JOLIET, Ill. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified fourth for the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, but will start from the back of the field due to an engine change after qualifying.
"I don't think we are super concerned," crew chief Steve Letarte said. "We had a great car in practice and qualified really well so we showed we have good speed. Fortunately, this is a race track that there are multiple pit strategies and it's not a really simple straightforward pit strategy to call. I think there will be a lot of opportunities to use our good pit stops and place on pit road to get back towards the front."
Letarte may have shrugged off the move to the back, but earlier Earnhardt stressed the importance of qualifying.
"It's not easy to pass the competition here because the competition is so close," he said after his qualifying lap. "Looking at who has won races, nobody really stands out as winning a lot of races. … It's just real good tough competition, real hard to pass. Qualifying well is going to be real important all throughout the Chase."
Earnhardt added, however, that he believes he has a top-five car.
"It's got good speed," he said. "We liked the changes we were making, like the way the car was responding. We got a good starting spot, should be able to maintain our track position all day and have a good time."
Of course he said that before the engine change pushed him to the back of the field. Now, he'll have to use speed and pit strategy to regain that track position near the front.