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Junior Rallies for 6th at Indianapolis

By Mike Hoag, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 7/28/2013
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Race: Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile Speedway
Weather: Sunny; 70 degrees
Race Winner: Ryan Newman
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 6th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought home a sixth-place finish in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon. The finish, Earnhardt Jr.’s second consecutive top-10 at the historic track, keeps the No. 88 team fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with only six races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Earnhardt Jr.’s day did not get off to a great start when he reported a loose wheel on the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet at lap 12. The off-schedule trip to pit road set Earnhardt Jr. a lap down in 43rd place. During a second cycling of green-flag pit stops, Earnhardt Jr. caught a fortuitous break when a caution flew at lap 60 with the No. 88 car scored as the last car on the lead lap in 14th.

Crew chief Steve Letarte elected to keep Earnhardt Jr. on track under a lap-82 caution when many other leaders hit pit road. The move vaulted the No. 88 to third. Through a final cycling of pit stops, Earnhardt Jr. maintained solid track position bringing home a sixth-place finish.

Ryan Newman cruised to his first career victory at Indianapolis beating Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to the checkered flag.

Earnhardt Jr. is now 58 points ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart leading into the Sprint Cup Series next event at Pocono Raceway.

DALE JR. QUOTES
On his run:

“I thought it was good. We had good speed. I thought the strategy was good. We had a loose wheel on the start of the race; that was weird to have a loose wheel then. We changed our strategy and made it work. The car had good speed. Right at the end, we were either running out of gas, or had a little bit of an engine problem the last two or three laps. I almost lost another spot. But the car just quit running at the end. I don't know if it was out of fuel or what. But the fuel pressure was good.”

Was it a tough decision to come in that early or was it that bad?
“Yes, yes. I'll tell you, you can't have a wheel come off here. You're running that thing at 200 miles per hour at the end of the straightaway, you don't want to take any chances. We came in. Steve said it was loose and it was a good job and a good save.”

Is that a rare thing to have a loose wheel at the start of a race?
“Yes. As you can imagine, it's rare.”

How much second guessing were you doing there?
“I knew it was loose. The car was shaking real bad, and wandering in the back-end on the straightaway. You have a wheel falling off; you have something serious happening. Come in, it's dangerous staying out there. You can hit the wall, or wreck something, or wreck some other people. I don't want to do that. It is a long race. We had an early chance to fix that, and that is fine. It gave us an opportunity to try some different strategies, and it worked out for us.”

Were you worried that the strategy might leave you guys high and dry?
“Yes, a little bit. But it is still a long race, and Steve is a good strategist, and we ended up all right. The car had good speed; we finished about where we should.”

Indianapolis Race Report
Start 15th
Finish 6th
Laps Completed (Led) 160 of 160 (0)
Standings (from leader) 5th (-124)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Brickyard 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 717 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 693 -24
3 -- Brad Keselowski 666 -51
4 -- Matt Kenseth 661 -56
5 -- Jimmie Johnson 628 -89
6 +2 Kyle Busch 609 -108
7 -- Ryan Newman 606 -111
8 -2 Carl Edwards 603 -114
9 -- Joey Logano 591 -126
10 -- Clint Bowyer 577 -140
11 +1 Denny Hamlin 572 -145
12 +1 Kevin Harvick 565 -152
Full Standings