Earnhardt feeling heat after 2 subpar weekends

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

RICHMOND, VA. (AP) - Two weeks ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sailing along looking like a lock to make it into NASCAR’s Chase for the championship, standing fifth in points in one of the most consistent seasons of his career.

Then he finished 30th at Watkins Glen, and 36th at Michigan.

Suddenly the most popular driver in the Sprint Cup Series is feeling some heat.

“The confidence is there, but the stress is there, too,” he said during a pause from testing Wednesday at Richmond International Raceway, where all four Hendrick Motorsports teams are spending two days.

Earnhardt has fallen to seventh in the standings, just 20 points ahead of teammate Kasey Kahne, who is 11th with three races remaining before the field is set in the regular season finale at Richmond.

The top 10 in points automatically qualify, along with two wild card selections that place a premium on victories. Kahne has two, leading everyone outside the top six, and Earnhardt doesn’t have any.

“You definitely don’t like to be in this situation,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t think anybody wants to be on the bubble or even worried or concerned about points leading up to Richmond, so we hope to have a couple of good weeks to put ourselves in a pretty comfortable situation before we even come here.”

Earnhardt has three career victories on the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval, which drivers say combines short-track bumping and banging and a superspeedway feel, but his last victory here came in May 2006.

“It’s a tough track,” he said. “Just looking at everybody as a whole, nobody really comes here and is just great every time. It’s not a track that you see one team consistently dominate. We’ve had good cars here and brought back the same setup and it just didn’t work. You’re never really sure when you show up.”

The series moves to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and also stops in Atlanta before returning to Richmond with what looks to be a battle that could go down to the final laps under the lights at RIR.

Matt Kenseth, who is sixth in points, and No. 12 Martin Truex Jr. are separated by just 35 points.

“The intensity definitely ramps up a little bit, especially with all these short tracks right here butting up against the Chase with Bristol and Richmond,” Earnhardt said. “It definitely puts some tension in the air and makes everybody a little bit more nervous because anything can happen.”

___

BOXERS OR BRIEFS?: Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson enjoys interacting with fans on Twitter because it can help build his fan base, but said there are pitfalls, too.

In connecting with people who like you, he said, you also make yourself available to those that don’t.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • Hall of Fame Inductees, KISS, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley speak at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, April, 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    KISS rocker Gene Simmons touts 1 percent life: ‘It’s fantastic’

  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama