With six regular season races left until the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has but one essential task and that’s to ensure his spot in the Chase. The third generation driver has already locked in two of the three criteria (multiple wins and a clinch of a top-30 position in points) to make the Chase. All he has to do now is attempt to qualify for the remaining regular season races and he’s in NASCAR’s playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
But Earnhardt wants more, and this weekend at Pocono Raceway he has the opportunity to pull off the season sweep at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ and pad his Chase bonus points total.
Earnhardt is looking to become the seventh driver in series history to sweep both races in a single season at Pocono Raceway, joining Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1985), Tim Richmond (1986), Bobby Labonte (1999), Jimmie Johnson (2004) and Denny Hamlin (2006). Not since 2002 at Talladega has Dale Jr. swept both races at a track in a single season (that also happens to be the lone instance he’s accomplished the feat). In 29 starts at Pocono he has posted one win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s and a pole.
Earnhardt is currently seeded fourth in the Chase standings, but if he were to win at Pocono he could possibly jump to the top of the Chase seeding chart.
In Earnhardt’s last eight starts this season, he has finished inside the top 10 in all but one (Daytona, a 14th-place run). In 2014, Earnhardt is on pace to post a career-best average finish. He’s currently averaging a finish of 10.2; his season long best is 10.9 in 2012.