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Weather Favors Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix and Shapes the Chase Finals

The nominal winner of NASCAR's penultimate Sprint Cup race was also nominally popular because Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the sport's most popular driver, but in terms of racing, the outcome at Phoenix International Raceway was almost incidental. Earnhardt's third victory of the season would have been more satisfying had it propelled him into the Chase finals on November 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, but by the segmented winnowing-out process known as the Chase, Earnhardt had already been eliminated from title contention. It would have been more stirring had he led more than one lap at speed. The crucial final 21, he spent pitting and idling around the track while rain approached. Earnhardt caught a break. He was pitting when the ye...

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