Earnhardt, 88 Team Finish 16th at Las Vegas

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 3/12/2017

Dale Jr. Las Vegas NASCAR Nationwide News

Dale Jr. posted top-10 results in the first two stages to earn bonus points before finishing 16th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Race: Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval / 267 laps
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees
Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 16th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded a 16th-place finish in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Adding to the No. 88 Nationwide team’s best run of the early season, Earnhardt captured top-10 results in the first two stages to notch five bonus points to boost his point output on the afternoon.

Throughout the 267-lap race, Earnhardt consistently reported that his car was too free on both corner entry and exit, yet too tight in the middle of the corners. The handling presented a challenge for the Greg Ives-led crew, but the No. 88 was able to climb into the top 10 late in the opening 80-lap stage to finish 10th.

At the start of the second stage, Earnhardt quickly established himself as a contender, climbing up to fifth as the race eclipsed the 100-lap mark. The Nationwide Chevrolet remained inside the top seven throughout the stage while the team continued to tweak the car’s air pressure and chassis to remedy the issues Earnhardt reported. Just shy of the 160-lap mark to close the second stage, a caution waved to set up a short dash to the green and white checkered flag. Despite holding a top-10 position, Ives elected to bring Earnhardt to pit road for four tires and fuel for a four-lap run to the end of stage two while several other drivers opted to stay on track. Earnhardt lined up eighth and regained one position to close the stage seventh and earn an additional four points.

The final stage ran green for 85 laps and saw Earnhardt slide from seventh to 14th as his car continued to battle a loose condition on entry and exit coupled with being too tight in the center. When the final caution of the afternoon waved at lap 252, Ives called his driver to pit lane for a final pit stop. The team boosted Earnhardt one position to restart 13th with only nine laps remaining.

Earnhardt instantly reported that his car was way too tight for the sprint to the finish as he ended the afternoon 16th.

Martin Truex Jr. bypassed Brad Keselowski in the late laps to earn his first victory of the season with Kyle Larson second, Chase Elliott third, Joey Logano fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth.