CUP: Lost Season For Earnhardt Jr. To End At Tough Track

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s second consecutive season of frustration at Hendrick Motorsports will come to an end this weekend at the season finale as he tries to hold on to a spot in the top 20 in points.

Earnhardt Jr. is 19th in the standings, 28 points ahead of AJ Allmendinger, 65 points ahead of Kasey Kahne and 90 points ahead of Martin Truex Jr. going into the 36th and final race of the season Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While Homestead is another 1.5-mile track, it has progressive banking – the banking changes through the turn, allowing for a better chance of multiple-groove racing.

“Homestead has been one of my toughest tracks since they changed the configuration of it,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a news release. ”We’ve ran good, but I just don’t seem to really have a line. There are a million different ways you can go through the corner but I haven’t really figured out which one suits me the best.”

In the two races for NASCAR's new car at Homestead, Earnhardt Jr. has finishes of 41st and 28th.

“It’s a real challenging race track because it’s not like any other intermediate track that we race at,” crew chief Lance McGrew said. “It’s just very different – it has multiple grooves, it has progressive banking, you can run the bottom, you can run the top, you can run the middle.”

Earnhardt Jr. and the team participated in a tire test at Homestead in September.

“We got to try some kind of off-the-wall setups for us, and the car was real quick and real good for a long time,” McGrew said. “We ran nothing but long runs there 20 laps at a time or more.

“For us, that’s where we’ve seemed to struggle. We’ve been able to get a car fast at the beginning or end of a run, but not fast over the entire length, and I think it was a big plus for us to get to do that.”

After this weekend, the team will have to regroup for 2011. The team has not talked about any personnel changes, preferring to get through the season and make any decisions during the offseason.

“My goals are to try to regroup and try to go to the next year a little more prepared,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We thought we had it all figured out going into this year, and we learned a little bit about how much more we had to improve. So when we start the season, we can’t have any doubts or questions in any areas.” • Jeff Owens: Despite thrilling points race, NASCAR should still tweak Chase format