Jul 13, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he had just gone through the roughest workout of his career.
When TNT cameras caught up with him after his 10th-place finish in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Earnhardt’s face was not only red, he seemed short of breath, looked significantly frustrated and exasperated – and appeared almost on the verge of tears.
Which is odd because with his 10th-place finish, Junior officially clinched his berth for the upcoming revamped and expanded Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“That was frustrating,” Earnhardt said with a somber look on his face. “That was the hardest I’ve ever worked for a 10th-place finish.
“It’s been a real frustrating weekend, to be honest. The guys worked real hard, Steve (crew chief Steve Letarte) and the engineers did their best to get the car more competitive, but just to be lacking that much speed against a lot of guys and I had to drive so perfect every lap, it was just so frustrating.”
With wins in the season-opening Daytona 500 and last month at Pocono, Earnhardt can take solace that there’s no way he can miss the Chase now.
But still, Earnhardt did not take Sunday’s finish easily. It might be because a 10th-place finish in the fall Chase return to New Hampshire very well might not be good enough to advance to the second or third elimination rounds of the 10-race playoff.
“I don’t know, man, I wish we were better,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to have to come back here (in the fall Chase race) and run better to have a shot at the Chase. But, we’ll keep working. Tenth-place: I’m really disappointed.”
At the same time, Earnhardt’s demeanor and appearance said a lot about how far he’s come and how much he’s grown this season as a Sprint Cup driver.
Whereas in many of his previous 14 Sprint Cup seasons, he’d have been happy to have just finished in the top 15 or 20.
But if he’s not contending for a win now, it’s simply not good enough for Junior.
“I remember when we used to like these (10th-place finishes),” Earnhardt said.
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May 27, 2015, 7:44 AM EDT
Fast facts heading into this weekend’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.
May 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Chaves best of two first-year drivers in 99th Indianapolis 500.
May 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
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Runner-up Will Power said it’s as simple as making the cars slower.
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May 25, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
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May 25, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
The Mercedes-affiliated youngster clinches his first win of the season around the legendary streets of Monaco.
May 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
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May 25, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
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May 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Running inside the top ten, Grosjean’s hopes of points were dashed on Sunday in Monaco when Max Verstappen crashed into him.
May 25, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Townsend Bell’s final blog for the Indianapolis 500 touches on family, meeting Jeff Gordon, and a crazy view from the driver’s seat.
May 25, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
A sixth-place finish in Monaco disappoints Raikkonen, but he lays blame with his poor qualifying form.
May 25, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT
One of Simon Pagenaud’s best oval races to date ends P10 after running top three most of race.
May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The win may have come by accident, but Rosberg etched his place in F1 history on Sunday.
May 25, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Red Bull boys finish fourth and fifth in Monaco to give the team something to smile about after a tough start to the season.
May 25, 2015, 1:04 AM EDT
Sunday’s winners of the NHRA Kansas Nationals were Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Richie Crampton (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock).
May 24, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Video recap of Montoya’s win at Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
In his second win at the Brickyard, the Team Penske driver delivered a performance that embodies his style.
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