NASCAR

2014 promising for Dale Jr., Kyle

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) talks with fellow Chase driver Kyle Busch.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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You can only be impressed with the recovery that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 team have made since their bad start to this year’s Chase.

Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway was Dale Jr.’s fifth second-place finish of the year and his third one in this year’s Chase. That engine letting go in the No. 88 at Chicago that started the Chase was just brutal for this team. They were in a major hole after the first race and have been playing catch-up ever since.

He moved into fifth spot in the points after Sunday’s race, but he is still 62 points back, which is obviously insurmountable with only two races left in our season. Regardless, that team has had a solid Chase and should be really proud of how they have rebounded.

Even if he doesn’t win one of these two final races, the year as a whole has been solid for Dale Jr. You can expect them to build from this because they have laid a solid foundation of performance heading into 2014.

The other thing that impressed me from Texas was the tenacity of Kyle Busch and his No. 18 team. Kyle not only hit the wall hard on Lap 57, but it wasn’t that long until he was back in the top 10. Then it wasn’t that much longer until he was up in the top five.

The reality, despite the pit-road speeding penalty Kyle suffered through as well, is that Kyle didn’t have a car that was going to beat Jimmie Johnson Sunday. There’s nothing saying he didn’t have a car that could have finished second. Shooting himself in the foot the way he did with the miscue on pit road cost him a top-10 finish, for sure. Kyle ended the day back in 13th spot.

Naturally, we don’t know what Phoenix and Homestead have in store for Kyle, but overall from top to bottom, this would be the best Chase he has had. The irony is that last year Kyle had an awesome Chase but, unfortunately, he wasn’t actually in the Chase.

So we know for certain that neither Dale Jr. nor Kyle Busch is going to win the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. That’s the bad news.

Now, the good news is both drivers are ending the 2013 season on a high note. Again, that’s something they can build on as we head into the off-season here in two weeks and then get ready to crank up the 2014 season.
 

Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch

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