Filed under: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase for the Sprint Cup, Hendrick MotorsportsThe NASCAR season truly kicks in Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. From now through Friday, FanHouse will preview each of the 12-drivers and evaluate their championship chances.
4th - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
Starting Deficit: 70 points
2008 Stats: 1 win, 8 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
2008 Regular Season Point Standing: 4th (-390)
2007 Chase Result: Did Not Qualify
Chase Chances: Earnhardt Jr. is entering turf starting at New Hampshire that he hasn't been on in a while by making it into the Chase with Hendrick Motorsports. For the past two seasons, Earnhardt Jr. has failed to qualify for the Chase with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and it was likely one of this big reasons he made his much-publicized jump prior to the 2008 season. Earnhardt Jr. could have easily had two wins in 2008 had he and Kyle Busch not made contact at Richmond in May, but his single victory on a fuel mileage gamble at Michigan got him back to victory lane in an interesting fashion.
Otherwise, 2008 has mainly been a season that has seen some decent consistency from Earnhardt Jr. & Co., though most thought he could have run better in several races. A common problem facing the team that has cropped up multiple times in 2008 was an inability to adapt the setup of the race car as a race progressed, leaving Earnhardt Jr. to fight the car to salvage a good finish. If they can get that problem fixed, the No. 88 could be a player in the Chase with a win at Talladega, but if not, he's just another name in the game.
Prediction: In It to Win It.