- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2011

DOVER, DEL. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. can’t catch a break.

Well, his car parts can.

Earnhardt made it 122 races and counting without a Cup victory when he struggled to a 24th-place finish Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

The Chase driver had a broken sway bar early in the race, and his No. 88 Chevy crew furiously worked on the pits to fix it.

That worked, and Earnhardt even got his lost lap back.

But when a wheel got loose, that did in his day. Earnhardt is a distant 10th in the standings, 34 points behind leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

Consider this: The top eight Chase drivers are separated by 15 points. Earnhardt is 15 points behind Jeff Gordon for ninth.

“We are still alive and we will keep racing as hard as we can until that last lap at Homestead,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt believed the No. 88 was a top-10 car and he could at least come close to matching the third-place finish he rolled out in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship opener at Chicagoland. He was 17th last week at New Hampshire.

“We are a good team and we have showcased that several times this year,” Earnhardt said. “We weren’t as fast as the guys up front, but we were better than we have been here in a long time. I’ve had some rough runs here lately and haven’t got this place figured out yet or what we need.”

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STEWART-HAAS: Tony Stewart lost his points lead. Ryan Newman lost any shot at making a dent in the standings.

It was a rough day at Dover for the Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet was awful in practice and qualifying and he could never get it going in the race, finishing 25th. He entered the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship leader, and left in third, nine points behind Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

Stewart said he struggled with “the whole package.”

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