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Junior Secures Chase Birth With 13th at Richmond

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 9/7/2013
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Race: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway
Track Specs: .75-mile D-shaped oval
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 77 degrees
Race Winner: Carl Edwards
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 13th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. clinched his position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a 13th-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. This marks the third consecutive season, and sixth time overall, that Earnhardt has qualified for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.

Earnhardt spent much of the night mired between 11th and 15th as he was only able to crack the top 10 through green-flag pit cycles. As is typical for racing on the tight .75-mile short track in Richmond, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet struggled to rotate in the center of the turns while maintaining adequate forward drive off the corners.

Earnhardt moved to 12th during a cycle of pit stops under green when a caution flew at lap 343 for teammate Jimmie Johnson’s flat right-front tire while the No. 88 car was on pit road. Being caught in the pits forced Earnhardt to take a wave around under caution and restart 17th with only 49 laps remaining.

Earnhardt ran 17th in the final 10 laps when he narrowly avoided Clint Bowyer’s spinning car in turn four. Bowyer’s spin brought out the night’s final caution. The ensuing restart was a scrum for drivers making last-ditch efforts to qualify for the Chase and allowed Earnhardt to recover several positions for a 13th-place finish.

The Chase field is now reset heading into next weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. Earnhardt opens the Chase ranked ninth and trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 15 points.

DALE JR. QUOTES
On Clint Bowyer’s late spin…
“He (Bowyer) just spun right out. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever saw. The thing just came right around. We were going through (turns) three and four; and I don’t know if they can up his brakes and his gas, we’ve got all that technology. But he was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know was going on but we was right there. I almost run into him so I’m just glad we were able to get out of there with no trouble.”

On his outlook for the Chase…
“I don’t think a lot of people are counting us as one of the favorites. Last year, we were definitely putting up the kind of numbers where I think we were in that conversation; maybe not this year. We’ve had a lot of races that we haven’t been able to finish but we’ve had fast cars and I’m real confident in our ability to perform well enough in these 10 races so we’re going to work real hard. I think we’ve got as good a shot as anybody so we’re going to go in there with a good attitude and work real hard and see what we can get.”

Richmond Race Report
Start 14th
Finish 13th
Laps Completed (Led) 400 of 400 (0)
Standings (from leader) 9th (-15)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Bojangles Southern 500
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 297 0
2 -- Matt Kenseth 296 -1
3 -- Carl Edwards 278 -19
4 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 271 -26
5 +2 Jimmie Johnson 270 -27
6 -1 Kyle Busch 269 -28
7 +1 Brad Keselowski 246 -51
8 -4 Joey Logano 245 -52
9 +2 Ryan Newman 236 -61
10 +2 Austin Dillon # 235 -62
11 +5 Greg Biffle 227 -70
12 +2 Tony Stewart 224 -73
Full Standings