Dale Earnhardt Jr. Finds a Slippery Slope in the Pocono Mountains

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2010

LONG POND, PA - JULY 30:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway on July 30, 2010 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Once again all but one of the Hendrick Motorsports cars ran strong in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.

It appears to be a slippery slope to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase and Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't seem to get traction.

At Pocono Raceway, deep in the Pocono Mountains, Junior qualified his No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet in 20th place.

During practice, Earnhardt Jr. expressed his frustration with crew chief, Lance McGrew.

Making one adjustment after another, the team finally got Junior to fifth fastest in practice.

The Hendrick driver appeared pleased with the progress made on the car.

In an interview after final practice, he detailed the difficulties of getting a good set-up on the car.

It is obvious the set-up was not as difficult for the other Hendrick drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin with their ability to stay in the top-10 throughout most of the race

Junior Nation has remained optimistic that their driver would make the Chase and maybe even win a race.

With five races remaining before the Chase, including a road-course at Watkins Glen, hope is fading.

Earnhardt Jr. was 12th in points in 2008, but failed to make the Chase in 2009.

Perhaps he never will again at Hendrick Motorsports.

It is just bizarre that Dale Jr. and the No. 88 team cannot show more consistency, make better calls and get better finishes.

Despite reports of equality with the teams, the information sharing program at HMS is much like telling a person a joke and having them pass it on.

By the time the joke gets to the fourth person, it is totally different. 

So it appears the joke is on Junior and just maybe the head jokester is McGrew.

With 51 laps to go, a debris caution came out.

A poor call for two tires by McGrew put Junior in second place for the restart, but he faded fast as cars slipped past him.

Needing another caution, Earnhardt Jr. spun out on lap 158 and caused one by himself.

At the conclusion of the Pennsylvania 500, Earnhardt Jr. finished in 27th place. He remains out of the top 12 in points, but his position was not available at the current time. 

It would appear he slipped further in the standings with his finish today.

Gordon finished sixth, Martin finished seventh, Johnson was 10th.  Gordon and Johnson were much stronger during the bulk of the race.

Greg Biffle took his Roush Fenway No. 16 Ford to the winner's circle for Ford's first win this season.

And so it goes in the racing life of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

Update:  Earnhardt Jr. remained 14th in points now 129 out of 12th place.