Something, Bristol provided a speed bump in an otherwise dreamlike season for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
But there’s always another race.
In Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Earnhardt will try to rebound from his first finish outside the top two (he finished 24th at Bristol). In 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the two-mile speedway, his best finish is a pair of second-place showings. His first runner-up showing came in September 2006 with the second one coming last March. In 2012, he finished third.
With the natural progression of his improvement over his last two trips to Auto Club, one might want to believe that Earnhardt’s due for a win. This thinking might not be too far from the truth, as Earnhardt was in contention to win late in the Phoenix and Las Vegas races. His Daytona win and the new Chase qualifying format where a win all but guarantees a driver a spot in the postseason has allowed him to race all out for the win every weekend.
Earnhardt did win the 1998 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club, so he knows what it takes to win at the track.