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Solid Day Lands Junior 4th at Dover

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/3/2012
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Race: FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks
Track Specs: 1-mile concrete oval / 400 laps
Weather: Sunny, 78 degrees
Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 4th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. did something Sunday he had not done since Sept. 2007: Score a top-five finish at Dover International Speedway with a fourth-place effort. Earnhardt Jr. raced his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet inside the top 10 in the opening 100 laps of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks and never relinquished a stranglehold on his running position. As others faltered throughout the physically-demanding 400 laps at the Monster Mile, Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte made continuous improvements to the No. 88 car and worked their way inside the top 5 by race’s end.

Despite starting 17th, Earnhardt Jr. entered the race optimistic about his team’s chances knowing the challenge Dover’s concrete one-mile oval presents teams. Earnhardt Jr. moved inside the top 15 before a 13-car pileup on lap 9 wiped out defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, among others. Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte teetered on both sides of having a perfect balance for the No. 88 car throughout the day with the car being slightly loose on occasions and tight on other runs. In the race’s final stretch, Earnhardt Jr. climbed as high as second, but a pair of late-race restarts found Earnhardt Jr. in the unfriendly inside lane and shuffled his No. 88 car back to fourth by race’s end.

Earnhardt Jr.’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson dominated Sunday’s race scoring his second victory of the season, and seventh of his career at Dover. The finish propelled Earnhardt Jr. to third in Sprint Cup Series points, trailing leader Greg Biffle by only 10 points. Earnhardt leads all Sprint Cup Series drivers with 10 top-10 finishes thus far in 2012.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
 “We were just a little loose on braking getting into the corner and couldn’t really challenge Matt (Kenseth, 3rd place) or anybody really around us. Wherever you kind of settled in after the restarts, is kind of where you were. We had a good car though. We had good speed. I want to thank AMP, Diet Mountain Dew, National Guard, all our sponsors. It was a good day for us; a good points day. I run as hard as I could run and I didn’t have nothing left. We’re getting close. We’re finishing good when we’re not winning so I can’t complain too much about how we’re doing. We’ve got some tricky tracks coming up for us. The summer months aren't really my thing, the tracks at least, but hopefully we can have some more good runs.”

Dover Race Report
Start 17th
Finish 4th
Laps Completed (Led) 400 of 400 (1)
Standings (from leader) 3rd (-10)
Pitstops Laps 70, 112, 166, 228, 296 and 341
Condition Running

 

Standings
After GEICO 500
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Joey Logano 3121 0
2 +1 Kevin Harvick 3117 -4
3 +1 Ryan Newman 3117 -4
4 +3 Denny Hamlin 3100 -21
5 +4 Matt Kenseth 3099 -22
6 -1 Carl Edwards 3099 -22
7 -1 Jeff Gordon 3093 -28
8 -- Kasey Kahne 3090 -31
9 -7 Kyle Busch 3086 -35
10 -- Brad Keselowski 3085 -36
11 -- Jimmie Johnson 3053 -68
12 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3045 -76
Full Standings