Last week I wrote that even though he didn't have a win (that's now 95 races and counting for those of you snoring at home), Dale Earnhardt Jr. by virtue of his seventh place in the point standings was in pretty good shape to make the top 10 and qualify for the Chase for the Championship. That would be, of course, barring a series of disasters in the final nine races before NASCAR's Sprint Cup playoffs begin.
So, while looking to get at least a decent finish Saturday night in Kentucky, somewhere between 10th and 15th probably, Earnhardt Jr. had disaster number one. When entering pit road late in the race, he was worried about getting caught speeding. So, he slammed the brakes to get himself slowed down. He didn't want to change tires, needing a quick stop under green flag conditions.
Check out the video of Junior's pit entry here (notice the smoking tires):
So, no tires were changed, a fuel only stop. Then, his left front tire went flat as a result of the wear from the hard brake he put on when entering the pits. That led to a 30th place finish and now he's just 21 points ahead of 11th place Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Championship without, of course, a victory to fall back on as insurance.
Junior now has four straight finishes outside the top 15. That's not exactly the way to join NASCAR's elite 12 when the Chase starts after eight more races.
But Junior wasn't the only driver to have a bad day in Kentucky Saturday night. Here's a local video of the traffic nightmare there.
There were about 10,000 or so drivers of non-racing vehicles that never got in to see the race. Some traffic issues were expected for the track's first Sprint Cup event. Officials knew the amount of parking spaces they had were less than the anticipated amount of vehicles that fans might drive toward the vicinity of the track. Many got in well after the race started, many more never made it in at all. The track offered to exchange unused tickets for Saturday's race for tickets to next year's race. That may be of little consolation to the thousands who waited for years to witness a Sprint Cup event in Kentucky, only to never get in to see it.