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Junior Finishes Runner-Up at Richmond

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 4/28/2012
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Race: Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway
Track Specs: .75-mile speedway / 400 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 51 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 2nd

Dale Earnhardt Jr. catapulted from fourth to second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings with a runner-up finish Saturday night in the Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He now trails leader Greg Biffle by only five points. Earnhardt Jr. drove the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet to his fourth top-five and seventh top-10 of the season. It also was his fifth top-10 in a row and sixth in the last seven races.

Earnhardt Jr. benefited greatly by a superb restart with nine laps to go and a pit crew that gained him eight positions over the course of six pit stops. Their most important stop was the final one on lap 388 after a debris caution. The pit crew received Junior in fourth, sent him out in third, and gave him the crucial inside-line on the final sprint to the checkers.

Earnhardt Jr. took it from there. He not only held off teammate Kasey Kahne in fourth but surged past Tony Stewart in second. Earnhardt then closed within five car lengths of leader Kyle Busch, but could get no closer as a recurring brake issue flared in the closing laps.

Making Earnhardt Jr.’s finish more impressive was the setback he endured on lap 203. While on pit road for a green-flag stop just passed the halfway point, Earnhardt had to instinctively slam on his brakes, come to a complete stop, and reverse course to avoid the No. 33 car of Stephen Leicht. With the race under green, the extended time on pit road sent Dale Jr. plummeting from sixth to 15th. Calmly and coolly he climbed back into contention, breaking the top-10 by lap 280 and the top-five by lap 320.

Stewart finished third behind Junior followed by Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s finish gave Hendrick Motorsports three cars with finishes of sixth or better.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
“We had brake problems all race long. I had a great restart, and I ran really great for one lap, and then the pedal went back to the floor. I just had to pump ’em up all the way down the front straightaway. I didn’t have any front brakes getting into the corner, so I couldn’t get in real hard. It would just get loose locking the rears up. Even with brakes working, I think Kyle’s team had been just a little bit better than us all night. I have to thank National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew and my team. My team was awesome this weekend. They had great pit stops all night. We gained a lot of spots on pit road. This was a great race car by all the people at Hendrick (Motorsports). They do a great job, and it’s been fun this year.”

Richmond Race Report
Start 10th
Finish 2nd
Laps Completed (Led) 400 of 400 (0)
Standings (from leader) 2nd (-5)
Pitstops Laps 54, 119, 203, 229, 309 and 388
Condition Running

 

Standings
After IRWIN Tools Night Race
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 845 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 818 -27
3 -- Brad Keselowski 776 -69
4 -- Joey Logano 761 -84
5 -- Matt Kenseth 751 -94
6 +1 Jimmie Johnson 726 -119
7 -1 Kevin Harvick 721 -124
8 -- Carl Edwards 716 -129
9 -- Ryan Newman 710 -135
10 -- Clint Bowyer 699 -146
11 -- Greg Biffle 694 -151
12 +2 Kyle Larson # 668 -177
Full Standings