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Junior Finishes 11th in Nationwide Race at Daytona

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 2/22/2014
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Race 1 of 33: DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile superspeedway / 120 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 65 degrees
Race Winner: Regan Smith
Earnhardt Jr.’s Finish: 11th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th in the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway as the NASCAR Nationwide Series kicked off its 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet led the field for 28 laps early but was unable to charge to the front as the race wound down.

From the drop of the green flag, passing in the outside lane proved to be a tough task accomplished by few drivers. Knowing track position would be critical, crew chief Ernie Cope elected to keep the No. 88 on track under the race’s first caution at lap eight. That decision gained Earnhardt Jr. 10 spots to second and eventually gave him the lead on the ensuing restart. The red and black TaxSlayer Camaro proceeded to pace the field for the next 28 circuits before having to pit under green at lap 42. Having been off pit sequence with the majority of the lead pack, Earnhardt Jr. exited the pits with minimal drafting help. At one point, he ran 20th, trailing the lead pack by more than 25 seconds. Fortunately for the No. 88 team, a lap-71 caution slowed the field allowing Earnhardt Jr. to recover lost time and hit pit road with the leaders.

As the laps evaporated, Earnhardt Jr. was only able to muster a charge to seventh working predominantly in the outside lane. He restarted seventh for a green-white-checkered finish but found himself boxed in behind other cars and unable to maneuver any higher as he crossed the line 11th.

JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith muscled his No. 7 Ragu Chevrolet past Brad Keselowski to score the team’s first victory at the legendary 2.5-mile superspeedway by a mere .013 seconds. Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler made up the remainder of the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver No. 88 TaxSlayer.com team
On accident after checkered flag…
“We were coming to the finish line and the 42 (Kyle Larson) was shoving me pretty good. I really didn’t have anywhere to go and I got down on the apron and I was trying not to come back up on the race track. I hit him in the quarter panel and we had a big wreck there. We were slowing down and I was looking all around trying to figure out where everybody was at and I came back up and wrecked him, the 87 and the 39. It was totally my fault. I just really wasn’t paying attention. I hate it for Joe (Nemechek) and those guys because they don’t need to be tearing up race cars.”

Daytona Race Report
Start 16th
Finish 11th
Laps Completed (Led) 121 of 121 (28)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Pure Michigan 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +1 Jeff Gordon 816 0
2 -1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 813 -3
3 +1 Brad Keselowski 733 -83
4 +1 Joey Logano 714 -102
5 -2 Matt Kenseth 709 -107
6 +2 Kevin Harvick 687 -129
7 -- Jimmie Johnson 686 -130
8 -2 Carl Edwards 679 -137
9 -- Ryan Newman 679 -137
10 +1 Clint Bowyer 672 -144
11 +1 Greg Biffle 660 -156
12 +1 Kasey Kahne 651 -165
Full Standings