Earnhardt Jr. struggles at Dover
Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway proved painful for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s championship hopes.
Earnhardt started 21st but was sliding back in the pack in the early stages of the race with a broken sway bar on the No. 88 Chevrolet. An opportune caution for a light mist on Lap 20 of 400 allowed Earnhardt’s team ample time to change the part.
Crew chief Steve Letarte felt that sacrificing a lap early on was worth the time to make sure the repair was right. Although Earnhardt restarted at the back of the pack, one lap down, on Lap 45, he was the beneficiary of the free pass and moved back to 35th on the lead lap.
By Lap 100, Earnhardt had soldiered up to 21st. By midway, Earnhardt was in the top 15, but 70 laps later a loose right front tire forced him to pit on Lap 270 while the race was running green. Earnhardt lost two laps while in the pits and restarted 28th.
“I didn’t think it could make it many more laps so we had to come in and fix that and that got us behind pretty bad and from there on it was a little bit too late to play catch up at that point,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt gained four positions in the remaining 128 laps. He finished 24th, two laps down and dropped to 10th in the points standings, 34 points behind current leader Kevin Harvick.
“That’s racing,” Earnhardt said. “That is all I can say. I have had a lot of stuff happen to me over the years good and bad and you just have to roll with the punches. I don’t think I am BSing myself when I think that we brought a good car to the track. We improved it from practice and I thought we weren’t really that good in practice and I thought we improved on it and we kind of went toward where Jimmie was and it helped my car.
“So we know that was a good direction so we know that for next time we come here because I really have a hard time with this place lately and need to get something figured out here. There was a couple promising things today but we didn’t finish like we wanted to.“