DOVER, Del. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. reaffirmed his belief in crew chief Greg Ives despite running out of fuel late in last weekend’s race at New Hampshire and falling in jeopardy of not advancing in the Chase.
Earnhardt is 12th in the points – the final transfer spot – entering Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway. Four drivers will be eliminated from title contention this weekend.
“I believe in Greg although a lot people are upset with Greg, all the fans are mad at him,’’ Earnhardt told NASCAR Talk on Friday at Dover International Speedway. “He’s going to be a star. He’s got a great future in this sport. It’s rare when you get a guy with so much ability, talent and potential. I’m excited to be a part of that.’’
Earnhardt finished 25th last weekend at New Hampshire after running a majority of the race in the top five. Those lost points leave him one behind Jamie McMurray and one ahead of Kyle Busch and Paul Menard.
“I thought we ran in the top five all day and should have finished there,’’ Earnhardt said. “If we went with the strategy pretty much everyone in the field took, we run in the top eight easy.
“I was over it pretty quick (afterward). I got out of the car. I didn’t want to do or say anything that was going to upset Greg. I knew that he was probably mad at himself. I believe in Greg 100 percent.
“I don’t even put that on him. We have a lot of guys up on that pit box that help make decisions that happen throughout the race. He’s going to want to take that responsibility for what happened, but I don’t put that on him. We do all this together. We win, we lose together.’’
Earnhardt said there was not any mechanical issue that caused him to be short on fuel.
“We all just miscalculated,’’ Earnhardt said. “I didn’t even want to go to Greg and say, ‘What the hell happened, Greg?’ I don’t want to put that on him. He feels bad enough. Maybe a week or two down the road we can go ‘What happened at New Hampshire, did we just fall short, did we think we were going to get more yellows, what was your mindset?’
“I don’t want to put that on him now because we’ve got to do Dover. I want him to just forget it, go to Dover. I’ve been talking to him all week. I think our attitude and how he feels about himself and our confidence is as good as it could be considering what happened at New Hampshire.’’
While Earnhardt is in a logjam for the final transfer spot, he says his focus won’t change Sunday.
“I’m not going to worry about individual guys,’’ Earnhardt said. “I’m just going to try to run our race. I think if you start watching one guy on the track, you get beat by everyone else. Kyle is one of the guys we’ve got to beat in, but we both might make it in.
“We’ve got to run the best race we can run and wherever everyone else is is where they are. If Kyle is leading the race and I’m running ninth, I’m not going to do something crazy on pit road to try to leapfrog a bunch of guys and put bmyself in a vulnerable position with tires or something like that. He might end up winning the race or running top five and we may run well enough to both of us get in. We can’t be conservative, but you don’t want to get ridiculous either. We’re just going to go here and run the race we need to run.’’