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Strong Run Gives Dale Jr. Top-5 Finish at Kentucky

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/30/2012
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Race: Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile speedway / 267 Laps
Weather: Clear, Hot and Humid
Race Winner: Brad Keselowski
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 4th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. overcame a sultry evening at Kentucky Speedway to finish fourth in the Quaker State 400 Saturday night. It was his seventh top-five of the season, and it catapulted him back into second place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. He now trails leader Matt Kenseth by only 11 points, and he is 12 points in front of third-place Jimmie Johnson.

Starting seventh in the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, Earnhardt had climbed to second by the time the fourth and final caution flew on lap 209 of 267, but he needed a gas-only pit stop under that yellow-flag period to pull within a reasonable reach of his fuel window. Despite being four laps short from that point, Earnhardt’s fuel-saving tactics coupled with a lengthy yellow-flag period gave the No. 88 Chevy enough to see the checkers.

Earnhardt restarted sixth, passed Kenseth for fifth and cruised by Carl Edwards for fourth. A loose condition on the final green-flag run slowed his progress, and his chance to win rested solely in the hands on others’ ability to make it on gas. Only Edwards ran out at the end after Earnhardt had already passed him.

Brad Keselowski won the race to claim his series-leading third victory, leading 68 laps in the process. He was followed by Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin. Hendrick Motorsports cars took four of the top six positions, with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, behind Earnhardt Jr.

DALE JR. POST-RACE QUOTES
“I was pretty loose there at the end. I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun in those last 30 laps because I was so loose. But all in all it was a good night. I’m pretty happy about that. We were fast. The car was good all weekend. I would’ve loved to have had a little bit better shot at it at the end, and I thought we were going to. We had a good race car under us the run before last. It was really fast, but it was just loose at the end getting into the corners. I’m still very proud of team. They put in some long hours this week with the test session (at Nashville Speedway) and then coming to Kentucky and dealing with the heat. I want to thank Diet Mountain Dew, National Guard and Sprint, for all their support. I just hope we can keep it up. I’m real proud of how we’re doing so far, but I’d like to win another race! I really had fun winning the other week, so I’m ready to back into victory lane!”

RACE NOTES
• The top-five effort was a loud and clear testament to the improvement of the No. 88 team in 2012, as in this race last year Earnhardt Jr. finished a season-low 30th.

• Earnhardt Jr. kept his streak alive of being the only driver to complete every lap in 2012.

• Earnhardt Jr. has held second place in the point standings in six of the 17 weeks this season.

• The No. 88 team has finished in the top-10 in all but four races in 2012.

• It was Dale Jr.’s 13th top-10 of 2012, tying him with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most in the series.

 

Kentucky Race Report
Start 7th
Finish 4th
Laps Completed (Led) 267 of 267 (0)
Standings (from leader) 2nd (-11)
Pit Stops Laps 44, 90, 150 (2 tires), 201 and 211 (gas only)
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