Former Sprint Cup Series champion and ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett - like most in NASCAR - believed Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on the verge of winning any week. He, too, has been surprised with Earnhardt's struggles over the past five races, which has seen him slip to ninth in points and still without a victory.
Jarrett was asked on Tuesday's ESPN conference call about where Earnhardt's chances to make the Chase now stand entering Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"I thought five weeks ago, six weeks ago, that I was seeing Junior and his race team prepared to go to Victory Lane. I really thought that they were making strides and gains each week. Exactly what's happened over the last four or five weeks? You get in a slump as a race team, just like a hitter in baseball or something. It's hard to get out of because you're not exactly sure where to put your finger and try to turn things around," he said.
"It would be beneficial sport to have the most popular driver be a part of the Chase and get in that mix and challenge for wins. Nobody is going to make that happen, it's that race team that has to do it. It sure would be beneficial. Whether it's Boston and the Yankees playing - it's always a big attraction. We have our biggest star, the person the fans choose as the most popular driver, and that's Dale Jr. Hopefully, they can get that turned around. This is a difficult race track when you're struggling to get things turned around. They are going to have to right their ship very quickly."