Cup Notes: Earnhardt Vows To Keep Up The Chase
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
Brooklyn, Mich. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t prepared to wave the concession flag just yet on Friday.
In jeopardy of missing the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for the second consecutive season, NASCAR’s most popular driver is 121 points out of the final transfer spot for this year’s playoffs.
But Earnhardt remains optimistic that he can jump ahead of Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray in the standings over the next four races, the first of which is Sunday’s CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
“It just seems like it was six races ago that we had just passed Carl (Edwards) for 12th and now he’s 300 points ahead of us,” Earnhardt said.
“I mean, the points are there if you can get the car going and get it done. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. If we capitalize, we can go into Richmond with a real legitimate opportunity to come out of there in 12th place.”
Thinking bonus: A second-place effort in Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips At The Glen propelled Kurt Busch into fourth in the title standings.
But the 2004 Cup champion, who has two victories this season, said he’ll take speed over a river boat gambler’s mentality during the next four races when valuable bonus points will be on the line for race wins.
“We can’t just go completely go in and only have a pair of 8s,” Busch said. “I feel like we have to have raw speed. And raw speed will win you races.
“We had a great car here and finished third in June. So let’s come back with a whole different car, like what we’re doing, and really try a different style setup and see if we can’t find some of that extra, raw speed and turn it into a win.
“That’s going to help us with the 10 bonus points toward the Chase and it’s going to help us with a better direction and more ammo for our gun for when the Chase starts.”
Martin regretful: Following the announcement earlier this week that Kasey Kahne will drive for Red Bull Racing in 2011 before jumping into his No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports the following season, Mark Martin was in an apologetic mood on Friday three weeks after blasting the media for continually speculating on his future.
“I reflect back on how I reacted in Indy and regret what I said there,” Martin said. “That came from the heart and not from the head. It was grinding on me, and I apologize for what I said and wish I hadn’t said what I said.
“I should’ve just continued to hold on to the high road just a little bit longer, and it would’ve been all okay. Anyway, we’re moving forward now.”
Gearing up: Denny Hamlin was a runaway winner when the Cup series visited Michigan in June.
But the driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, who has five victories this season, hasn’t visited victory lane since his win on the 2-mile oval earlier this summer.
“We felt like there’s been a few opportunities for us to win between these two races,” he said. “We are excited that we are back at a track that we had really good success in just a few weeks ago.
“It’s a double-edged sword I guess you could say. We’re getting close to the Chase so our mindset is a little different than what it was probably eight weeks ago so we’re just trying to get geared up and going for the Chase.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at email@example.com Comments