Engine change sends Dale Earnhardt Jr. to rear for first Chase race

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/7-Eleven/National Guard Chevrolet, waits on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images for NASCAR)

JOLIET, Ill. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the rear in Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, after his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team opted to change engines after Saturday’s qualifying session.

Issues the team found within the engine will force Earnhardt to give up the fourth starting spot, but crew chief Steve Letarte believes Earnhardt, one of 12 drivers eligible for the Cup championship, can use pit strategy to move to the front.

“I don’t think we are super concerned,” Letarte said. “We had a great car in practice and qualified really well, so we showed we have good speed. Fortunately, this is a race track that there are multiple pit strategies, and it’s not a really simple, straightforward pit strategy to call.

“I think there will be a lot of opportunities to use our good pit stops and place on pit road to get back towards the front.”


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