Dale Earnhardt Jr. was forced to rally back from a weekend of challenges at Chicagoland Speedway. (Getty Images)
JOLIET, Ill. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished eighth in Sunday's Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway to cap a very up-and-down opening weekend to the Chase.
After qualifying fourth, Earnhardt blew an engine and was forced to start at the rear of the field in Sunday's Chase opener. He had to deal with a tire going down and an ill-handling car during the afternoon but was still able to salvage a top-10 finish.
“Yeah, I wish I had not made the mistake with the motor and gave ourselves a better opportunity," said Earnhardt. "I feel like that cost us about four spots today just having to start that far back. We never did get track and gain it all back to where I felt like I had overcome the setback. I take full responsibility for that.
"We had a good car. At the start of the race, especially, we had a really fast car; real good speed. We made a couple of adjustments trying to help the car and we just kind of made the car ordinary and much like everyone else. It took a little bit of advantage we had in speed away from the car. We just kind of muffled around and held track position the rest of the day.”
Although there was some encouragement from the Earnhardt camp for rebounding, Junior knows the effort will need to be better the rest of the Chase in order to run for the title.
“That's how we've been running all year," he said. "I'm not getting real excited. To win the championship, we're going to have to turn days like that, those kind of mistakes, around into wins and top-threes. We need to be in the media center after all these races as much as possible. Eighth is all right, but I know Brad (Keselowski) is going to run well and the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) is obviously going to be tough. You can't run eighth every week and win the championship.”