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Dale Jr., eBay Team Finish 3rd in Michigan NNS Race

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/14/2014
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Race 13 of 33: Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees
Race Winner: Paul Menard
Earnhardt Jr.’s Finish: 3rd

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 eBay team led JR Motorsports’ three-car effort with a third-place finish in Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway. For Earnhardt Jr., the result marks his fifth consecutive top-five finish in NASCAR Nationwide Series races on non-restrictor plate tracks dating back to 2013.

Earning the top-three finish was not easy for the No. 88 group. From the drop of the green flag, Earnhardt Jr. reported the car was not handling to his liking. Despite the ill-handling Chevrolet, Earnhardt Jr. maintained a running position inside the top eight for the duration of the event.

Steve Letarte made a race-changing call to bring Earnhardt Jr. to pit road for four tires and fuel under a lap-67 caution while a handful of other cars, including JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, remained on the track. In the short term, the decision offered bleak results. However, when the caution waved again at lap 79, Earnhardt Jr. entered the pits eighth, took fuel only and jumped six positions to take the race’s final restart second at lap 90.

On the restart, Earnhardt Jr. slipped to third but claimed second when Elliott Sadler was forced to pit with a problem on his No. 11 car. Trailing Joey Logano by nearly two seconds, Earnhardt Jr. began to slowly gain on the lead before a left-front tire issue unfavorably altered the car’s handling.

In the closing laps, Earnhardt Jr. drifted to fourth before Logano slowed with a flat right-rear tire. Logano’s misfortune proved paramount for Paul Menard who raced by to notch his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory followed by Sam Hornish Jr., Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Brian Scott in the top five. JR Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver No. 88 eBay team
“We practiced Friday really fast and I thought we had a better car than what we started the race with. We weren’t very good at the start of the race, maybe a fifth to eighth-place car. We made some really good adjustments and when we got out there at the end of that last run, I was running a couple of laps a little better than Joey (Logano). I felt like my car was working really good and I ran over something in the middle of (turns) three and four, and got a hole in the left-front tire. It was going flat there at the end so we lost a lot of turn.

“I’m really happy with the results. Steve (Letarte), on top of the box, he’s the man at strategy and we gained a ton of track position just taking fuel at the end. We’d come down pit road earlier, just before we got in our window, and filled it up. When we came on pit road that last time, we only needed a couple gallons and everybody else needed a lot more than that, and they were putting tires on and stuff like that. We gained about eight spots of track position right there and that gave us a shot. I felt like we had a good car for a couple laps there and I heard something run through the left side of the car. Then it started pushing really bad and the tire is pretty low on air right now. Typically that will help you out at most tracks, but I guess it hurts the car here so it wouldn’t turn very good at the end.”

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