NASCAR: Making Chase not enough for Earnhardt

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

By Jenna Fryer
Associated Press
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. started Saturday night’s race needing three solid runs to secure his first spot in the Chase since 2008.
But just making the 12-driver field isn’t enough for Earnhardt.
“On a personal level, I don’t really know how much it matters to me. Making the Chase is just an afterthought,” Earnhardt said. “I really want to win a championship. Making the Chase is great and all, but as a person, you want to be a champion. Making the Chase doesn’t really make you feel better at the end of the season. If you don’t win the championship, you’re really disappointed.”
Earnhardt’s career-best finish in the Sprint Cup standings was third in 2003. Under the Chase format, he finished fifth in 2004 and 2006, but has not made the field the last two seasons. He’s also winless since June 2008, a streak of 116 races.
He went into Saturday night’s race ranked ninth in the standings, and operating as if he’s running for points.
“I think more about what we could have done last week, thinking more about day-to-day stuff. . I want to win a race, how can we put ourselves in position to do that and things like that,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The points and everything sort of takes care of itself. You try to do the best you can throughout the year to put yourself in the best position.
“If I miss the Chase, I’ll probably catch a lot of (grief) about it. It will save me a lot of (grief) if I make the Chase. That’s about the only thing personally I have to worry about.”
Earnhardt had a mediocre run Saturday night, finishing 16th. He’s ninth in the standings headed to Atlanta.