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)
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.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.