If he endures any more weeks like the past few, Dale Earnhardt Jr may have to start answering questions about the sophomore jinx that appears to be bugging him in 2009.

In his second season with Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt's troubles continued at Auto Club Speedway when, a week after triggering a controversial ten-car wreck in the Daytona 500, he was forced to take the #88 Chevrolet behind the wall with an engine that had expired on lap 206 of 250.

"Something broke in the motor," a bemused Earnhardt noted, having been classified a lowly 39th, "We were just sitting there running good, had just had a caution and got back up. We were sitting there looking at, maybe, driving it into the top ten for the first time tonight, but we probably broke a valve spring."

Asked whether he had been struggling with the car all night - Hendrick Motorsports' team-mate Mark Martin also retired with engine problems - Earnhardt insisted that, while the #88 hadn't been ideal, it was no worse than anyone else's until the engine let go.

"I drove from last to 14th!" he pointed out, "Nobody's car is perfect. I am always going to work on it. I was running good and I was going toward the front. I drove hard to stay on the lead lap.

"During that caution we were goin' 'alright, we got everybody here in front of us, maybe we can get in the top ten and get us a good finish'. I felt like we had a good enough car - we been runnin' good all night."

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service