Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete in three consecutive Chases for the first time. He no doubt hopes what might have been a year ago will have a happier ending this time around.
In 2012, after scoring a drought-busting victory and leading the regular-season points standings, Earnhardt suffered concussion-related injuries that forced him to sit out two Chase races. Junior finished 12th in final rankings.
Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte must figure out how to replicate the season’s red-hot start – a pair of second-place finishes among consecutive top 10s that carried Earnhardt to the top of the standings after race No. 5 at Auto Club Speedway.
“Mistakes I’ve made, crashes I’ve gotten myself into, engine failures, things like that that have taken away from our ability to show how strong we are to get consistent finishes like we did last year,” said Earnhardt. “I feel like we belong in the Chase, feel like if we can put 10 races together, I think we can do it as good as anybody when it comes down to it. Hopefully we can make it happen.”
Earnhardt won at Chicagoland Speedway in 2007. Since joining his current team the following season, Earnhardt’s best finish is third in 2011.