Earnhardt avoids carnage, but leaves Talladega disappointed

No lasting sentiments from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his next-to-last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, just frustration.

Earnhardt avoids carnage, but leaves Talladega disappointed
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
The car of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Three-wide race action
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Earnhardt, who will retire from full-time Cup competition at season’s end, struggled much of the race to gain track position, never led a lap and nearly wrecked from a loose wheel late in the race.

Still, he found himself with a chance at victory following an 18-car pile-up with 19 of 188 laps remaining in the GEICO 500.

“Somehow or another we got up there, I don’t really know how,” Earnhardt said on pit road following the race. “I wasn’t feeling real confidence in the car.

“We were shaping up to have a pretty good opportunity at a good finish. It’s just disappointing. I was having a hard time figuring out what I needed to do or what we were missing most of the race.”

On a restart with 15 laps remaining following the 18-car wreck, Earnhardt lined up third. Two laps later, still in third, he radioed in to crew chief Greg Ives that he was coming to pit road for what he thought was a flat tire.

Loose wheel derails finish

As it turned out, after Earnhardt’s pit stop, Ives radioed back and told him only one lug nut was tight on the left-rear tire.

Earnhardt’s response at the time, “You’re lucky it didn’t come off. It was (expletive) close!”

Once back on the track and with seven laps plus overtime remaining, Earnhardt could only muster a 22nd-place finish.

He is currently 25th in the series standings and his only hope of making the NASCAR playoffs this season may rest in finding a way to Victory Lane in the 16 races before the cutoff.

“I’m glad I got out of there when I did because we only had one lug left on it and it was going to come off in the race. It wouldn’t have made it to the end. And that would have been pretty catastrophic,” Earnhardt said.

“So, it was a good choice to come down; I was hoping we were going to be able to rebound and gain a couple of spots, but we just didn’t get in the right lane and our car wasn’t very good in the pack. In traffic, it wasn’t very good at all.

“We didn’t run many laps inside the Top 5 or Top 10 all day because the car just really didn’t have a lot of speed doubled-up with everybody side-by-side. We’ve just got to try to work on that if we can.”

 

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