Dale Earnhardt Jr. two-tire gamble fails to pay off at Las Vegas

For much of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway it appeared Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the only driver capable of challenging Kevin Harvick for the win.

However, on the final green flag stop of the day Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Greg Ives opted for two right side tires, while Harvick and the majority of the leaders took four.

As Harvick drove away to victory, Earnhardt Jr. slipped to fourth as Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman were able to get past the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the closing laps.

Despite falling back in the closing laps, Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the two-tire call by his new crew chief, who is in his first season atop the No. 88 pit box.

"I like to gamble, I like the call," said Earnhardt. "I love being aggressive. We weren’t going to be able to drive up and pass that 4 (Harvick), so we had to take a chance. Second, fifth, fourth, whatever, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win."

Despite finishing second in last year’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt was more pleased with the team’s performance in Sunday’s race.

"Last year we run second and almost won the race by luck," said Earnhardt, who ran out of fuel while leading on the last lap in 2014. "We sat around and ran 10th, eighth place all day last year. We weren’t a very good car. This year our cars are racing up there. We think we got the cars better than we had last year. Hendrick overall has great speed. Engine department is doing awesome."

Earnhardt has kicked off the 2015 season with three straight top-five finishes and sits second in the overall standings, but the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet is ready to get back to Victory Lane.

"We’re going to get one. I want to win," he said. "We’re going to get there."