CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. candidly declared two weeks ago that he has too good of a race team to be worried about making NASCAR’s playoffs.
Since then, he has produced underwhelming finishes at Daytona and Kentucky and slipped to 13th in the Sprint Cup standings. Earnhardt hasn’t scored a top-10 finish in a month and he is indeed in danger of missing the championship Chase.
With eight races remaining to complete the 16-driver field, Earnhardt ranks third among drivers who have yet to secure a win this season but are ranked high enough to make the Chase. It’s not a safe position by any means: Earnhardt has slipped from seventh in the standings since May and has led only four laps since mid-March.
He’s not the only driver in a precarious position. among those looking for automatic berths in the Chase are two of Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates — Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne — as well as 2015 qualifier Jamie McMurray.
Ryan Newman, who has made the Chase the last two years without a win, is on the bubble. Austin Dillon, rookie Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson are all eyeing wildcard spots but they could solidify a berth with their first career Cup wins.
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