Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves Sonoma with mixed feelings after career-best result

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Jun 23 1253

Clearly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was elated with his third-place finish in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway—and with good reason.

Never before had Earnhardt posted a top five in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at a road course, so it was only natural for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet to enjoy the moment.

Tempering Earnhardt’s enthusiasm was an accident on lap 71 that eliminated Matt Kenseth from the race. Earnhardt hit the curbing in the esses, and his car bounced into Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota, sending Kenseth out of control into a tire barrier.

“I had an eventful race, and I tore Matt Kenseth's car up pretty bad jumping that curb,” Earnhardt said. “I was racing him a little hard there coming out of Turn 7. He probably had the preferred line, and I probably should have yielded to him, but I was—I thought I was a little bit faster than him and didn't want to be stuck behind him.

“I straddled a curb, and it just launched my car in the air right into his car. I hope he's not too sore today.”

Earnhardt’s regrets over the Kenseth incident, however, couldn’t keep him from smiling at his own result.

“Well, aside from holding a trophy, this is like a win for us,” Earnhardt said.