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Dale Jr. Finishes 17th at Darlington

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 5/13/2012
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Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 challenged Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team from the drop of the green flag. Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte made numerous adjustments throughout the race to remedy an ill-handling No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet. The end result of a hard-fought 367-lap race at Darlington Raceway was a 17th-place finish. Earnhardt Jr. remains third in Sprint Cup Series points, trailing leader Greg Biffle by 14 points.

The race’s initial green-flag stint, which lasted 171 laps before the first caution of the night, saw Earnhardt Jr. battle a loose race car on the track coined as “Too Tough to Tame”. Despite the No. 88 car’s handling woes, Earnhardt Jr. avoided earning a “Darlington Stripe” – commonly received by drivers brushing the outside wall at the historic 1.336-mile oval. Earnhardt Jr. found himself one lap down at the race’s first caution, but was awarded the free pass at the race’s third caution on lap 230. After receiving the free pass, Earnhardt Jr. spent the majority of the race’s final 100 laps racing inside the top 15. Letarte elected to bring Earnhardt Jr. to pit road for four fresh tires with five laps remaining in an effort to improve upon their 13th-place running position. Earnhardt Jr. was unable to improve from his 17th-place restart position.

Jimmie Johnson collected Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th victory outracing Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag.

Next up for Earnhardt Jr. is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 19. Earnhardt Jr. can qualify for the All-Star event by winning the Sprint Showdown preliminary event or winning the Sprint Fan Vote at www.NASCAR.com.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
“We’re disappointed with how we ran tonight. We just missed it a little bit. We ran good here last year, and we’ve ran good all year. I’m not going to get down about it. We have a good team, and we’ll just keep fighting.”

Darlington Race Report
Start 24th
Finish 17th
Laps Completed (Led) 368 of 368 (1)
Standings (from leader) 3rd (-14)
Pitstops Laps 48, 98, 146, 172, 196 (2 tires), 232, 282, 299, 308 (gas only), 327 and 362
Condition Running

 

Standings
After AAA 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Brad Keselowski 2140 0
2 -- Joey Logano 2136 -4
3 -- Kevin Harvick 2123 -17
4 -- Jimmie Johnson 2121 -19
5 +2 Jeff Gordon 2117 -23
6 -1 Kyle Busch 2111 -29
7 -1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2104 -36
8 -- Matt Kenseth 2097 -43
9 +3 Ryan Newman 2091 -49
10 -1 Carl Edwards 2091 -49
11 +2 Denny Hamlin 2081 -59
12 -1 Kasey Kahne 2079 -61
Full Standings