Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quietly Slips Back to No. 12 in the Point Standings

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IMay 10, 2010

DARLINGTON, SC - MAY 08:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup series SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 8, 2010 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In 15 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had recorded three top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, got off to a very poor start when he wrecked his primary car only two laps into Friday's practice session and was forced to his back-up car.

The track quickly went back to work on Earnhardt, and showed him why the nickname “Too Tough to Tame” was given to her when he hit the wall a second time.

"I'll probably hit it a bunch more before the weekend is over with," said Earnhardt after scraping the wall a second time.

Frustration was foremost on his mind, even though in a span from 2004 through 2008, his lowest finish was 11th before his 27th place finish last season.

"I don't know man, this place is probably the catalyst for my retirement one day. I'll probably come here when I'm 45 and run a race and say, 'The hell with it,'" said a frustrated Earnhardt.

Earnhardt, who’s off to a better start than last season when he was 18th in points, knows the honeymoon is over between him and his crew chief Lance McGrew, and it's time for McGrew to shed the rookie stripes.

Darlington is the final track at which the two have not previously worked together, and he's got notes to work with for the remaining tracks they will visit.

"I think the best thing is that now we have a notebook," crew chief Lance McGrew said afterward.

McGrew also added, "We didn't have that. And now we can go back and we can look and we can see what we can do."

Earnhardt, who began Saturday night’s race from the 19th starting position, found himself in the top 10 when a cut rear tire once again put a damper on his spirits, and the lady in black looked as if she would have the upper hand.

As the race progressed, Earnhardt kept his cool and fought his way back to finish 19th on the night, the last car on the lead lap.

Earnhardt would move back into the 12th spot in the point standings, with only 15 races left until the chase begins in September.

If there was one bright spot the team could grow from even though they had their problems early on, it was that they were able to work together as a team, and overcome all the adversity the lady in black could throw at them.

"We ran better this time than we did last time here," Earnhardt added. "I think this was one of the worst races I had last year."