Dale Earnhardt Jr. mostly just spinning his wheels this season

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was among four drivers participating Monday in a tire test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The significant fact is all four drivers are not involved in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It has been another long, lonesome struggle for Earnhardt this season. He finished 34th last weekend at Richmond.

"That was one of my worst performances," he said after the race. "We were trying something new and it just didn't work out. We'll keep working at it. I don't think it's something we're going to give up on. We ran a rear spring package we've never run before, front spindles we've never run before; just trying to find something to help us get better.

"Running like we've been running all year long ain't good enough, so we figured we would try to go in a different direction, and it was a bad choice."

Consistency not enough for Gordon: Jeff Gordon has been picture perfect with one thing this season: Consistency. Unfortunately, despite a string of solid runs that included a 12th place finish at Richmond, he has yet to win.

That means he will have to scramble up the charts to have a shot at winning the Cup championship. He enters the Chase as the eighth seed — among five winless drivers this season who will start the Chase 60 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.

"The only thing I'm disappointed in this year so far is just that we have had three or four opportunities to win and we didn't get it done," Gordon said. "If we had done that, I think that we would be as much of a favorite as anybody else or I think that we would be talking a totally different tune right now.

"We now have to have 10 spectacular weeks. We can't just be consistent. That's not going to win the championship for us unless we are consistently second."

Off-road with Kyle Busch: The opportunity for an up-close-and-personal look at drivers continues this week with "Riding Shotgun: Kyle Busch."

The program, produced for ESPN by NASCAR Media Group, takes viewers on "a week-long, all-access journey into the life" of Busch, who drives the M&Ms Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Some good off-road nuggets from the Monday debut included Busch wakeboarding (and plunging into the water) and a taking a "doggie-run" outside his motor home with his two West Highland Terriers (accompanied by his fiancee, Samantha Sarcinella).

The program airs Wednesday and Friday nights following NASCAR Now and Thursday evening.

— George Diaz

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