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Dale Jr. Races to 7th at Las Vegas

By Mike Hoag, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 3/10/2013
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Race: Kobalt Tools 400
Track Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval
Weather: Clear, Sunny, 70 deg.
Race Winner: Matt Kenseth
Dale Jr.'s Finish: 7th

Coming off his best finish at Phoenix since 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued his strong start to the 2013 season with a seventh-place finish in the Kobalt Tools 400 Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The top-10 finish marks the first time in Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career that the 38-year-old driver has opened a season with three consecutive top-10 finishes and leaves him third in the series standings trailing overall leader Jimmie Johnson by only 10 points.

With Friday’s qualifying session cancelled due to rain, Earnhardt Jr. started the 267-lap race 12th based on last season’s final standings. From the drop of the green flag, the theme of the day would be long green-flag runs and pit strategy. The race’s five cautions were caused by debris, two blown engines and a pair of single-car spins. Earnhardt Jr.’s bright orange and black AMP Energy Orange Chevrolet SS never dropped lower than its 12th-place starting position throughout the race spending much of the event racing inside the top 10. On several occasions, Earnhardt Jr. raced his way inside the top five, running as high as fourth in the race’s final 100 miles.

Overall, Earnhardt Jr. was very pleased with the car’s performance reporting “The car is really good, we have a really strong motor, and great balance” midway through the race.

Earnhardt Jr.’s final pit stop left him fifth on a restart with 38 laps to go. He quickly shot to fourth-place but drifted back several spots after the race’s final restart at lap 242. Earnhardt Jr. raced closely with Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap narrowly edging Truex Jr.’s No. 56 car at the finish for seventh.

Kasey Kahne lead a race-high 114 laps but settled for a runner-up finish behind Matt Kenseth. Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards made up the top five.

DALE JR. QUOTES
How was your race?
“We ran a little bit better than where we finished but we just needed a little track position at the end. I couldn’t really get going. I don’t know. The car was pretty good; not exceptional but we’ve got a pretty good little start to the season. We’re working on it, trying to improve and we’re running up front so I’m real happy with that. We’re happy with our performance.”

How slick was it out there today?
“I loved it. It was so much fun. We were moving all over the race track. Aside from the bumps, I’m not a big fan of all them bumps down there in turn one but the surface and race-ability here is what all tracks ought to strive for. There’s a few just like it on the circuit, like Atlanta, but all the tracks should shoot for something like this.”

Las Vegas Race Report
Start 12th
Finish 7th
Laps Completed (Led) 267 of 267 (0)
Standings (from leader) 3rd (-10)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Ford EcoBoost 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +1 Denny Hamlin 4112 0
2 -1 Joey Logano 4111 -1
3 -- Ryan Newman 4103 -9
4 +4 Kevin Harvick 4102 -10
5 -1 Jeff Gordon 4102 -10
6 -1 Matt Kenseth 4100 -12
7 -- Brad Keselowski 4095 -17
8 -2 Carl Edwards 4088 -24
8 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301 -2742
9 -- Kyle Busch 2280 -1832
10 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2271 -1841
11 +1 AJ Allmendinger 2256 -1856
Full Standings