Posted by: Dave Thompson, follow @phillyfan17
September 9, 2017
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his final regular season start at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night and his last chance to lock himself in to the playoffs. With the team’s performance far below expectations this season, it will take a fairy tale finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 with him landing in Victory Lane to salvage the season.
While Earnhardt does have three careers wins at Richmond, his last victory came back in 2006. Since that last win at Richmond, he has just five top-10 finishes in 21 starts…not numbers that play in his favor.
Unfortunately, to compound the obstacles for the No. 88 team on Saturday, Earnhardt will be without Crew Chief Greg Ives, who is serving a one-race suspension for loose lug nuts infraction at Darlington. On Saturday, Travis Mack will be on top the pit box calling the shots for the No. 88 team. Earnhardt was 28th in final practice but says the team made some adjustments during the session that might help his chances.
“We tried some things in the second practice that won’t get us front-end speed, but we did some things that I think will help our car on the long run,” said Earnhardt. “These races aren’t typically long run races anymore, but if we had to line-up and race, I think we’ve got about a sixth to 12th place car.”
Earnhardt is not envisioning a fairy tale ending to his regular season and admitted during Friday’s press conference that a win would not only be a surprise to most people, it would also be a surprise to his team.
“I think it [a win] would be awesome, and would be quite the surprise, not only for all you guys, but us included,” said Earnhardt. “So a lot of things can happen in the race and a win would be one of the biggest wins of my career.”
So can Earnhardt and the No. 88 team pull off a miracle on Saturday? Absolutely!! There is no quit in him or the team and perhaps with a little luck the fairy tale story will be written at Richmond Raceway on Saturday.