Dale Earnhardt Jr. refocuses goals since he’s not in playoffs

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JOLIET, Illinois — While the Cup playoffs begin this weekend for 16 teams, there are still goals for other teams to accomplish.

Count Dale Earnhardt Jr. among those with revised goals after failing to qualify for the playoffs.

Earnhardt enters Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway 22nd in the points. He is winless with one top-five and four top-10 finishes this season. Earnhardt qualified 20th for Sunday’s Cup race.

MORE: Cup starting lineup for Sunday’s race

There is a concern, I guess, that you could get sort of complacent and go through these races and maybe some of the urgency or importance falls away a little bit because there is no ultimate carrot about there like that championship trophy,’’ Earnhardt said Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. “We will consciously all kind of remind each other as a team to keep pushing hard and to keep working hard. I’m done at the end of the year, but they go on.’’

Alex Bowman will take over the No. 88 ride after this season. Earnhardt wants to help build momentum for Bowman and the team.

“How the team sort of ends the season is a catalyst for how it begins the next one,’’ Earnhardt said. “So, it’s important that we try to be as successful and find and learn and study and improve for the betterment of next season. 

One thing we talked about, as silly as it is, is to try to get ourselves into the top 20 in points. We have the opportunity to beat a few guys, so it sucks that is our goal, but we are going to put little goals out there for ourselves that are personal achievements to push ourselves to keep working. You take pride in that.”  

Daniel Suarez ranks 20th in the standings with 568 points. Trevor Bayne is next at 484 points and then Earnhardt at 459 points.

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