Dale Jr. looks to nail down Chase berth tonight

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Back-to-back Top-10 finishes at Bristol (10th) and Atlanta (eighth) has allowed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to breathe a little bit in regards to making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He only has to finish 32nd or better to clinch a spot in the post-season tonight at Richmond International Raceway.

A big problem at RIR could still keep him from making the post-season, but as he indicated on Thursday, his timely efforts in the last two events has him confident enough that he can just focus on the race itself.

“It’s just a normal weekend to me,” he said. “Fortunate enough we’ve had enough good runs over the last couple weeks to put ourselves in this situation, not have to be nervous or worried.

“It wasn’t much fun over the last couple weeks having to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes and give up too many points to the guys behind us.”

After finishes of 30th and 36th at Watkins Glen and Michigan respectively, Earnhardt slipped to seventh in the Sprint Cup standings. But he’s been able to stop his descent, and enters Richmond tonight with a 37-point cushion over 11th place.

Still, it hasn’t been an easy month for Earnhardt, fretting over the big picture and trying to keep his year from unraveling. It’s been a marked contrast to last year, which saw him manage to clinch his Chase spot with two races to go in the regular season.

“I definitely understood last year when we were set, locked in, that it was a much easier ride, much more enjoyable,” he said. “The last couple weeks have been pretty stressful from a points standpoint.

“[It’s] difficult for you because you have to focus so much on those points. You have to focus on all those guys – that handful, half a dozen guys – that are around you in points, wonder what they’re doing. You can’t help it.”

But with a Chase spot in sight, Earnhardt believes that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team can be a contender in the ten-race stretch.

However, they’re not in just yet. And with tonight sure to be pressure-packed for everyone trying to keep their championship hopes alive, Earnhardt seems to think that patience will be necessary on his part during the race.

“There are guys in there that aren’t going to make the Chase, aren’t too happy about their situation, going to have some pretty short fuses out there,” he said. “You don’t want to rough up anybody. You want to take your time getting around some of these guys.”

Here’s the 33-driver starting field for today’s Indianapolis 500

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Want to know which driver is starting where in today’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Here’s the full 33-driver starting field:

Row 1

20 Ed Carpenter (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 1st

Past Indy 500 starts: 14

Best finish: 5th (2008)

 

22 Simon Pagenaud (France)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 2nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 8th (2013)

 

12 Will Power (Australia)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 3rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 2nd (2015)

 

Row 2

1 Josef Newgarden (USA)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 4th

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 3rd (2016)

 

18 Sebastien Bourdais (France)

Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 5th

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 7th (2014)

 

21 Spencer Pigot (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 6th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 18th (2017)

 

Row 3


13 Danica Patrick (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 7th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 3rd (2009)

 

3 Helio Castroneves (Brazil)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 8th

Past Indy 500 starts: 17

Best finish: 1st (2001, 2002, 2009)

 

9 Scott Dixon (New Zealand)

Chip Ganassi Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 9th

Past Indy 500 starts: 15

Best finish: 1st (2008)

 

Row 4

 

14 Tony Kanaan (Brazil)

A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 10th

Past Indy 500 starts: 16

Best finish: 1st (2013)

 

4 Matheus Leist (Brazil)

A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 11th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

98 Marco Andretti (USA)

Andretti Herta Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified 12th

Past Indy 500 starts: 12

Best finish: 2nd (2006)

 

Row 5

19 Zachary Claman Demelo (Canada)

Dale Coyne Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 13th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 14th

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 1st (2014)

 

23 Charlie Kimball (USA)

Carlin Motorsport

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified 15th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 3rd (2015)

 

Row 6

 

30 Takuma Sato (Japan)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 16th

Past Indy 500 starts: 8

Best finish: 1st (2017)

 

32 Kyle Kaiser (USA)

Juncos Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 17th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

6 Robert Wickens (Canada)

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 18th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

Row 7

 

33 James Davison (Australia)

A.J. Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Balardi

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 19th

Past Indy 500 starts: 3

Best finish: 16th

 

59 Max Chilton (England)

Carlin Motorsport

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 20th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 4th (2017)

 

29 Carlos Munoz (Columbia)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 21st

Past Indy 500 starts: 5

Best finish: 2nd (2013, 2016)

 

Row 8

 

88 Gabby Chaves (Columbia)

Harding Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 22nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 3

Best finish: 9th (2017)

 

25 Stefan Wilson (England)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified 23rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 28th (2016)

 

24 Sage Karam (USA)

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified 24th

Past Indy 500 starts: 4

Best finish: 9th (2014)

 

Row 9

 

26 Zach Veach (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 25th

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 26th (2017)

 

64 Oriol Servia (Spain)

Scuderia Corsa with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 26th

Past Indy 500 starts: 9

Best finish: 4th (2012)

 

66 J.R. Hildebrand (USA)

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 27th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 2nd (2011)

 

Row 10

7 Jay Howard (England)

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports/AFS Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 28th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 30th (2017)

 

10 Ed Jones (United Arab Emirates)

Chip Ganassi Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 29th

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 3rd (2017)

 

15 Graham Rahal (USA)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 30th

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 3rd (2011)

 

Row 11

 

60 Jack Harvey (England)

Meyer Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 31st

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 31st (2017)

 

27 Alexander Rossi (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 32nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 1st (2016)

 

17 Conor Daly (USA)

Dale Coyne Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 33rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 4

Best finish: 22nd (2013)

 

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