After turning the fourth-fastest lap in Sprint Cup qualifying at the Chicagoland Speedway, it looked as though Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have a great view of the green flag in Sunday's Geico 400 as he begins his bid for his first-career championship.
Unfortunately, Earnhardt's engine over-revved as he popped it out of gear at the conclusion of his run, causing a piston to hit a valve in his Hendrick engine. Few things doom an engine quicker than a broken valve, and the Steve Letarte-led No. 88 team has been forced to change engines in the National Guard-sponsored Chevy.
Of course, that means NASCAR's one-engine-per-weekend rule will send Earnhardt to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday's race.
Hendrick Motorsports had some engine drama a few weeks ago in Michigan, of course. Jimmie Johnson changed engines during Saturday morning practice, dropping him to the rear (along with Earnhardt, who wrecked his car). Then, in the race, Tony Stewart (who's Stewart-Haas Racing team uses Hendrick power), Jeff Gordon, and finally Johnson while leading the race fewer than ten laps from the conclusion blew their engines.