Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief, Greg Ives, says the team’s mindset doesn’t need to change after Earnhardt’s 28th-place finish last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Two races remain — this weekend at Kansas Speedway and next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway — before the 12-driver Chase field is cut to eight for the third round. Earnhardt hit the wall multiple times at Charlotte, including once after contact with Carl Edwards and another time when Earnhardt said he ran over oil on the track. He heads to Kansas 19 points behind Brad Keselowski for the final transfer spot.
“I know Charlotte, finishing 28th, definitely makes Kansas and Talladega more of a pressure cooker,’’ Ives said Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“You’ve got to still have that same mindset. You’ve got to clear your mind, you’ve got to focus on the next task at hand. That’s what we’re going to do at Kansas.’’
Earnhardt finished third at Kansas in May, but Ives admitted on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t feel we were a top-three car.’’
Getting a better finish than one thinks the car is capable is what Earnhardt and his team might need to have this weekend, Ives noted.
“We can’t take a winning car and finish sixth with it,’’ Ives said. “Our mindset has to be no matter what positions we’re running we have to keep improving to try to win that race.’’
Earnhardt has been good at Kansas, scoring five top-10 finishes in the last eight races there.
While in a challenging spot, this isn’t new to Earnhardt in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
He rallied to advance through the first round after running out of fuel with three laps to go at New Hampshire — a mistake that cost the team about 20 positions. Earnhardt finished third at Dover to advance.
He’s advanced to the second round both years in this Chase format, but his title hopes ended in this round a year ago.
“We want to make it to Homestead and give ourselves an opportunity to feel what it’s like to go into the final race knowing we have an opportunity to win a championship,’’ Ives said. “But our next task at hand is running well at Kansas, and we can’t lose site of that.’’