Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Latest News and 2014 Sprint Cup Ranking Ahead of Darlington

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IApril 8, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr., left, talks with his crew chief Steve Letarte in the garage during a practice session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, April 5, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero

The 2014 season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been extremely hit or miss. Monday's race was a huge miss.

After waiting nearly 24 hours to get out on the track at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt went through 10 laps under yellow before wrecking less than three laps later after running into the grass infield.    

The No. 88 car was the first off the track, which resulted in a 43rd-place finish, his first outside of the top 25 this season. Here's a look at the wreck from NASCAR.com:

brightcove.com/?flashVars='videoId=3441930131001

Luckily for Junior, his results through the first six races kept him at sixth in points. Along with the fact that he has already earned a win and essentially solidified a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a total of four top-three results means that the pressure is off for Earnhardt.

Here's a look at the Sprint Cup standings, the No. 88 car's results and news for the Hendrick Motorsports driver heading into the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

2014 Sprint Cup Standings
Pos.DriverCarPointsWinsTop 5Top 10
1Jeff Gordon24259035
2Matt Kenseth20255015
3Carl Edwards99247124
4Joey Logano22235144
5Kyle Busch18231123
6Dale Earnhardt Jr.88228144
7Jimmie Johnson48228024
8Brad Keselowski2218133
9Brian Vickers55205013
10Paul Menard27203014
NASCAR.com
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2014 Results
RaceTrackStartFinish
Duck Commader 500Texas Motor Speedway1943
STP 500Martinsville Speedway263
Auto Club 400Auto Club Speedway1512
Food City 500Bristol Motor Speedway1424
Kobalt 400Las Vegas Motor Speedway142
The Profit on CNBC 500Phoenix International Raceway52
Daytona 500Daytona International Speedway91
NASCAR.com

 

Latest News

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 04:  Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane with Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Ragu Chevrolet, after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

After a visit to the top five at Martinsville, it appeared the No. 88 car was back on track at the top of the standings and contending for wins.

But the result Monday was a setback that disappointed fans hoping the see Junior visit Victory Lane at Texas after a rain delay on Sunday. Marty Smith of ESPN provides commentary from Earnhardt following his visit to the garage after the Lap 13 crash:

Earnhardt also spoke about the wreck following the race on his Twitter account:

Junior's car went up in flames, but the driver was able to escape before suffering any serious injuries. The wreck also affected teammate Jimmie Johnson, who had his window caved in and finished 25th as a result.

Sunoco Racing gives a look at the National Guard machine as it was hauled off to the garage:

But it wasn't all bad news for Junior on the weekend. Though he wasn't able to pull off a win in the Sprint Cup series, JR Motorsports continued its reign of dominance over the Nationwide Series during the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300.

brightcove.com/?flashVars='videoId=3432702884001

Chase Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Winston Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, became the second-youngest driver to win a race when he took the checkered flag in just his seventh start in the Nationwide Series.

With the win, Elliott sits at the top of the points standings in Nationwide with teammate Regan Smith, who won the first race of the season at Daytona, just behind him in second. Earnhardt spoke about his team and Elliott's early success, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:

It’s not often we are going to run four cars. But it sure was a good feeling to qualify well and race well with all four of them. We’ve got tons of people working real hard trying to improve, and it’s starting to show.

Chase is a great driver. I’m not surprised by his success. He’s with a great team. ... Regan and those guys worked really hard to get that team to where it (was) last year and Chase jumped right into a good little deal there. He’s got to be excited about that.

(Smith) stays pretty composed regardless of what is happening around him. ... If you’re looking for a guy who is going to be around for a long time that is going to make you proud to be a fan, Chase is that guy.

Elliott pulled off the victory over his owner, as Junior wound up posting a fifth-place finish in the Nationwide race. In fact, all four JRM drivers, including Kevin Harvick (fourth) and Smith (seventh) took top-10 finishes away from Texas on Saturday night.

The exuberant owner joined Elliott in Victory Lane, as NASCAR points out:

Earnhardt now leaves the bad feelings of a last-place result at Texas and heads to a track infamously known as "Too Tough to Tame." But in his Darlington career, Junior has tamed the track a few times, though he's never pulled off a win.

Here's a look at Earnhardt's results at the South Carolina speedway:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Darlington Results
WinsTop 5Top 10Avg. FinishAvg. Running Pos.Driver RatingQuality Passes
03814.912.2 (eighth)91.4 (10th)273 (fifth)
NASCAR Media

Heading to a track where Junior has experienced plenty of success could help wash away the taste from his Texas finish, and might also put the No. 88 team back in the top five in the standings.

When the checkered flag waves on Saturday night, expect Junior to once again be near the top of the pack if he can keep a clean car—which is easier said than done at Darlington.

Predicted Finish: 6th

 

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