Earnhardt frustrated with Chase start

For a guy who wants to retire around 40 and start enjoying his lifetime supply of free Budweiser, the clock is ticking down for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to add a NASCAR Cup series championship to his resume. His performance in the first Chase race this...

For a guy who wants to retire around 40 and start enjoying his lifetime supply of free Budweiser, the clock is ticking down for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to add a NASCAR Cup series championship to his resume. His performance in the first Chase race this weekend didn't do much to help him get any closer to his first series title.

His frustration was evident post race.

"It was really frustrating," said Earnhardt of his run. "We were tight in the middle all weekend. We just never figured it out all weekend; we didn't figure it out in the race. We made a lot of changes and just hurt it and got just really, really tight at the end. It was just really a frustrating day."

Earnhardt, who will turn 32 on October 10th, did not start the 2006 Chase for the Nextel Cup as he had hoped. The car just couldn't deliver what he needed to run a competitive race and he was dejected and discouraged after a 13th place run.

"I am a good driver," Earnhardt said. "When I get decent equipment and we can work on it and do right, we will go to the front, we just didn't do right today. I don't care what happened to the other Chase contenders, I am competing for championship so I don't care what happens to anyone but this team."

A big dish of morale with a side order of 'what the heck happened?' may be in order at Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated Racing this morning. While Earnhardt didn't nearly have the crap day Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson got served, the 13th place run slips him one spot to seventh in points, 81 markers short of leader Kevin Harvick.

It is critical for Team 8 to start running better than 13th, they have to give Earnhardt a car capable of being in the top five every weekend if he is going to legitimately vie for the title.

Perhaps the biggest downside for Earnhardt is he is one of three drivers that do not have a teammate also participating in the Chase (Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin are the others). While Kahne can garner some advice from Elliott Sadler who participated in the inaugural year of the Chase and Hamlin has reigning champ Tony Stewart in his corner; at DEI, Earnhardt is the veteran racer. While teammate Martin Truex, Jr. lit up the charts in the Busch series his full time Cup debut this year has collapsed like a flan in a cupboard.

While Earnhardt might not have much back up in the Chase he certainly has the chutzpah to 'run what he brung' every week like it's the best car in the field. His laid back swagger may at times suggest NASCAR's favorite son isn't that concerned about winning races or titles; but that is just not the case.

"We have to do better than that as a team if we want to win this championship," reaffirmed Earnhardt. "People have taken shots at me saying I don't care about winning, but I can tell you nobody else wants to win more when I'm in that race car."

Out of the nine Chase tracks left, Earnhardt has won races at six tracks for a combined total of 11 victories. When Earnhardt competed in the Chase in 2004 the team won two of the 10 Chase races, Talladega and Phoenix.

Next weekend the Cup circus rolls into Dover International Speedway where Earnhardt has one win and three top fives in 13 career starts.

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr. , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch