Coming into the PopSecret 400 at
Rockingham with just four races left on the schedule, Dale Earnhardt needed two things to
happen in order to still have a chance at the title. Those were for himself to have a good
finish and for Bobby Labonte to have some bad luck.
Bobby had his bad luck when he got trapped a lap down after making an unscheduled pit stop
under green, moments before a caution came out (for a fire in Matt Kenseth's pit area).
Labonte ended the day 20th, a lap down. However, the No. 3 team was not able to capitalize
on Labonte's bad finish. They were barley able to finish any better than Labonte
Despite running in the top-10 for most of the race, Earnhardt only finished 17th. He was
in 10th following his final pit stop, but his car then got tight, which led to the poor
"I don't know if I had a bad
set of tires or a mismatched set of tires there at the end, said Earnhardt. "The car
just went all to heck. It was pushing so bad I couldn't turn it.
"We were running pretty good there at first, but the track got tighter and our car
got tighter. It just didn't do nothing for us. There at the end, I don't know what was
wrong with it. I just couldn't go anywhere. At the least (the tires were inconsistent).
They change tires, you adjust. They change tires, you adjust. You change, you adjust. They
don't want anybody to be consistent. They want to keep changing tires so we don't know
what's going to happen the next race."
Dale used a high groove during the race, running right up along the wall in the turns. By
lap 45, he was up to 15th from his 27th starting spot. At lap 56, he was 6th. At about
that time green-flag pit stops started. Dale led lap 71, before coming in for his
green-flag pit stop.
Bobby Labonte now holds a 201-point lead over Earnhardt with three races remaining. Dale
would have to gain an average of over 67 points on Labonte in each of the final three
races. With Labonte's normally consistent finishes, this is a task that not even Earnhardt
can likely accomplish.
"We probably gained a few (points) on him," said
Earnhardt, "but nothing like we needed to. The numbers will still work."
Also, Dale lost some ground in the battle for second position in the points. Earnhardt had
a 98 point lead over Jeff Burton coming into the race. He now holds second position over
Burton by just 50 points.
The series has next weekend off before heading to Phoenix Int'l Raceway on November 5th.
Earnhardt qualifies 27th at The
Dale posted a decent time during first-round qualifying today at
the North Carolina Motor Speedway. His lap of 155.090 mph was good enough to put him 27th
out of 48 drivers who attempted to qualify.