By admin | September 21, 2013
By Richard Allen
Neither Dale Earnhardt, Jr. nor Joey Logano came into the Chase for the Sprint Cup as a favorite to take home the big trophy at the end of the season. And one week into the ten race playoff, both drivers are on the verge of early elimination from contention after engine troubles doomed their efforts last weekend in Chicago.
Junior came into the Chase with no bonus points due to not winning any of the first 26 races of the season. As a result, he started in a hole compared to most of the other twelve contenders. That reduced the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s margin for error going in.
After the previously mentioned engine failure in Chicago, Earnhardt now finds himself trailing Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth by 53 points. That margin is more than can be gained in one race. And worse, the #88 driver has twelve other competitors ahead of him in the standings, meaning he has to rely on multiple drivers having at least one bad race.
Having not shown the ability to win races so far in 2013, Junior will have to step up his game significantly to have any chance of getting back into the championship hunt. However, he has never won in Loudon, New Hampshire and has an average finish of only 16th on the flat, one-mile track.
Logano also suffered a blown power plant in Chicago which relegated him to a 37th place result after starting the race from the pole position. The Penske Racing driver now finds himself trailing Kenseth by 52 points. Like Junior, he not only has a large deficit to overcome but he also has to depend on multiple drivers having at least one failure.
Logano did record one of his three Sprint Cup victories in New Hampshire but his average finish there is only a 17th. He’ll need much better than that to stay afloat.
Both Earnhardt and Logano must finish well up in the order this weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. And more than that, they must beat out other Chase drivers by several positions to claw their way back into contention.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Kenseth and Kyle Busch along with perennial title contender Jimmie Johnson could get away to settle this Chase among themselves if others do not keep pace. The pressure is on both Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Joey Logano this weekend at NHMS to not only keep pace, but make significant gains.
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