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Junior Finishes 11th at Atlanta

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 9/1/2014
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Race: Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.54-mile quad-oval
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 76 degrees
Race Winner: Kasey Kahne
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 11th

Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was another test of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 National Guard team’s resilience. Earnhardt Jr. ended an eventful night 11th as the Chase for the Sprint Cup looms two weeks away.

After starting 20th, Earnhardt Jr. slowly crept his way inside the top 15 early on despite battling a car that’s handling shifted from being too tight to too loose throughout long green-flag stints. Just past the halfway point, Earnhardt Jr. had worked his way to 12th when a split-second decision to stay on the track an extra lap because of an impending caution allowed the No. 88 to move inside the top 10.

Unfortunately the decision, while temporarily helpful for track position, kept Earnhardt Jr. on a track littered with debris that punctured the grille opening on the No. 88 car. After multiple trips to pit road under caution, Earnhardt Jr. rejoined the field in 19th and began his second climb up the leaderboard.

Earnhardt Jr. lined up 11th for a pair of green-white-checkered restarts. On the first attempt, with help from spotter T.J. Majors, Earnhardt Jr. maneuvered through a multi-car accident. The second attempt saw Earnhardt Jr. in the midst of an intense battle for a top-10 finish. Ultimately, the No. 88 would end up 11th on the night.

Earnhardt Jr.’s teammate Kasey Kahne darted from third to first on the final restart to earn his first win of the season and qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.

Atlanta Race Report
Start 20th
Finish 11th
Laps Completed (Led) 335 of 335 (0)
Standings (From Leader) 2nd (-21)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After GEICO 500
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Joey Logano 3121 0
2 +1 Kevin Harvick 3117 -4
3 +1 Ryan Newman 3117 -4
4 +3 Denny Hamlin 3100 -21
5 +4 Matt Kenseth 3099 -22
6 -1 Carl Edwards 3099 -22
7 -1 Jeff Gordon 3093 -28
8 -- Kasey Kahne 3090 -31
9 -7 Kyle Busch 3086 -35
10 -- Brad Keselowski 3085 -36
11 -- Jimmie Johnson 3053 -68
12 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3045 -76
Full Standings