NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Continues Down The Path Of Uncertainty

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IJuly 31, 2010

LONG POND, PA - JULY 30:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice 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

Time is running short, with only six races remaining until the chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is set to begin.

For the 12 drivers who will get their chance to do battle for NASCAR’s biggest prize, also comes the satisfaction of knowing they weren’t chosen but instead they earned the right to represent their respective teams during this crucial time of the season.

Each season, there are always a handful of drivers whom the fans have supported, and for one reason or another, they will be on the list of those who will be on the outside looking in.

For Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., the time has come once again where he finds himself in a familiar position, while having to fight back from a 93 point deficit in order to get himself into the post season party.

Earnhardt who will roll off 20th for this Sundays Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, unlike when he last raced this chassis at Pocono in June where he notched a 19th-place finish after qualifying third.

Crew chief Lance McGrew and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-584.

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Earnhardt picked up the pole position at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to score a 15th-place finish with this chassis in March.

Pocono has not been one of Earnhardt’s favorite tracks, and in 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono Raceway, he has only recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and six top-10s.

"I think the difference between a good finish and a bad finish at Pocono is getting the car to turn through the center and really being able to get down into Turn one."

The car wants to go straight into that corner so bad,” said Earnhardt who will be making Sprint Cup start No. 384 on Sunday.

Earnhardt attributed some of his misfortunes to “getting comfortable enough to be able to be fast through the tunnel (Turn 2) all day long is important.”

Earnhardt also added that, “The corners are so different it's so easy to try to improve one thing and just screw up something that wasn't even a problem."

So when we've run good, we've had awesome race cars. Hopefully we'll have another one."

Next Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Earnhardt is scheduled to make his 500th career NASCAR start.

The 35-year old driver made his first NASCAR start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on June 22, 1996, at Myrtle Beach Speedway and has amassed 115 starts since then.

Even with all those starts, Earnhardt, at times still doesn’t look comfortable behind the wheel. Whether it all began after his father died, or when he left the confines of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated to find a better lifestyle with Hendrick Motorsports.

Earnhardt at times is still lacking a sense of security which he mentioned when the season first began, and there are those who will agree the move to HMS was not his best choice, and he probably could have done better with another team.

Then there is always the argument that HMS was the best choice for him.

All of that no longer matters, and with only six races left it’s up to Earnhardt to salvage what is left of the 2010 season by walking down the path of certainty, instead of uncertainty.

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