Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew that he needed a miracle on Saturday night to make this year's Chase for the Championship. Unfortunately for NASCAR's most popular driver, it just didn't happen. Earnhardt needed to finish near the front of the field in...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew that he needed a miracle on Saturday night to make this year's Chase for the Championship. Unfortunately for NASCAR's most popular driver, it just didn't happen.
Earnhardt needed to finish near the front of the field in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 and hope that either Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch was knocked out of the race early.
Earnhardt put on a sensational show racing with Jeff Gordon and then Tony Stewart late in the race before his motor expired with six laps left in the event. Earnhardt finished 30th while Harvick finished seventh and Busch finished ninth to claim the final two spots in the 10 race Chase for the Championship.
"There is a lot of pride in how well we ran and how hard we raced and what kind of battle we put forth," said Earnhardt, who started 21st but raced his way into the top-10 by lap 160. "I'm very proud that we established the ability to bring great race cars to the race track."
Earnhardt is focused on getting his first victory of the season in the final 10 races of 2007, his final season with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company that his father founded. Earnhardt joins Rick Hendrick's racing stable next season.
"We'll try to go in there and win a couple of races," said Earnhardt, whose last victory came at Richmond in May, 2006. "We're going to have a lot of fun. We're going to race hard no matter who we're racing."
Earnhardt's chances started to look brighter when Harvick and Busch were caught up in an incident on lap 242. Earnhardt had just taken second place and was looking like he might take a run for the lead. But neither Busch or Harvick's cars suffered any significant damage and were able to remain competitive throughout the race.
"Our heart was beating a thousand miles per hour after that because I figured the rear bumper cover was flapping in the wind or there might be material dragging on the tires," said Busch, who won the first championship under the new format in 2004. "We checked the car out and everything was OK."
Junior had hoped to take a run at the Championship, especially with this being his final year in the #8 Budweiser car.
"We deserve to be in the Chase," Earnhardt said. "I wish we were for my fans, but we'll give them something to cheer about. We race hard. We don't quit. We'll be all right. It's just disappointing."