Earnhardt: “We Didn’t Have a Very Fast Car”, Finishes 12th in Pocono

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

With only five races remaining in the regular season for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, what at first began as a minor concern has now spiraled into DEFCON 1 for the sport’s most popular driver.

In his final full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is more than likely going to miss the playoffs. Sitting 216 points behind the cutoff line will be too much to overcome on points alone, and a victory is the only realistic way for Earnhardt to make it in.

But how likely is that scenario? A 12th-place finish on Sunday at Pocono wasn’t terrible (especially considering a speeding penalty on lap 22), but even Earnhardt admitted they had to fight for that position.

“We didn’t have a very fast car,” Earnhardt said after the race. “We had about a 15th-place car/10th-place car, finished around there. I thought the strategy Greg (Ives, crew chief) used was really smart.There were runs where the balance was good. There were runs when the car drove well, but I don’t know. We were a little better here in the spring and we’ve had a gremlin in the car where it’s been so loose on entry and we couldn’t get that out, so the car is actually got a lot more wedge and stuff in it that we don’t really want in there than we had in the spring race and that is hurting us too.The crutches we have in there to try to fix this issue are hurting the car, so that is where the speed is at.”

Even if Earnhardt is somewhat able to identify the problem, his comments don’t exactly reflect the opinion of a driver who believes his team is on an upward swing. In fact, the reality is that the team is stuck in a rut, though in fairness most of the Chevrolet teams are playing catch-up to the dominant Toyotas.

“We got it a little bit better as the race went on, but man, I don’t know where the speed is that the front three or four have and they’ve got it every week,” Earnhardt added post-race.“We don’t have that and we are not going to find it in that garage on Friday or Saturday if we don’t show up with it we ain’t going to find it. That is somewhere in the shop… so we will have to keep working back there.”

If there is a bright side to be had, Earnhardt has won at three of the five tracks that are left in the regular season: Michigan, Bristol, and Richmond. And though the team has been lacking in speed, Earnhardt has expressed quite a bit of confidence in crew chief Greg Ives, meaning strategy is a realistic opportunity for this team in the coming weeks.

With the 42-year-old sitting out half of 2016 due to a concussion and hanging up his helmet (at least on a full-time basis) at the end of 2017, there is nothing more important to him than finishing out this season with some strong results. That includes winning a race and making the postseason.

He has 15 races left this season to get to victory lane, but if he’s going to make the playoffs, the window for making that happen is closing very quickly.

2 Comments

  1. douglas

    July 31, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Quit feeling sorry for “most popular”. He can’t even spell win.

  2. MikeinAZ

    July 31, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    On a positive note, at least he made it through the race without blowing up the engine by shifting into 2nd gear at 190mph.

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