Mixed feelings for Earnhardt

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Sep 15 1497

Based on the way he practiced on Friday and Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have been happy to escape Sunday’s race with the 11th-place finish he recorded.

But in the first Chase event, Earnhardt’s car was the strongest it had been all weekend, and the 11th-place result left him wanting more.

“We weren’t very good in practice,” Earnhardt said after the race. “I was really, really concerned. We had a real bad P3 (third practice). (Crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and those guys, man, they just worked real hard all night long and stayed up on the computer and looked over the notes, and we had a real good car today. It was a top-five car.

Restarting on the inside there in fifth or seventh (late in the race), a little bit tough. Outside was where I kind of wanted to be on restarts. The guys behind us got tires, and we got beat by tires on a couple of cars there. If you would have told me that we could have finished 11th this morning, I would have happily taken it.

“But there in the middle of the race, kind of started getting greedy about positions because the car was better than that… I feel like this team can run for 11th on its worst day. That will do it. That will get us through the next round, until we get to some tracks that maybe we run a little bit better at, or tracks that suit us a little bit better.”

Earnhardt leaves Chicago fifth in the standings, 17 points behind leader Brad Keselowski and 13 points ahead of 13th-place Ryan Newman. After the Sept. 28 race at Dover, four of 16 drivers will be eliminated from the Chase.