Time is running out for Dale Earnhardt Jr to make the Chase

With this season marking Dale Earnhardt Jr's last in NASCAR, Daniel Prekopa looks at the driver's chances of making the Chase for the final time.

SPARTA, KY - JULY 11: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, right, takes part in pre-race ceremonies with fiancee Amy Reimann prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on July 11, 2015 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to make NASCAR’s playoff format in his last year of racing, time is running out to get that much-needed win.

Time is running out for Dale Earnhardt Jr to make the Chase

The sport’s most popular driver for 14 years running is retiring after this season because of the effects from multiple concussions. Ideally, the sport would benefit from him having a run at that elusive Monster Energy Cup Championship in his final season.

However, to qualify for the Chase format, he either needs to capture a win in one of the next eight races or finish within the top 16 in points when the series leaves Richmond in September.

It’s been a rough year for Junior. With five DNFs, he currently is 21st in the points and is 94 points behind 14th place Erik Jones, the lowest qualifier in the standings without a victory.

Taking a look at the final eight races before the Chase field is set, there are limited opportunities for Junior to win based on his history at those tracks.

This weekend, the circuit heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a track he has never won at although he has had some decent runs. The next track is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track he has never seen success at is an unlikely candidate for a win.

On July 30, the series is at Pocono Raceway. This is a track where he swept both races at in 2014 so there is a definite possibility the team could recapture that magic there.

After Pocono is Watkins Glen, a road course that is not one of his favorites. Despite a good showing at Pocono earlier this summer, Junior has never been a fan of the road courses.

After Watkins Glen are two tracks he has had success at: Michigan and Bristol. Junior won at Michigan in 2008 and 2012 and boasts eight top fives and 14 top tens there. His last win at Bristol was in 2004, however he has eight top fives and 16 top tens at the track.

After that stretch is Darlington and then the regular-season finale in Richmond. Junior has not won in Darlington in his career. He does have three wins at Richmond but all those came during his DEI days – the last one coming in 2006.

It’s safe to say, if Junior can’t snatch a victory at either Pocono, Michigan or Bristol, it will be a tough task to try to get one at Richmond. This is a key stretch to see if his final season can give him a good sendoff.
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