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Junior Finishes 9th in Duel, Starting 19th in 500

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 2/21/2013
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Race: Budweiser Duels at Daytona International Speedway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile superspeedway / 75 laps
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Dale Jr.'s Finish: 9th
Dale Jr.'s Daytona 500 Starting Position: 19th

Thursday’s Duel Qualifying Race at Daytona proved to be much of the same following Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited with drafting and passing in the new Gen-6 race car proving to be a challenge. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished ninth, after having to start the 60 lap race from the rear of the field following an engine change on Wednesday. With the finish, Earnhardt Jr. will start 19th in the 55th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday (12 p.m. ET on Fox).

Earnhardt Jr. found carving his way towards the front of the 23 car field difficult early with much of the pack choosing to occupy the high line and maintaining a single-file formation for most of the opening 40 laps. When Dale Jr. hit pit road at lap 48, he had moved his way up to 10th. Crew chief Steve Letarte elected to take a similar strategy to much of the field for the green flag pit stop, only changing right-side tires and adding fuel to the National Guard Chevrolet.

Spotter T.J. Majors guided Earnhardt Jr. through a multi-car accident triggered by Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards moving the 88 car up to a race-high seventh position with only eight laps to go. On the race’s final restart, Earnhardt Jr. was unable to maneuver any further up in the field and ultimately slipped three positions for a ninth-place finish. With the finish, Earnhardt Jr. will start 19th for the Daytona 500.

DALE JR. QUOTES
What did you learn out there?
"We've got to work on our handling. Our car was really really tight. At the first, we were on the splitter pretty bad; we worked on it yesterday and went a little too far. Got a little too aggressive with that. But put a packer in on that pit stop, and it was still real tight. I was having to lift in the center of three and four, just to get off the corner. I had to lift real big getting into one on the first lap where Juan (Pablo Montoya) got into the fence behind us. We hadn't been around any packs. I didn't anticipate really the balance being a big deal because the car does have a good downforce package; we thought the balance would be pretty close. Figured we would be fighting loose a little bit. We have to work on it. We will; we'll fix it."

Anything you learn going to help you for the 500?
"We've got a good car. I was able to do some things. I did learn a few things about when those guys get up top. I found some ways to make gains; make passes one car at a time. If you get greedy and try to get a couple, you end up getting trained to the back. Learned a lot of things out there. Just how this car is working with this package that will help us on Sunday."

How indicative is that of what we'll see on Sunday?
"I think it is exactly what you are going to see. You'll see a lot of racing. It'll be single file around the bottom some. It will be single file around the top some. Then all of a sudden everybody will start racing for no apparent reason. Then it'll go back to running single file for awhile. We don't really dictate that as driver. Not the field. The field really is at the mercy of the guys of front. If those guys up front chose to race a certain way, the filed sort of has to follow suit just to be able to maintain the draft. I think it will be a good race. It's a long race, you know. We can't run three-wide every lap as much as everybody would like to see that. I think its good racing."

Can you win?
"Anybody can win, but we've got a good piece. We've got a real good car. We get that balance right, and get the thing to turning good, we'll have a great shot."

Budweiser Duel Race Report
Start 6th (Fell to rear)
Finish 9th
Laps Completed (Led) 60 of 60 (0)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Brickyard 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 717 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 693 -24
3 -- Brad Keselowski 666 -51
4 -- Matt Kenseth 661 -56
5 -- Jimmie Johnson 628 -89
6 +2 Kyle Busch 609 -108
7 -- Ryan Newman 606 -111
8 -2 Carl Edwards 603 -114
9 -- Joey Logano 591 -126
10 -- Clint Bowyer 577 -140
11 +1 Denny Hamlin 572 -145
12 +1 Kevin Harvick 565 -152
Full Standings