“(We’re) just going to have to work hard,” said Earnhardt, who paired a 35th-place finish at Chicagoland with a sixth last weekend in New Hampshire. “Our chances aren't looking that great, because the guys ahead of us are winning races. They've had a pretty strong couple weeks to start the Chase off. But we don't give up, we keep working. If we can win a couple races, no matter what happens in the championship, that will improve the results of our season and give us a lot to be happy about.
“It would be great to go to Dover and get that done,” said Earnhardt. “We're trying every week. I thought we were pretty aggressive this weekend trying to get ourselves in position to win (and we) ended up with a pretty good result. (If a) couple things go a little bit different, I think we get a shot at Matt and give ourselves a better opportunity to get the win.”
Asked if his slow start to the 2013 Chase will changes his team’s approach in the final eight races of the season, Earnhardt said, “I wouldn't say it changes the strategy. You look at your position in the Chase and you say, `All right, we're way behind. We've got ourselves off to a terrible start in Chicago. So we don't really need to try to string together decent finishes. That's not going to do much for us. We're behind so far that trying to be consistent and rattle off Top-10s… there is no moral victory there. We can gamble on tire strategy, get off-sequence in the race and try to make it work for you and get to Victory Lane.
“In the Chase, you want to win all the races like Matt's doing. But you (also want to) run smart, run as hard as you can and try to finish as good as you can. Like Kyle, for example. He's hanging around, and that's going to pay off. If Matt makes a mistake or has trouble similar to the way me and (Joey Logano) had in Chicago, Kyle's consistency and Jimmie's will bode well for them.
“That will put them in position to take advantage of Matt's bad luck.
“There is a lot of racing left,” cautioned Earnhardt. “There are eight races. That's a lot of racing and a lot of potential for good luck and bad luck to be shared by everybody. I'm certain Matt and his team are going to try real hard to be smart and continue the success that they've had. But nobody's immune to someone else's mistake, or something reaching out and altering the way the race is going for them.
“Something could happen to those guys and it may not be something of their own doing,” said Earnhardt. “That's why everybody in the series continues to work hard, because you don't know what's going to happen. Fortune or misfortune could be around the corner.”
Asked where his championship effort ran afoul, Earnhardt looked back on a fast start to the 2013 season that he and his team were unable to maintain.
“We started the year out strong,” he said. “If we could have beaten Carl Edwards on that last pit stop in Phoenix, we could have won that race. We had a string of good finishes and we were leading the points in the first five or six races of the year. I feel like we really applied ourselves and adapted to the new car pretty quickly.
“Now that everybody else has sort of caught up -- and even surged ahead in some areas ‑‑ it looks like Gibbs is having a better year performance‑wise. Some of the teams at Roush are starting to find some competitiveness as the season has gone on. Things have evened out a whole lot more.”
“Nobody's going to make it easy on Matt,” promised the Hendrick Motorsports driver. “I think the larger his lead gets, (the) more of a bulls-eye the guy gets on him and the tougher competition tends to race him. He can expect things to be pretty competitive going forward.
“He's been in this situation before. He's obviously got a strong competitor, (but) some of the strongest competitors -- Kyle and Jimmie -- are both right on his heels, with Carl Edwards and a couple guys lurking back there in the shadows.”