Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pits Late, Never Recovers

05 May 2014 Chris Knight - NASCAR Wire Service
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pits Late, Never Recovers Getty Images

After winning the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series opener at Daytona International Speedway in February, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Hendrick Motorsports team were obviously looking forward to Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Even though the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet started deep in the field (30th), the talented restrictor plate racer began to mount his charge in the second-half of the race.

Though execution from pit road following the third caution flag of the day would put the five-time Talladega winner in control, Earnhardt had to fight hard to remain up front. From Laps 109 to 151, he would lead 26 of them, but a gutsy call by crew chief Steve Letarte to pit backfired, and kept NASCAR’s most popular driver at the back of the field.

As the final 31 Laps ticked away, Earnhardt struggled to maneuver through the draft, at one point almost losing the draft completely, before a caution would allow him to catch-up.

Nonetheless, the break wouldn’t pay off and Earnhardt found his late-race momentum on the high side stalled by Josh Wise, which evaporated a potential comeback run, resulting in a disappointing 26th place finish, the next-to-last car on the lead lap.

“Anytime anyone jumps in front of you on the outside line, you are not going to shove them out there, especially a car like that,” said Jr. “I wanted to help him but it just killed us. You have to have that track position at the end and we just didn’t have it. I knew we were going to be sitting there in 15th at the end and get boxed in or wrecked. We missed a lot of guys that crashed and didn’t tear up our car so we will go to Daytona with this car and try to manage a strategy where we are not giving up 25 positions in the last 30 laps of the race. You have to be up front the entire race if you can.”

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