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Junior Takes 9th in Southern 500

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 5/11/2013
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Race: Bojangle’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Track Specs: 1.366-mile oval
Weather: Clear; 75 degrees
Race Winner: Matt Kenseth
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 9th

In a race that had many pundits questioning whether or not the new Gen-6 race car had tamed the track deemed “Too Tough to Tame” after only one caution in the opening 300 laps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his seventh top-10 finish in eleven starts this season.

From the drop of the green flag, Earnhardt Jr. began his ascent through the field from his 16th-place starting position. Although Earnhardt Jr. reported the car’s handling was too tight, the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet had cracked the top 10 before his first pit stop. In an uncharacteristic twist for the historic 1.366-mile oval, the race ran green for 124 laps before the first caution for debris at lap 124.

Earnhardt Jr. spent much of the race fluctuating between sixth and 10th as the four Hendrick Motorsports cars and the three Joe Gibbs racing entries forged a head-to-head battle at the front. The two teams held the top seven positions for much of the night.

The race’s second caution flew at lap 301 when Regan Smith spun, with no contact, due to a flat left-rear tire. Earnhardt Jr. was shuffled as low as 12th in the race’s waning laps before recovering to ninth-place by the checkered flag.

Matt Kenseth claimed his third victory of the season and overtook Earnhardt Jr. for third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. Earnhardt Jr. now ranks fourth, trailing overall leader Jimmie Johnson by 64 points.

DALE JR. QUOTES
“We had a strong car all weekend. (We) just never really got great track position. The last half of the race, the car was a little bit up out of the race track. We’re still pretty happy.

“Traffic was terrible; just real dirty air out there. We were faster than the 42 at the end of the race, (but we) just couldn’t pass him. We were probably faster than the 29 and the 99 too, but you’ve got to be in front of them.”

Darlington Race Report
Start 16th
Finish 9th
Laps Completed (Led) 367 of 367 (0)
Standings (from leader) 4th (-64)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Ford EcoBoost 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +3 Kevin Harvick 5043 0
2 +1 Ryan Newman 5042 -1
3 -2 Denny Hamlin 5037 -6
4 -2 Joey Logano 5028 -15
5 -- Brad Keselowski 2361 -2682
6 -- Jeff Gordon 2348 -2695
7 -- Matt Kenseth 2334 -2709
8 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301 -2742
9 -- Carl Edwards 2288 -2755
10 -2 Kyle Busch 2285 -2758
11 +2 Jimmie Johnson 2274 -2769
12 +2 Kurt Busch 2263 -2780
Full Standings