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Engine Trouble While Leading Ends Junior's Day

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/16/2013
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Race: Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval / 200 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 79 degrees
Race Winner: Greg Biffle
Dale Jr.'s Finish: 37th

Looking to repeat as winner of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stretched his lead to four seconds late in the race when an engine failure derailed the No. 88 team's day for the second time this season. Earnhardt Jr. finished the race 37th and dropped to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

Earnhardt Jr. spent much of the day racing inside the top 10 in his specially-designed National Guard Soldier of Steel paint scheme commemorating the recent release of the Man of Steel movie. Crew chief Steve Letarte opted to give his driver either right-side tires or fuel only on each of his four pit stops to keep the No. 88 Chevrolet inside the top five. Earnhardt Jr. took the lead for the first time under a lap-75 caution and battled teammates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson as the Hendrick Motorsports trio held the top three spots. Kahne suffered a blown right-front tire while leading just past halfway, giving Earnhardt Jr. the lead once again.

Earnhardt Jr. restarted as the leader with 88 laps remaining and quickly opened up a four-second lead over the field when he began reporting a potential engine issue. Several attempts to troubleshoot the problem were to no avail as Earnhardt Jr.'s day came to an end with 69 laps remaining.

The No. 88 team is now seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, trailing Johnson by 91 points. Earnhardt Jr. holds a 32-point lead over 11th-place Paul Menard.

DALE JR. QUOTES
How disappointing is it to be running up front when an engine lets go?
“Yeah, that is worse than if it happens when you’re running in the back. I’m real proud of the car. We were really struggling in practice and I’m just real proud of (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and the whole team. They made a lot of great changes. And that car was just flying at the end there. I don’t know if we had as good a car as Jimmie (Johnson), but we had certainly made some gains on it, even in the last stop. So, I’m just real proud of my team. I hate to run into trouble. They’ll figure it out and we’ll get it sorted and we’ll be able to come back here and expect to run strong again. I just hate it. Hendrick Motorsports, they work harder than anyone in the business. They’re the best company in the business and we ought to be out there running up front still, but we’ll get it eventually.”

Was there any warning when the engine let go?
“No there was no warning at all even after I think we lost a cylinder. The gauges all looked really good. Flipped all the switches I could flip and nothing was really making a difference. We just had something come apart in the motor. Really happy though with the engine. Happy with the way the car performed. Weren’t really happy with the National Guard Chevrolet yesterday. Made a lot of changes last night. Steve Letarte (crew chief) and the whole crew made some great changes last night. We had such an awesome car. Look forward to coming back here and try to get a win.”

What were you discussing with Steve Letarte?
“I was just telling him how proud I was of him and the team because we were really frustrated yesterday after practice. Really frustrated with how the car was driving and where our speed was. Just telling them guys to hold their head up they did a great job overnight getting the car competitive. We had a first or second-place car right there.”

Michigan Race Report
Start 12th
Finish 37th
Laps Completed (Led) 131 of 200 (34)
Standings (from leader) 7th (-91)
Condition Out (Engine)

 

Standings
After IRWIN Tools Night Race
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 845 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 818 -27
3 -- Brad Keselowski 776 -69
4 -- Joey Logano 761 -84
5 -- Matt Kenseth 751 -94
6 +1 Jimmie Johnson 726 -119
7 -1 Kevin Harvick 721 -124
8 -- Carl Edwards 716 -129
9 -- Ryan Newman 710 -135
10 -- Clint Bowyer 699 -146
11 -- Greg Biffle 694 -151
12 +2 Kyle Larson # 668 -177
Full Standings