Woody: Pass The Butter, Earnhardt Is Toast
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
NASCAR’s most popular driver appears destined to be a spectator in this fall’s championship playoffs.
If Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to make the 12-man championship field, he needed to make a major move Saturday night at Daytona.
But he moved in the wrong direction, dropping from 19th to 21st in the standings with a 39th-place finish.
With just eight races to go to set the Chase lineup, I don’t see any hope for Junior to dig himself out of such a hole.
As he himself noted, it’s not so much the points but the positions. Earnhardt has to not only do well over the next eight races, but at the same time hope that all eight drivers between him and the coveted 12th spot have problems.
Two or three of them might stumble, maybe even four or five. But what are chances that all eight will unravel and allow Junior to pull a Houdini? Next to impossible. Just like Earnhardt’s odds.
A good finish last Saturday night would’ve keep hope alive. Instead, he was caught up in a crash, ending his night and his Chase chances.
And so this morning that the biggest name in NASCAR finds himself trailing such unlikely suspects as rookie Joey Logano (20th) and Marcus Ambrose (18th).
Even more insurmountable is the presence of Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Jamie McMurray — all of whom are tough competitors who are having vastly superior seasons to Earnhardt’s.
None of them are going to pull over and wave Junior around just to hear the crowd roar.
As Earnhardt’s hopes have faded, his misery is magnified by the success of his Hendrick Motorspors teammates. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are second and third in the standings. Mark Martin had been in the top 12 until a Daytona wipeout bumped him down two spots.
All three have won this year, while Junior hasn’t come close.
Why not? What’s Earnhardt’s problem? Is team owner Rick Hendrick giving all three of his teammates faster car and better support?
And if not, then what’s the explanation for Junior’s struggles and the huge gap between his performance and the performance of his three teammates?
Some of his problem has been plain bad luck. But bad luck can’t account for it all.
Junior has eight more races to pull off a miracle. If he could manage to squeeze into the Chase then it’s a new season with new possibilities. Any of the 12 drivers have a chance to be champion.
But first he has to make it in, and that’s unlikely. I realize that the Earnhardt Nation doesn’t want to hear it, but it’s probably time to pass the butter. Junior’s toast.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments