Dale Earnhardt Jr. blamed himself for having to start from the rear of the field in Sunday's Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, but an eighth-place finish was enough to raise his spirits — at least somewhat.
Earnhardt claimed the fourth starting position in time trials but over-revved his engine after his qualifying lap — a freak occurrence.
"We ran a qualifying lap, and when you cross the finish line you bump it out of gear, which is what I've done every time I've run a qualifying lap, however many of those I've ran," Earnhardt explained. "In practicing mock runs, I bumped it out of gear and it went in third and over-(revved) the engine way over.
"The valves and the piston had a little party, and they all ended up with a hangover."
Because his team changed engines, Earnhardt had to drop to the rear for the start of Sunday's race, the first in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
With a stout car in the early going and a couple of two-tire calls, Earnhardt advanced through the field, ultimately finish eighth. If he's to be a contender for the championship, however, Earnhardt knows he must do better.
"To win the championship, we're going to have to turn days like that, those kind of mistakes, around into wins and top threes," Earnhardt said. "We need to be in the media center (as a top-three finisher) after all these races as much as possible.
"Eighth is all right, but I know (race winner) Brad (Keselowski) is going to run well, and the No. 48 (race runner-up Jimmie Johnson) is obviously going to be tough. You can't run eighth every week and win the championship."