KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Back in 2000, Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed the first of his 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile intermediate track.
In 2004, he took the checkered flag at Atlanta. A year later, Earnhardt won at Chicagoland. Those are Earnhardt’s only three victories at 1.5-mile speedways, and more than 10 years have passed since his last one.
This Sunday, Earnhardt comes to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 (2:15 p.m. ET on NBC), where a win at an intermediate track would offset the rough 21st-place finish he had last Sunday at Charlotte, the first race in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
But Earnhardt is at a loss to explain why he hasn’t been able to win at a 1.5-mile track in the last decade.
“I think, as a driver, I’m a little bit more consistent at the short tracks,” Earnhardt said. “And, obviously, the plate tracks we run pretty good at. I like the mile-and-a-halfs, and I run pretty good at them, (but) we’re always second, third, fourth or fifth. We’re never really the guy that can lock in the win.
“It’s just one of them things. I really can’t answer that because we’ve been one of the more consistent teams in the series over the last five or six years. We’ve maintained a good standing in the points throughout the regular season so we’re running well, finishing well, and we’re up front in a lot of these races.
“But, overall, I think that I’m a better short-track driver than I am a mile-and-a-half driver — I don’t know.”
One thing that will play in Earnhardt’s favor on Sunday is his ability to take an aggressive approach. Currently 11th in the standings, 19 points out of the last transfer position into the Chase’s Eliminator 8 Round, Earnhardt and his No. 88 team need to stir the pot on Sunday.
“We ain’t got nothing to lose,” Earnhardt said. “We just got (to go) out there and run hard and try to win races and try to run up front. We’re not close enough to the top eight to sort of have a strategy.
“We’re just going to go out there and race and see how it works out for us and try to win. We have two opportunities (Kansas and Talladega), and we’re a good enough team, so we’ll see how that works out.”