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Battery Trouble Spoils Strong Run for Dale Jr. at Texas

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 4/13/2013
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Race: NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval / 334 laps
Weather: Clear; 75 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 29th

Just past the midway point, the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway appeared to be a prime opportunity for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to score his first victory of the season as he ran third and began closing on the leaders. Unfortunately for Earnhardt Jr., the No. 88 team and Junior Nation, a battery failure spoiled the driver’s charge to the front and ultimately led to a 29th-place finish, four laps off the pace.

Earnhardt Jr. dropped outside the top 10 early in the race because of a tight race car, despite a season-best sixth-place starting position. Thanks to a timely chassis adjustment from Letarte and cooling track conditions as darkness came over the 1.5-mile speedway, Earnhardt Jr. charged from 14th at lap 86 to sixth by the race’s next caution at lap 150.

The National Guard crew advanced Earnhardt Jr. three positions with a quick pit stop to provide premium track position in third for a lap-156 restart. The No. 88 Chevrolet maintained its top-three spot until lap 187 when Earnhardt Jr. urgently radioed to Letarte, “I’ve got no power. I’m coming in.”

The issue for Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevrolet was a dead battery. After coming to pit road, Earnhardt Jr. returned to the track using the car’s back-up battery. With no power, Earnhardt Jr. was unable to monitor his RPMs and NASCAR deemed him to have been too fast entering pit road. Letarte elected to give Dale Jr. four fresh tires on his return visit to pit road which did not fulfill the pass-through requirement for the original penalty forcing the No. 88 car to make a third trip to pit road. This sequence left Earnhardt Jr. five laps behind the leaders.

Earnhardt Jr. spent the race’s final 200 miles alternating pit strategies with the leaders by taking the wave-around on three different occasions but was only able to recover one lap ending the night four laps down in 29th.

The finish drops Earnhardt Jr. to sixth in the series standings, trailing Jimmie Johnson by 35 points.

DALE JR. QUOTES
Was that just a perfect storm of things going wrong?
"We just had a battery go dead and didn't diagnosis it correctly to just switch it.  We have two batteries in there we have a switch in the driver’s seat that goes from one to two.  I didn't know it was a battery until we got down on pit road and I got to looking at the gauges and really understanding.  At that point we had lost a couple of laps.  I couldn't control my speed on pit road because the motor was not running coming on.  So we sped there and we came down pit road to serve the penalty but Steve (Letarte, crew chief) wanted to get tires.  You can't get tires serving a penalty so we had to come back and then serve the penalty."

From your perspective, from the driver's seat, did everything just go out?
"Yeah, all the gauges went bad.  All the gauges just went haywire and so I couldn't read the gauges to really diagnosis what was happening, but once you start to think about it you are like, 'well if all the gauges are going bad we have electrical issues'.  Then you go right to the battery. The thing quit running going into (Turn) three and I couldn't stay on the track if it wasn't the battery we would have stopped on the track and lost all those laps.  I came down pit road, sped, no motor, no tach (tachometer); figured out by the time I got to the pit stall it was the battery.  We changed the switch over to battery two, get fired up, take off, come down pit road change tires, came down pit road serve the penalty and that was the night."

How have you dealt with the last couple of weeks?
"It has been rough, but we had a really good car tonight.  If we were running bad and having these kinds of nights we would have a hard time making that Chase, but running good eventually things will turn back around for us.  We will get going.  We have a lot of confidence.  We've got a lot of positive attitude and feel like we will have no problem rebounding."

Texas Race Report
Start 6th
Finish 29th
Laps Completed (Led) 330 of 334 (0)
Standings (from leader) 6th (-35)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After MyAFibStorycom 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Brad Keselowski 2059 0
2 -- Jeff Gordon 2052 -7
3 +2 Joey Logano 2049 -10
4 +2 Kevin Harvick 2047 -12
5 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2042 -17
6 -2 Jimmie Johnson 2041 -18
7 +1 Kyle Busch 2041 -18
8 +1 Denny Hamlin 2041 -18
9 +1 Kurt Busch 2039 -20
10 +1 Kasey Kahne 2034 -25
11 +3 Matt Kenseth 2034 -25
12 -5 Carl Edwards 2030 -29
Full Standings