Dale Earnhardt Jr. hopes he’s cooking by Chase’s end

Posted Thursday, Oct. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. came to Texas to make some barbecue. But for him, that’s just about as good as racing.

“You get some good, you get some bad,” he said. “The results will tell you the truth.”

That is the truth about a lot of things, and it certainly rings true for Earnhardt’s season as the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship hits its fourth week.

Earnhardt has gotten some good — a runner-up finish at Dover last weekend.

He’s gotten some bad — a 35th-place finish after engine failure at Chicago in the Chase opener.

The results tell the truth — he is 10th in the standings, 57 points out of the lead. At a point per spot, that is more than a race’s worth of making up he’s got to do.

“I haven’t felt slighted or like the system isn’t working for me,” he said Thursday night at a stop at Hard Eight BBQ to promote the Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in November. “But you know, if you don’t have that engine failure, you take advantage of it when someone does. It’s been hard for us — put us in a hole, given an advantage to others ahead of us. And they’re gladly going to take it.”

Since that blown engine at Chicago, Earnhardt has rallied with a sixth-place finish at Loudon, N.H., and last week’s runner-up at Dover, Del., where he won the pole.

“Probably the best two cars I’ve had all season,” he said. “That was just really encouraging the last two weeks.”

Earnhardt and the rest of the Cup drivers are in Kansas this weekend. It isn’t a strong track for him, but it has a new surface, so it’s hard for him to think about what his career average finish of 16.4 there means.

What he does know is that he has time. Seven races remain in the NASCAR playoffs, including the Nov. 3 race at Texas Motor Speedway, where he won his first Sprint Cup race.

If he can leave Fort Worth next month within 20 points of the lead, he thinks he has a chance.

“That’s still pretty far out,” he said. “That’s 20 spots. There’s not only 20 spots to the guy whose leading, but there are the ones in between. Outside of 20 points, it’s going to be difficult.”

Earnhardt at least has his recipe. He’s a grill master. If he has a recipe, a procedure he can follow, he might make a run for the championship, after all.

“It’s all real similar, all the steps you need to take and the process you need to take to make it work,” he said, comparing his enjoyment of outdoor cooking and racing. “I enjoy that process. I enjoy that mechanical process of making something like that. And you can do it with your friends. It reminds me of racing at Myrtle Beach — all volunteers, couldn’t afford to pay anybody.

“And that’s what it’s like smoking on the grill, everybody pitching in, remembering something you saw someone do. And I take notes. I do that. It’s just like working on a car.”

Earnhardt will know the results at the end.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez

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