Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s lady luck appears to have run dry. Earnhardt, whose season started so strongly, with a victory at Daytona, seems off the pace as of late. The last few weeks have been brutal on the No. 8 DEI Chevy, dropping him from the lead...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s lady luck appears to have run dry. Earnhardt, whose season started so strongly, with a victory at Daytona, seems off the pace as of late. The last few weeks have been brutal on the No. 8 DEI Chevy, dropping him from the lead in points to second place, 105 markers behind Jimmie Johnson.
Earnhardt took the early lead of series standings after his Daytona 500 victory, and stayed atop the charts through a top-five at Rockingham the week after, but then slipped to seventh after a dismal third race of the year at Las Vegas.
A victory at Atlanta, and a solid string of top-eleven finishes, helped Earnhardt climb back to the top by the eighth event of the year. A spot he held, up until Pocono, when Jimmie Johnson toppled him from the catbird seat.
A 21rst place result at Michigan combined with an 11th at Sonoma and a 3rd at Daytona had kept him within 27 points of Johnson. But Hendrick horsepower and determination are racing out of the gate and Team 8 scratches there heads in an effort to catch up.
Chicago did not help balm Earnhardt's ennui. He was pegged for speeding on pit road early in the event, losing a lap. Handling issues further plagued the No. 8 Chevy. The only good karma that came his way happened on lap 245, when Earnhardt was the recipient of the lucky dog pass, placing him back on the lead lap.
Earnhardt was not able to garner that many positions back. He finished 22nd.
"The car was pretty good," said Earnhardt. "I missed pit road, and then I sped on pit road, and I got us a lap down. We gained a lot from yesterday, we weren't good yesterday. I wasn't confident. Things just didn't go our way."
Meanwhile, as Earnhardt freefalls, leader Jimmie Johnson continues to garner a cushion over the rest of the field. He has had five top-five finishes in the last five events, including one of his three victories this season.
"We're just so consistent," said Johnson. "We're striving, and we are going to be a champion here one of these days. I am very proud to be a part of it all."
Earnhardt does have something to look forward too - ultimately where he sits in standings is pointless. The series is geared up to reset the top ten drivers after the 26th race of the season, instituting a playoff format between those eligible during the last ten races of the 2004 schedule.
Johnson and Earnhardt certainly are the two top contenders for the 'Chase for the Championship'. Johnson has 13 top-ten results, while Earnhardt has 12.