CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s losing streak has reached 103 races — long enough that he’s no longer guaranteed an automatic berth in the upcoming $1 million All-Star event.
His last shot to qualify ahead of the May 21 race comes Sunday at Dover International Speedway, where a victory would be his first since 2008 and earn him a coveted spot in the Sprint All-Star race. But Earnhardt doesn’t see a win in his near future despite steady improvement through the first 10 races of this season.
“I don’t feel a win is close,” Earnhardt said this week as he promoted the new HD video screen at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“But they’ll come if you continue to run competitive. I don’t know where the win is going to come or if and when it will come, but we’re just going to keep working really hard.”
Earnhardt still is approaching the next few weeks as if he needs a victory. He still has two shots at making the All-Star race even if he doesn’t win at Dover: Earnhardt can move into the main event with a victory in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown, the last-chance race held right before the main event.
And if he falls short there, the eight-time winner of NASCAR’s most popular driver award almost certainly will pick up the final All-Star race berth, reserved for the winner of the fan vote. But Earnhardt refuses to operate as if the fan vote is a given - even though his inclusion in the field is the likely reason the pace is well on track to break the record of 1.5 million votes cast last year.
“I don’t take it for granted that we’ll get the fan vote. Anything can happen,” he said. “The most important thing is just focusing on the points races, the races that matter toward the championship. When we get to All-Star weekend, however things are lined up is how things are lined up.”
Earnhardt goes to Dover confident he and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet are over last weekend’s pit-road mistake at Darlington. Earnhardt received a pass-through penalty for hitting the cone at the edge of the pit road commitment line, and he called a team meeting immediately after the race to talk about his mistake with his crew.
The penalty ruined what could have been a top-10 finish, but Earnhardt did rally to finish 14th.
“I wanted to tell those guys that my focus was strong. [The mistake] wasn’t because of a lack of focus or a lack of concentration,” he said. “I was just trying to get a little bit too much, and I’ll try to minimize mistakes going forward.”