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Dale Jr. Takes Points Lead With 2nd at Fontana

By Mike Hoag, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 3/24/2013

Race: Auto Club 400
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval / 200 Laps
Weather: Clear, Sunny, 80 deg.
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 2nd

Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued his strong start to the 2013 season with a runner-up finish in the Auto Club 400 Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. With the finish, Earnhardt Jr. overtook Brad Keselowski for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead after only five races.

Heading into the Fontana race weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was off to the best start of his career with four consecutive top-10 finishes to open the season. With nearly perfect weather conditions in southern California, Earnhardt Jr looked to keep the streak alive at a place where he had only five top ten finishes in 20 starts.

The 200-lap race provided plenty of ups and downs for Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 National Guard team. By the race’s midway point, Earnhardt Jr. moved as high as third despite battling a loose race car. A slow pit stop just passed the race’s halfway point dropped Earnhardt Jr. from third to 22nd. Despite losing 19 positions, Earnhardt Jr. remained positive and rallied his team over the radio before making up eleven positions in only four laps after the ensuing restart.

Steve Letarte called Earnhardt Jr. to pit road under the race’s final caution flag for four fresh tires allowing Earnhardt Jr. to masterfully work his way into the top five down the stretch. Earnhardt Jr. ran fourth on the final lap when leaders Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano made contact in turns three and four, sending the pair spinning out of control. Kyle Busch darted to the outside of Hamlin and Logano on his way to the victory while Earnhardt Jr. took evasive action bypassing the pair en route to his second runner-up finish of the season.

Earnhardt Jr.'s second-place finish marks his second consecutive top-three finish at the two-mile track, backing up his third-place effort in 2012. He is now the only driver with top-10 finishes in each race this season.

On the finish...
“Yeah, that was pretty wild. We had a good car and came real close to winning there but then everybody started taking tires and tires were really big at the end because the place is really slick and worn out. We were lucky there at the end and came in and got some fresh tires and that sort of fixed our mistakes and helped us to get a good finis. We had a good car and had some wheel issues, but was real happy about how we finished and made it up. We had a good enough car to run there, and we're happy to get the finish.”

Fontana Race Report
Start 15th
Finish 2nd
Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
Standings (from next) 1st (+12)
Condition Running


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