Earnhardt Ends Up 16th at Fontana

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 3/26/2017

Auto Club Speedway Axalta Dale Jr. NASCAR News

Dale Jr. moved up two positions in the points standings with a 16th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway.

Race: Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval / 200 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 65 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Larson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 16th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his third consecutive finish of 16th or better with a 16th-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. The finish propels the No. 88 Axalta team up two positions to 21st in the standings.

Despite qualifying 18th, Earnhardt was forced to start from the rear of the field after the team found a cut in his right-front tire after qualifying. NASCAR rules allowed the team to replace the tire, but forced Earnhardt to start from the back. The setback didn’t halt Junior for long as he bypassed half the field to run 20th by lap 10. His progress was impressive, but Earnhardt reported to crew chief Greg Ives that his Chevrolet needed better drive off and was too tight in the middle of the corners.

By the end of the opening 60-lap stage, Earnhardt was scored 17th. The Axalta crew boosted their driver one spot to start the second stage 16th. Throughout the second stage, Earnhardt and Ives continued to work to help the car’s handling as the No. 88 climbed to as high as 11th at one point during the stage.

Between the second and third stages, Earnhardt and the rest of the field pitted for four tires. Earnhardt locked up the brakes and slid through his stall, forcing him to back up and lose five spots before the ensuing restart with only 73 laps remaining. The No. 88 was able to climb as high as 13th once again, but ultimately was forced to settle into 15th after a late green-flag pit stop. That’s where Earnhardt was scored when a caution waved at lap 180.

Crew chief Greg Ives called Earnhardt to pit road for fresh tires under that caution and two additional cautions in the last 15 laps. Through a trio of late restarts, Earnhardt climbed to as high as 14th before ultimately finishing 16th after a green-white-checkered overtime finish.

Kyle Larson claimed the victory over Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano rounding out the top five.