Dale Jr. Salvages Top-15 Finish at Phoenix

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 3/19/2017

Axalta Dale Jr. NASCAR News Phoenix

Dale Jr. finished 14th in the Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Race: Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway
Track Specs: 1-mile tri-oval / 312 laps
Weather: Sunny, 94 degrees
Race Winner: Ryan Newman
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 14th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted a 14th-place finish in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. With the finish, the No. 88 Axalta team improved four positions in the NASCAR Cup Series standings through four races.

The race opened with Earnhardt holding a spot inside the top five after starting third. On the unseasonably hot afternoon at the Avondale, Arizona track, Earnhardt immediately reported that his Chevrolet was too loose on entry and exit, while also being too tight in the center of the turns. That condition reared itself most often when the No. 88 restarted in the inside lane and progressively worsened as the race wore on. By the end of the first 75-lap stage, Earnhardt was scored 10th to earn one bonus point.

During the second stage, Earnhardt reported that the team’s adjustments were not helping the handling of the Axalta Chevrolet as he slid back outside the top 10 to finish 13th.

Crew chief Greg Ives continued to make adjustments to the No. 88 and eventually improved the corner entry and exit when Earnhardt reported a new issue: his brakes. In the final 75 laps, Earnhardt reported that his brakes were progressively fading and he was having to race extra cautious to avoid overworking his right-front tire as several other drivers did during the 312-lap event.

With Earnhardt running 15th in the closing laps, Joey Logano brought out the final caution when his right-front tire eventually gave way, sending his No. 22 car into the turn one wall. That caution presented teams the dilemma of staying on track or pitting for two or four fresh tires. Ives elected to give Earnhardt four fresh tires, which put him 16th for a two-lap overtime finish.

He was able to recover two lost positions to finish 14th.

Ryan Newman opted to stay out during the last caution and fended off all challengers to win the race with Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.