Earnhardt Jr. wrecks in practice

Darlington Raceway wasn't too tough for Dale Earnhardt to tame. "The Intimidator" scored nine victories (more than any track but Talladega) here, marking the egg-shaped oval as one of the highlights on the seven-time champion's Sprint Cup resume.

The 1.366-mile track might have a career-defining moment in store for Dale Earnhardt Jr., too — but not in a feel-good, "like father, like son" way. AR1.com has said many times that Dale Jr. is no where near as good as his father, yet his NASCAR's most popular driver, which is a sad commentary for NASCAR – that it's best drivers are not the most popular like most sports.

"This place will probably be the catalyst to my retirement one day," Earnhardt said, smiling Friday afternoon after three hours of NASCAR practice left him with a backup car. "I will probably come here when I am 45, run a race and say, 'The hell with it.' It is a difficult track to drive around."

Coming off a 32nd last Saturday at Richmond International Raceway (matching a season-worst in the season's second race at California), the Hendrick Motorsports driver has fallen to 13th in points, four points off the cutoff line in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

His weekend got off to an inauspicious start Friday when he nailed the wall on the second lap of practice, necessitating the replacement of his primary No. 88 Chevrolet.

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