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Junior’s Chase chances fading fast

By admin | August 2, 2010

By Richard Allen

On July 20th I wrote a column in which I predicted Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would make the Chase for the Championship. At the time it did not seem like such a bad call. After all, the Hendrick Motorsports driver was in the 13th position in the Sprint Cup standings with still plenty of time to work himself up one more spot by the 26th race.

And more, Junior and his team seemed as if they were finally coming together. Prior to the race in Chicago on July 10th, they had scored four straight top-11 finishes and looked fairly competitive in doing so. Also, it did not seem as though anyone directly in front of him in the standings was set to take the preverbal bull by the horns.

I along with many in ‘Junior Nation’ had taken a swig of the Kool-Aid, or rather the Amp.

Particularly, I predicted that Matt Kenseth would be the driver to fall out of the top-12 and allow Junior in. Kenseth has not exactly been clicking off the top-5s since then but he has not failed so miserably as to allow those behind him to make a significant gain.

Since that prediction, the #88 car has placed 27th two times in a row at Indianapolis and Pocono. The trouble for Junior now is that there are only five races remaining until the Chase cutoff in Richmond and the gap between him and the top-12 has widen rather than shrunk. And to add to the troubles of the 36 year old driver, his teammate, Mark Martin, has passed him by in the standings.

Every driver that gets ahead of someone trying to make the top-12 poses a problem in that the falling driver does not hold his fate in his own hands. Instead, he must depend on others having problems along with his own good runs.

In Indianapolis, Junior found himself a victim of circumstances when the wrecked car of Juan Pablo Montoya veered across the track and hit his #88. In Pocono, engine troubles soured his day after a bit of pit strategy had put the HMS Chevy near the front of the pack. However, the most troubling thing about those two runs for the driver’s legion of followers is that even without the late issues in both, Junior looked to post finishes in the mid-teens at best.

Junior is now 129 points behind 12th place Clint Bowyer. While it certainly not beyond the realm of possibility for such a gap to be made up, it will not be with 27th place finishes.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “Junior’s Chase chances fading fast”

  1. Rimshaw Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Not lookin good for Bobby Labonte either

  2. Pat388 Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I listen to Jr.’s scanner every race. Therefore I have given up hope of him advancing. Every race he tells Lance over and over again i.e. “loose in, tight in the center, loose off”, etc. In 3 or more pit stops it is never fixed. Lance’s response is almost always 10/4. No encouragement, few questions, he doesn’t like to tell Jr. what he is doing to fix it. He says he doesn’t want everyone to know what they are doing. My take on that is that he doesn’t want the other teams to know that he doesn’t know how to fix it. On top of that Jr. usually loses 2 -5 spots almost every time he pits. Also I would like to see a mechcanical failure comparison of the 4 HMS teams. I guess Jr. would win that one. The only good thing Jr. has going for him is his spotter. He always tries to keep things up beat and encouraging throughout the race. As long as he stays at HMS he doesn’t stand a chance.

  3. Benny Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Well I think he’s just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s just a little bit of bad luck but he can turn it around. Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta are some of his best tracks.

  4. Charlie Hetzer Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Tell me something, why does the 88 team unload with junk more often than anyone else at HMS?? Every track they hit its like they were never there before.
    Okay, it happens to the rest of HMS once in a great while, sometimes, but then they get a handle on it and they improve. not the 88. Until Lance can adjust on the car and show positive results, they will be mediocre at best.

    It’s my opinion some feathers were ruffled after Dales victory with the Wrangler car. Maybe not everyone was on board with that tribute. Such a promising weekend ending with what happened ???

    Just once, I’d love to see the blind squirrel find the nut, at Richmond. Unload fast, adjust on it all race long and keep it at the front and contend for the win. Tony jr did that every now and then. Still waiting on Lance.

  5. Richard Petersen Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    What the hell? Rick Hendrick needs to pull his damn head out from under him! This is the kind of stuff I was talking about and fearing once JR signed on in 2007. Dale Jr is the only driver in the stable who blows his engines and has mechanical failures. While the rest of the 3 are constantly up front 90% of the time. Rick, what happen to promising Dale JR a Championship huh? Stop sitting up on Chad Kanus’s pit box like a prairie dog. He HAS NOT done he share in helping out and Dale Jr is working his ass off trying to catch up to his teammates. It is about time to call it quiets with Hendrick and off to Richard Childress Racing. Because if Dale Jr can’t win in the #88 for Hendick, he sure can get the job done for Richard in the #3 huh? At least there, Richard Childress cares about each one of his drivers.

  6. JR Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I have to ask the responders #2 through 5 above what the heck have they been smoking? It’s never Junior that’s the problem, it’s always something or someone else. I wish he would leave HMS (which has been one of the best racing organizations for many years) and go to RCR and drive the 3 car. After the initial orchestrated win or two (see the Daytona Nationwide race for reference), we’ll see the exact same things as you see now unless NASCAR decides that it’s future is in jeopardy if Junior doesn’t continue to win. In that case, it will be interesting to see how far they would be willing to go to insure that the 3 car and the dollars keep rolling along. Junior is a third rate driver with an ignorant fan base.

  7. Marybeth Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Jr. was driving the R&D car for the 48 & 24 again. How often has the 24 & 48 blown an engine in the past 2 1/2 years? How often has Jr.? Jr. has one mechanial problem after another. A couple of weeks back they put something in the rear end in backwards. 93 races down at HMS and only 87 to go. :) A few weeks back I read a comment that some reporter needs to investigate what is going on, but that a Nascar reporter would not dare. Maybe this is something that National Enquirer could do. They like to do articles on Jr. :)
    We read about all the sharing of info, yet a few weeks back Mark was complaining about sharing his info being shared with the 88…?
    I took this from by McLaughlin today: “Ghost of Curtis Turner, The evil plan of RH to destroy what was DEI has been completed. …Quick tell Kasey Kane not to drink the Cool Aid…” I agree, it is the reason Rick will not yet Jr. go. It takes a 5 year plan to complete it. To keep Jr. from just walking away when he figured out what was going on, Rick had Jr. include half of JR Motorsports in the original contract so he could not walk away. A diabolical & fiendishly clever idea on RH’s part…is this why people say he is such a great businessman…?

  8. Sandy Forbus Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I must agree with writers 2 thru 5. There has to be something going on at Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. should have equal cars and his crew chieft should be able to adjust on them like Chad and Steve do. The cars rarely get better. But they sure do get worse. And the problem is not the driver. Junior drives his butt off each and every week and the results are not there. The driver cannot make the car handle better or go faster. The crew chief should be able to make adjustments. I like Lance but I don’t see the fit with Junior. Surely there is someone out there who can help the #88 team. Junior deserves more than being the red-headed step child at HMS. Mr. Hendrick, get off your keister and get someone to put the #88 team on the right track. And quit showing favoritism! That’s one of my biggest gripes. He’s always with JJ or Jeff. Sitting on the war wagon. Support Junior or let him go find someone who will.

  9. Bill Bowser Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Seriously? JR gets inferior equipment? Can I get some of the drugs you guys are taking? I keep reading this crap and hoping he will turn it around but it’s not happening. As much as I hate Kyle Bush he was right last year when he said “next year it will be lance since it’s never JR”.

  10. Overra88ted Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    What does Jr. have in common with Scot Speed, Sam Hornish, and Paul Menard?…They’re not making the chase either! MARYBETH … why did you change the wording on your lame post today. Yesterday you were posting all over the web that the #88 crew installed a 9″ ford rear end gear backwards. PLEASE MARYBETH Tell the World How A Ford 9″Rear End Gear can be Installed Backwards. IT’S FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE! Jr. said after daytona that he’s drinking again, no Na$crap reporter will expose this story. But that’s OLD NEWS, the National Enquier reported it in 2009.

  11. JR Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    if you need an answer as to why NASCAR is in the condition it’s in, it’s because it has fans as clueless as these pro Jr people posting here. Here’s a good one for you: Junior agreed to the TV match up with Shaq because he thought he was someone he could beat. Trouble is, Shaq chose Junior for the same reason.

  12. Justin Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Can we get beyond the “NASCAR orchestrated the Nationwide win in Daytona” crap. Seriously, there is way too many moving parts involved in that, and it is impossible to plan the outcome of a race. Any driver could blow an engine, blow a tire, make a mistake and crash, at any time. Tell me exactly how NASCAR prevented another driver from making a mistake and taking the 3 car with him? How did NASCAR prevent the 3 car from blowing a tire, etc…..there are too many things that could go wrong in a race for NASCAR to orchestrate the outcome. And to take it a step further, why doesnt NASCAR orchestrate some Cup series wins for Jr?????

    As a Jr fan (I watch his channel every week on DirecTv) I think there is 2 issues:
    #1 I agree with those that say McGrew sux! Every week, Jr tells McGrew what is wrong with the car, and it never gets better. The other 42 cars make a pit stop, and improve their car, the 88 makes a pit stop, and the car stays the same. If he is “loose in, tight in the center, loose off”, you can guarantee one of two things will happen. Either he wont fix anything, or he will make the good things worse. I have heard Jr say it is good in the center, dont mess that up, and McGrew messes it up….

    #2 The other problem, is Jr isnt good in the COT. Simple as that. His numbers in the old car, versus the new car speak for themselves. Alot of drivers like Biffle, Edwards, Kenseth, Gordon, Busch, etc have said that it was really hard for them to get a grip on the new car. But once they “mastered” it, they have been successful. Jr hasnt mastered it yet, and maybe he never will……

    But hey, this is just coming from a “stupid pro Jr person”, since I am a Jr fan, apparently I think he is the best driver, has the most talent, should win multiple titles, etc. I don think that at all, but I’m also not a bandwagon jumper, and I dont need wins to justify being a fan. I dont think I need your permission to cheer for my driver, any more than you need my permission to cheer for your driver, so F U for judging….

  13. Marybeth Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I just found the official HMS recap of Jr.’s race at Pocono. There is not one word about his engine blowing…let alone why…?

  14. darrin Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    CAREER STATISTICS: In those 499 starts, Earnhardt has 41 wins, 143 top-five finishes, 221 top-10s, 19 pole positions and 9,911 laps led. With 18 Cup wins, Earnhardt is tied for 37th on the all-time Sprint Cup winner’s list and tied for eighth among active, full-time drivers. In 384 Cup starts, Earnhardt also has 90 top-five finishes, 148 top-10s and nine pole positions. In his 115 Nationwide Series starts, Earnhardt has 23 wins, 53 top-five finishes, 73 top-10s and 10 pole positions. He ranks ninth all-time with his 23 Nationwide victories.