By Jared Turner
Struggling with the handling of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet all day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished a dismal 22nd in the Brickyard 400 after spinning late in the race following contact of his own making with Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne. For some reason, NASCAR’s 12-time most popular driver just can’t seem to get his arms wrapped around what it takes to run well at the Brickyard, a place where his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have enjoyed tremendous success in combining for nine wins. Junior has just one top-five finish – a fourth-place result in 2012 – in 16 starts at Indy. Sunday was just same song, different verse for Junior, who qualified eighth but was never a factor once the green flag waved. Of course, all of this begs the question of why he’s so bad here. Maybe it’s not that he’s that bad, but rather it’s that his teammates have set the bar so high at Indy that it makes his struggles more noticeable. In any case, Junior should be glad that NASCAR only ventures to the venerable 2.5-mile speedway once a year.
What’s Wrong With Jimmie Johnson?
Ever so quietly, Jimmie Johnson has been uncharacteristically mediocre in recent weeks. The most glaring example yet came on Sunday at Indianapolis, where he finished a quiet 15th at a track where he and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team are four-time winners. So has Johnson, who won four of the season’s first 13 races, suddenly lost his mojo? Should he be concerned? The short answer is probably not. Just about ever year, Johnson tends to cool off at some point over the summer, only to come on strong when the Chase begins. To be so average at Indianapolis does raise eyebrows, however, when considering how dominant he has been at times at the legendary speedway.