Chances slim for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make NASCAR playoffs in final season
The No. 88 Monster Energy Cup Series team is going to need a "Dale Mary" if it's going to make the NASCAR playoffs.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. sits a disappointing 22nd in the points standings, behind the likes of Trevor Bayne and rookies Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones. If NASCAR's most popular driver is going to make the final 16 drivers on the playoff grid, he is going to have to win one of the two remaining regular season races at Darlington or Richmond.
Junior has never won at Darlington, but does have three consecutive top-10 finishes at the South Carolina track, including a runner-up finish in 2014. Earnhardt's better chance at qualifying for the playoffs may come in the final regular season race at Richmond, a track where he's won three times.
With Earnhardt's struggles this season — his second-worst campaign per average finish (21.7) — it would truly be a miracle if he can end his 43-race winless streak to clinch a playoff spot at the final regular season race. Especially considering he likely isn't the same driver he was before suffering a concussion which sidelined him for the final half of the 2016 season.
"To be an athlete in any sport you possess instincts and reaction time," Earnhardt told reporters Thursday. "You possess these attributes that are above the average individual and you hone those and over the years those are improved and sharpened. And when I got hurt, I lost all of that. I lost all of my advantage to being a race car driver.
"I thought that I could come back and do well. There are a lot of things that play a role in being competitive. I think that I’m healthy and I’m happy and thrilled that I’m healthy. I still think I can drive a race car, but there is really no excuse for us not performing well or meeting expectations."
If Earnhardt fails to make the playoffs, he will end his likely Hall of Fame career without a Cup championship. If he can win however, a larger dubious championship run awaits. How unlikely? According to Bovada, Earnhardt is 100-1 longshot to win the championship.
So you're saying there's a chance?