Junior, No. 88 Team Battle Through Tough Day in Atlanta

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 3/5/2017

Atlanta Dale Jr. NASCAR Nationwide News

Dale Jr. finished 30th at Atlanta Motor Speedway after suffering a speeding penalty, flat tire, and a loose wheel during the 325-lap race.

Race: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.54-mile quad-oval / 325 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 66 degrees
Race Winner: Brad Keselowski
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 30th

Sunday’s 500-mile race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a true test of perseverance for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Nationwide team. The team battled through an early speeding penalty, a flat tire, a loose wheel and being forced to make several other unscheduled green-flag pit stops on their way to a 30th-place finish.

After starting 12th, Earnhardt stayed patient trying to save his tires in the early part of the race. NASCAR deemed the No. 88 too fast in multiple sections of pit road when Earnhardt made his first green-flag stop of the afternoon at lap 34. The resulting penalty was a pass through pit lane that dropped the Nationwide Chevrolet off the lead lap.

As the race continued to run green, Earnhardt was forced to pit again when his right-rear tire unwound and left tire rubber flapping and damaging the car’s crush panels. The unscheduled stop left the No. 88 two laps down in 28th after the opening 85-lap stage.

Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives decided to take an aggressive approach to regain one of their two lost laps during the second stage by staying on track as long as possible during a round of green-flag pit stops. Unfortunately for the team, the caution never waved and the time on track with older tires caused Earnhardt to lose a third lap before the end of the second stage.

Shortly after the start of the third and final stage, Earnhardt radioed to Ives that he felt he had another tire unwinding or possibly a loose wheel. Ives called his driver to pit road for another unscheduled visit at lap 195. The issue was not fixed, so Earnhardt pitted again at lap 212. The second attempt at fixing the problem was successful.

Before the race’s conclusion, Earnhardt made another visit to pit road to remedy a loose wheel. The team attempted once again to regain lost laps by taking the wave around on two separate occasions. When the checkered flag waved, Earnhardt crossed the finish line 30th.