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So Close! Dale Jr. Takes 2nd at Dover

By Mike Hoag, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 9/29/2013
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Race: AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway
Track Specs: 1-mile concrete oval
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees
Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 2nd
Dale Jr.’s Chase Standing: 10th (-57)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced to a second-place finish in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. The runner-up finish moves Earnhardt gained one position and five points on overall leader Matt Kenseth with seven races remaining this season.

Earnhardt jumped to an early lead after starting from the pole thanks to a track-record speed in Friday’s qualifying session. The No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet held the top spot for a season-high 80 laps on the day and looked to be in control of the race early on. During a round of green-flag pit stops, Earnhardt relinquished his lead after overshooting Dover’s tricky pit entrance. The miscue dropped the No. 88 to eighth and forced Earnhardt to claw his way back towards the lead.

Earnhardt found himself fourth when teams hit pit road for the final time under a lap-371 caution. With many leaders debating whether to take two or four tires, a split-second decision courtesy of crew chief Steve Letarte and spotter T.J. Majors allowed the team to take four fresh tires and maintain their fourth position behind leaders Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon who all opted for two fresh tires.

The fresh rubber allowed Earnhardt to leapfrog Kenseth and Gordon on the first lap after the restart. Earnhardt began to stalk Johnson for the race lead but the No. 48 proved to be too tough to beat as Johnson worked to find the fastest groove to hold off the No. 88 in the final laps. Earnhardt was forced to settle for second for the third time this season while Johnson cruised to his record-setting eighth career win at the Monster Mile.

DALE JR. QUOTES
“We had an awesome car. Two weeks in a row we've had two fantastic racecars. We're proud of Steve and Kevin (Meendering), my engineer, all the guys for bringing such good cars to the racetrack. It certainly makes my job easier, gives us opportunities to win like this.

“Trying to look on the bright side. A little disappointed we didn't pull off the win. Felt like we had the perfect strategy. I had maybe the best car, arguably the best car, today. With those four tires I thought we could get it done.

“We left everybody in the mirror. We were clicking off some laps, but just not fast enough to get to Jimmie.”

Dover Race Report
Start 1st
Finish 2nd
Laps Completed (Led) 400 of 400 (80)
Standings (from leader) 10th (-57)
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