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Dale Jr. Finishes 11th at the Monster Mile

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 9/30/2012
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Race: AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway
Track Specs: 1-mile concrete oval / 400 laps
Weather: Clear, 70 degrees
Race Winner: Brad Keselowski
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 11th
Dale Jr.’s Chase Standing: 7th (-39 to Keselowski)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his third consecutive top-13 finish to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup with an 11th-place effort Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Earnhardt maintained the seventh position in the overall standings, trailing leader Brad Keselowski by 39 points.

Earnhardt, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team put forth a solid effort from their 25th-starting position. With a car that only managed the 41st-quickest time in final practice, many pundits predicted an uphill fight, but Earnhardt’s early progression into the top 15 by lap 60 proved the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet would be a contender at the Monster Mile.

The pivotal moment in the race came early, at lap 67, when Earnhardt hit pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. While the No. 88 Chevrolet made its way down pit road, the No. 36 car of J.J. Yeley experience a catastrophic right-front tire failure along the backstretch littering the track with debris. Knowing the car was already one-lap down, Letarte made a quick call for Dale Jr. to pass through the pits without stopping to prevent the team from falling a second lap behind. Earnhardt returned to pit road under caution at lap 73 and managed to be one of a handful of cars one lap down.

Unfortunately for the No. 88 team, the race was slowed only four more times by caution. Earnhardt never found himself in position for the free pass as the team’s running position fluctuated between ninth and 13th for the race’s final 320 laps.

Earnhardt took the checkered flag 11th, marking his third consecutive finish of 13th or better to open the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Brad Keselowski claimed his fifth victory of the season by conserving enough fuel over the race’s final 85-lap run.

Dale Jr. enters what many consider the Wild Card race of the Chase next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway seventh in the Sprint Cup standings. He has enjoyed five wins at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Dover Race Report
Start 25th
Finish 11th
Laps Completed (Led) 398 of 400 (0)
Pit Stops Laps 73, 145, 180, 248, 311 and 390 (gas only)
Standings (from leader) 7th (-39)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +6 Jeff Gordon 4044 0
2 +1 Ryan Newman 4041 -3
3 -2 Joey Logano 4040 -4
4 +1 Matt Kenseth 4039 -5
5 -1 Denny Hamlin 4037 -7
6 -- Carl Edwards 4024 -20
7 +1 Brad Keselowski 4013 -31
8 -6 Kevin Harvick 4011 -33
9 -- Kyle Busch 2230 -1814
10 +2 AJ Allmendinger 2198 -1846
11 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2196 -1848
12 -2 Jimmie Johnson 2186 -1858
Full Standings