Dale Earnhardt Jr. got off to a blazing start at Kansas Sunday, displaying speed he hasn’t shown since his fifth-place finish at Michigan in August.
Unfortunately for Junior Nation, Earnhardt hit the wall while in the lead on Lap 122 after leading 45 go-arounds. He finished 39th and ranks 11th on the Chase Grid with two races left in the Contender Round, 25 points below his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon on the cutoff line.
Earnhardt will try to turn his fortunes around this Saturday at Charlotte. He has failed to capture a checkered flag at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway since his 2005 victory at Chicagoland, but the NASCAR world has seen a rejuvenated Jr. this season, so a win is not out of the question. Earnhardt notched three wins this year, as many he accumulated in the last eight campaigns.
It’s been a mixed bag of results at Charlotte for NASCAR’s 11-time most popular driver. He hasn’t been great at the 1.5-mile quad oval, but he hasn’t been awful either. Earnhardt claims five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 29 starts at CMS. He has never placed higher than third and has failed to finish four times there.
Despite falling behind on the Chase Grid, Earnhardt is not in panic mode. He has already moved on.
“That’s the speed we need to give ourselves a chance to make the next round in the Chase,” Earnhardt posted on Twitter. “Charlotte Motor Speedway is next. Let’s go get it.”