By admin | July 15, 2011
By Richard Allen
After reaching as high as the third position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings following the race in Pocono, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has experienced somewhat of a freefall. In the last four races this driver’s finishes have been less than spectacular to say the least.
Results of 21st, 41st, 19th and 30th have dropped Junior back to the 8th spot in the overall standings with eight races remaining before the Chase for the Championship cutoff.
The matter of most concern for Junior is that the top-10 in the Sprint Cup standings will be locked in to the Chase after the 26th race of the season in Richmond. Right now, he stands only 21 points ahead of 11th place Tony Stewart in the race for those coveted championship contending positions.
And more, two wild card spots will be handed out to the drivers outside the top-10 who have won the most races. Junior has not won a race this season, and most likely, if he were to run badly enough the rest of the way to fall out of the top-10 he will not have won a race by cutoff time. So, the wildcard option does not seem a real possibility going forward.
Coming into this week’s race in New Hampshire, it would seem as though Junior has a shot at ending his recent plunge. Last season he finished 8th and 4th in his two starts on this one-mile speedway in a season that otherwise was a disaster.
“The best thing we can do is stay positive,” Junior told assembled media in a Friday morning press conference. “We run good at New Hampshire. We want to come in here with a lot of confidence that we belong in the Chase.”
But before feeling too confident that all will be righted, Junior’s mass of fans need to consider that their favorite driver may have had a good time of it last year in New Hampshire but his overall performance there has been very inconsistent. His average finish at the track is only a mediocre 16.8. He has posted six finishes of 21st or worse in his career, including a 35th three races ago.
No question, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his team have made major improvements this season over his last three season campaigns. However, the four most recent races of this year have shown that the recovery is not fully complete. Past races indicate that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway offers a chance to turn things around. And, it offers a chance for the slide to continue. Needless to say, this race is extremely important to the 88 team’s Chase chances.
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