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Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't have crew chief for last chance to make playoffs

No. 88 Chevrolet had two unsecured lug nuts on its right rear after the Southern 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last gasp to make the NASCAR playoffs will come with an interim crew chief.

Junior’s car had two loose lug nuts after Sunday’s race at Darlington, which means crew chief Greg Ives will have to serve a one-race suspension.

Junior knew the penalty was coming earlier in the week and it was official on Wednesday.

Car chief Travis Mack will serve as Junior’s interim crew chief in Ives’ absence.

With or without Ives, it’s a really long shot that Junior will win Saturday night to get into the 16-driver playoff field in his final season of Cup competition.

Junior, along with his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, just haven’t had any race-winning speed recently. While Kasey Kahne won at Indianapolis in July, Hendrick has been fighting to keep up over the last few weeks.

Through 25 races in 2017, Junior has just one top-five finish and four top-10 finishes. His last top-10 finish came at Sonoma in June. Since then, his best finish is 12th (twice).

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!