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Engine Vibration Leaves Junior 19th at Charlotte

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 5/25/2014

Race: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 75 degrees
Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 19th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be on his way to another top-five effort when an engine vibration thwarted his efforts and forced the No. 88 National Guard / Superman team to make an unscheduled pit stop in the latter stages of NASCAR’s longest race. The misfortune dropped Earnhardt Jr. to a 19th-place finish in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

At the drop of the green flag under sunny skies in Concord, N.C., Earnhardt Jr. advanced from his 10th-place starting position to the top five early on. Crew chief Steve Letarte made minor adjustments to accommodate Earnhardt Jr.’s feedback as the No. 88 charged to fourth by the midway point.

With the sun setting and track conditions changing throughout the night, Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte kept themselves in the hunt for the top spot. Letarte elected to keep his driver on track under a lap-223 caution, giving Earnhardt Jr. the lead for a short stint.

After several varying pit strategies, Earnhardt Jr. eventually found himself cycled back to his earlier top-five running position when he reported an engine vibration just past lap 300. Initially, Earnhardt Jr. told Letarte his water temperature and pressure gauges were flashing red, then the vibration became the focal point. The issue became too much to handle at lap 310 as Earnhardt Jr. told the team he was losing power and felt the engine was on the verge of failing. Letarte opted to bring Earnhardt Jr. to pit road instead of risking further damage.

In the pits, the No. 88 team looked under the hood to diagnose the issue. They sent Earnhardt Jr. back on track several laps down to nurse the engine the remainder of the race. Back on track, Earnhardt Jr. was able to post competitive lap times down the stretch en route to a 19th-place finish.

Earnhardt Jr.’s teammate Jimmie Johnson earned his first victory of the season holding off Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray.

“I don’t really know what went wrong. It just started shaking really bad. Knowing that the 10 and 41 had issues, I wasn’t really going 100 percent to try to preserve the engine. The vibration got a little better late in the race, but it was never the same.

“We had good speed tonight. This was a brand new car. I’m really proud of Steve and the guys for all the work they put in. I felt like we were capable of winning the race if we could have been in the right position. It just didn’t quite work out tonight but we had a shot so I’m happy about that.”

Charlotte Race Report
Start 10th
Finish 19th
Laps Completed (Led) 398 of 400 (13)
Standings (From Leader) 5th (-38)
Condition Running


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