By admin | September 22, 2008
By Richard Allen
Last week it seemed as though the Hendrick Motorsports team for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had turned a corner of some sort. After getting off to a good start in New Hampshire, his car began to fade. Unlike other occasions though, he and his crew were able to remedy the situation and hold on for a Top 5 finish.
This week was a different story all together. Junior was never really a factor in the Camping World RV 400 at the Dover International Speedway. And, his day only got worse as the race went on.
After battling a poor handling car, Junior had just gone a lap down when on lap 142 he blew a tire and spun.
The #88 continued to be a hand full all day. Earnhardt wound up in the 24th finishing position, three laps off the pace.
Junior is now in 9th place of the overall standings, 129 points behind leader Carl Edwards.
The problem Earnhardt and everyone else from 4th on back in the standings now faces is that there are three drivers who have gotten off to a good start. Those three drivers, Edwards, Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson, have managed to separate themselves from the pack.
The difficulty for everyone else is that one driver might have a bad race and allow the others back into the Chase. Perhaps even two drivers might have bad runs somewhere over the next eight races and allow others back in the Chase. However, it is unlikely that all three will have bad runs and offer hope to the rest of the Chase field.
Coming into the race in Dover, it was important that Junior maintain the momentum he and his team seemed to find in New Hampshire. They were unable to do that.
While 129 points may not be an insurmountable margin, the fact that Junior has to jump over eight other drivers, including three who have distanced themselves from the pack will be difficult at best.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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