Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Concerns About His To-Do List

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2010

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LIFELOCK.COM 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Securing a place in the top-12 of the NASCAR points standings is not necessarily a joyous place to be if you are Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After Daytona, the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 moved to 11th in points.

Junior spoke to the fact of his team being worthy of that spot by saying it was "slightly generous."

Earnhardt Jr. added, "We didn't have a good car last weekend, and we were really fortunate to finish where we did."

Speaking about his team he said, "I feel like we are one of the hardest-working teams in the garage.  I don't feel like we lack anything when it comes to determination, passion."

The road that leads to the Chase is becoming more and more narrow.  One small mistake along the way can have you off in the ditch.

Junior has reason to be nervous about making the Chase and being in it should he get that far.

Pocono and Watkins Glen may be two of the more challenging tracks for Dale Jr. to finish well at on the road to Loudon.

His average finish at Pocono is 17.5 with zero wins.  At Watkins Glen, his average finish is 22.6 with three top-10 finishes and no wins.

Indianapolis has not been especially kind to the driver of the AMP Energy/National Guard No. 88.  He has two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 21.7 at the historic track.

Earnhardt Jr. said, "I'm nervous about losing points, not making the Chase, just having a bad week."

His team must treat each track as a threat that poses danger to his chance of being in the Chase.

Junior, of course, is focused on making the top-12 in points before those final 10 races.

Being in the Chase presents another set of problems that make Dale Jr. nervous.  His comment was, "It's real frustrating to make the Chase and not be able to compete well enough to be in the center of it."

Earnhardt Jr. added, "You feel like odd man out when you miss the Chase and then you get in there, you're happy to make it and about halfway in you feel the deficit is to great to overcome."

The 26 races that lead to NASCAR's Sprint Cup playoff known as the Chase become ever so stressful for the drivers floundering around that 12th place in points.

It's so very easy to be in, then suddenly you find yourself on the outside looking in as the races slip away along with opportunity.

At Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. finished the LifeLock.com 400 in 23rd place.  He found himself dropping two positions to 13th place, 15 points outside the top-12.

Fans hoped momentum would carry Junior after the Nationwide win on the high banks.  At Chicagoland Dale Jr. said, "Doesn't know if he believes in momentum, too many variables."

After finishing in fourth position the previous week at Daytona, Junior said in a postrace interview, "I'd rather be good than lucky."

With a forgettable car and impotent team at Chicagoland, he was neither.