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Dale Jr. Closes Season with Top-10 at Homestead

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 11/18/2012
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Race: Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval/ 267 Laps
Weather: Clear
Race Winner: Jeff Gordon
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 10th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew team finished the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 10th place to cap a year of resurgence and redemption.

Earnhardt Jr.’s 2012 season will go in the books like this: one win, one pole, 10 top-fives, and 20 top-10s in 34 races (he missed two races due to a concussion.) Earnhardt led 358 laps in 2012, the most since 2008.

The No. 88 team broke the top-10 only briefly in the mid-point of the race, taking two tires during a pit stop and restarting seventh. But a suitable balance was never found in Earnhardt’s Chevrolet, and it wasn’t until the very end that he made his biggest gain.

In 11th place as the laps waned, Earnhardt sufficiently saved enough fuel to make it to the end. He passed Joey Logano on the backstretch to take over 10th with the checkered flag in sight. His 20 top-10s this season were the most since posting 21 in 2004.

Brad Keselowski became the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, a fitting end to a storybook year for the Penske Racing driver. He went into the season finale 19 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson. Johnson was in position to make it interesting (Keselowski finished 15th), but mechanical issues forced an early retirement to the garage for the five-time champion.

Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, with Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle rounding out the top-five finishers.

DALE JR. POST-RACE QUOTES
“We never really had the speed all weekend. I’m not going to dwell on that right now. I want to congratulate Brad on his championship. I’m really proud of him. He’s a buddy of mine, and he did everything he had to do to win this thing. I hate to see what happened to the 48. Those guys are great teammates, and these last two weeks were heart-breakers, man. I feel really bad for Jimmie and Chad and Rick. I know they wanted it bad.

“This has been a really good season for me, personally. I’ve had a blast. I thank my team. I wouldn’t trade ’em for anybody in the garage. I am already looking forward to next season. I can’t wait to test the new car more and get to Daytona. It will be a whole new ball game.”

Homestead Race Report
Start 16th
Finish 10th
Laps Completed (Led) 267 of 267 (0)
Standings (from leader) 12th (-156)
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