Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t had the best of luck over the past few weeks. For a guy that’s all but out of consideration to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, Earnhardt Jr. and his team are more determined to win now than ever.
Earnhardt Jr. won his second pole of the year (the first coming at Kentucky) by setting a track record at the Dover International Speedway. It’s the first time since 2002 that he’s had multiple poles within the same season. The pole is also the 13th for the Kannapolis, NC native in his 498 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.
Earnhardt Jr.’s pole-setting time of 22.243 seconds barely out edged Matt Kenseth, who’s the hottest driver in NASCAR after winning the past two races to begin the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. It’s a great sign to see the most popular driver in the sport beginning to get a slight amount of momentum heading into the final stretch of the year.
Ryan Newman will start third as he looks to rebound from a rough weekend at New Hampshire. It’s been a rough stretch for some drivers, but returning to Dover can certainly help a few drivers get back to the front of the points standings.
For those who are wondering, Kenseth’s won at Dover twice. Imagine how much of a roll he can go on during the race on Sunday after doing so well at a track he’s usually sub-par at?
Carl Edwards may just be in the best position of all the guys capable of winning the championship. Edwards has been truly consistent throughout the year and will start at third on Sunday at Dover. He got his “Concrete Carl” nickname a few years ago, and Dover is a concrete track, which could mean a successful weekend for the No. 99 team.
The only other drivers eligible to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship that qualified inside of the top-10 were Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch. Clint Bowyer was the poorest qualifier of all the Chase drivers as he will start 23rd in his No. 15 Toyota.
Surely enough, each of the 13 drivers capable of winning the title will likely run better during the race. However, expect some drivers to struggle after having an off week at New Hampshire.
There are a few dark horses that qualified rather well at Dover. A.J. Allmendinger returns to the seat of the No. 47 car and will start in the 17th position. Aric Almirola had an impressive qualifying run as he was one of six drivers to break the former track record. Also, Jamie McMurray had a rather good run, starting seventh in the No. 1 Chevrolet. McMurray is coming off of a top-five finish at New Hampshire, and is looking to carry his momentum over to end the season on a high note.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.