NASCAR & Auto Racing

Blown tire, poor finish don't blow chances, says Earnhardt Jr.

DOVER, Del. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was determined to get something positive out of Sunday's Camping World 400 at Dover International Speedway.

It appeared that he faced a very difficult challenge after he blew a right-rear tire on Lap 141, which caused extensive damage to his No. 88 Chevrolet.

Knowing he would take a substantial hit in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, Earnhardt Jr. and his team worked feverishly to repair as much of the damage as they could during several stops on pit road and they managed to stay only a lap down for much of the rest of the race.

He ended up 24th and three laps down from race winner Greg Biffle, but Earnhardt Jr. was certain the results could have been much worse.

"That thing scared me," he said of the blown tire. "It sounded like a shotgun going off. By the time I got unscared, I was a little bit behind on trying to correct (the car). It was loud.

"To be honest with you, when a tire blows like that, I've seen a lot of other teams just give up and ride it out, and we got 10 spots better than I think a lot of other guys would have.

"We're going to work hard."

Earnhardt Jr. still finds himself in a sizable hole, now ninth in points, 129 behind leader Carl Edwards. With eight races remaining, however, it is by no means insurmountable.

"I really hate how it hurt our points race, but that was the best we could do today," he said. "We didn't put the right setup underneath (the car).

"Me and Tony (Eury Jr., crew chief) worked on that direction today, but it was the wrong direction. So, we'll try to rebound next week."

Most Sprint Cup Series teams, including Earnhardt Jr.'s, will test this week at Lowe's Motor Speedway before moving next weekend to Kansas Spedway, where Earnhardt Jr. has four top-10 finishes in seven races. After that is Talladega, where Earnhardt Jr. has five Cup wins.

His thoughts on the rest of the Chase? "I'm optimistic."