Chicagoland. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)


JOLIET, Ill. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his 2011 championship campaign off to a good start on Monday when he finished third in the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Earnhardt started 19th and worked his way to the front pack in the late going, eventually taking advantage of several drivers running out of fuel to score his first top-five finish of the season since finishing second at Kansas Speedway in June.

“Obviously we gained a lot of spots there at the end with guys that were short of fuel,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But we were running really well at the end. The car struggled off and on throughout the day. And we didn't have great track position either. But at the end the car was really good. And I think we were up in the top ten there.

“So real happy with being able to adjust the car, improve it. That's all you can ask for as a driver, that the car gets better all day long. “

Earnhardt came into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the No. 10 seed, but shot up to fifth after his performance in Monday’s rain-delayed race.

He credited his pit crew for putting the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet in contention in the 267-lap race.

“I gotta thank the team, first off we had really really good pit stops all day long, those guys have worked hard to try to improve and they really did today,” Earnhardt Jr. said.

This year marks Earnhardt Jr’s fourth appearance in the Chase and second behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. His Chicagoland finish equals his best finish to start the Chase since 2004 when he raced for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

He was 13th in the 2006 Chase opener and fifth in 2008, his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.

“Happy to run third, happy to maximize our potential today, start thinking and working on the next one,” Earnhardt said of his Chase approach.

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