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Flat Tire Drops Junior to 36th at Michigan

By Mike Hoag, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 8/18/2013
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Race: Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval
Weather: Clear, 77 degrees
Race Winner: Joey Logano
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 36th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation team showed plenty of strength in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway before a blown right-front tire left him with a 36th-place finish.

Earnhardt appeared to be the car to beat early on. After starting seventh, Earnhardt quickly moved into the top three and led the race for 20 laps. A long green-flag run ensued with Earnhardt running seventh just past the race’s halfway point when trouble found the No. 88 for a second consecutive week. Without warning, Earnhardt’s car suffered a blown right-front tire on lap 135, sending the No. 88 Chevrolet directly into the turn two wall. The damage was enough to send the team to the garage to repair the car.

Earnhardt returned to the track but found himself more than 20 laps down. In the final laps, Earnhardt recovered several positions that could prove to be very valuable with only three races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Michigan, the site of Earnhardt’s most recent victory in June 2012, proved to be one of the No. 88 team’s best tracks in 2013 with little to show for their efforts. Earnhardt finished 37th at the two-mile track in June after suffering an engine failure while leading.

Earnhardt now ranks seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with a 20-point advantage over 11th-place Kasey Kahne.

DALE JR. QUOTES
All the fans were on their feet as you led this race, and then you were in the wall and back in the garage…
“It’s just the tire; we’ve had a lot of problems with. I think this is the same tire we struggled with the last race. But, I don’t know, you know. It’s just kind of frustrating. It’s just bad luck. If we keep running like we’re supposed to run and like we’ve been running, we’ll get on into the Chase and not have to worry about it. But this bad luck, we need to shake that. We just can’t keep having this every week. It’s been biting us every week. So we’ll just have to see what happens.”

You are seventh in points right now. Looking at the way you guys can run and looking at the big picture with three races to go before the cutoff, how do you feel about the Chase?
“There are guys in worst positions than us. We ain’t got to outrun just one guy; there’s a lot of guys. And all of them have got to have clean races, just like we do. I think we’ll be all right. We’re not an 11th place team. We’re a Top 5 team. We’re consistent. We’re more consistent than most. We’ve just got to shake this luck, whatever is going on; it’s something different every time. We’ve got good speed and we’ve just got to keep our head up and keep working hard and things will be all right.”

You are now 20 points inside the top 10. Is that a concern for you or do you still feel somewhat comfortable?
“I feel pretty good. I’ve been in tighter situations. I think if we just run as good as we can we will be fine. We are not an 11th place team. If we just run as good as we can we should be alright.”

Did you have any warning or did the tire just blow?
“Yeah, it was down on the splitter getting into the corner. I got it slowed down pretty good and then started getting close to the wall and put a little brake in it and it blew the tire out. It had a slow leak and I don’t know. We have had a lot of problems with this particular tire and it’s getting frustrating.”

Is the fact that you are even in this situation, you’ve had such a good season that you wouldn’t even think that you would have had to worry about Richmond, is it disappointing even to be in this position?
“No not really. It’s a competitive sport and we’ve got some good teams behind us. We are not sitting here with everybody in the distance. It’s just a little closer than we would like it to be, but it’s still 20 points is 20 points. That is half a race a little more than that so we got three to go we should be alright. If we keep having bad luck we can’t do nothing about that.”

Michigan Race Report
Start 7th
Finish 36th
Laps Completed (Led) 171 of 200 (20)
Standings (from leader) 7th (-134)
Condition Damaged

 

Standings
After AAA 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Brad Keselowski 2140 0
2 -- Joey Logano 2136 -4
3 -- Kevin Harvick 2123 -17
4 -- Jimmie Johnson 2121 -19
5 +2 Jeff Gordon 2117 -23
6 -1 Kyle Busch 2111 -29
7 -1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2104 -36
8 -- Matt Kenseth 2097 -43
9 +3 Ryan Newman 2091 -49
10 -1 Carl Edwards 2091 -49
11 +2 Denny Hamlin 2081 -59
12 -1 Kasey Kahne 2079 -61
Full Standings