Earnhardt Stretches Fuel for Third-Place Finish at Charlotte

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 5/25/2015

Charlotte Dale Jr. NASCAR Nationwide News Sprint Cup Series

Dale Jr. conserved fuel over the race's final 59 laps to take a third-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The finish gives Earnhardt seven top-five efforts in 12 starts so far this season.

Race: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval / 400 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 68 degrees
Race Winner: Carl Edwards
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 3rd

Continuing on his strong start to 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted another third-place finish in Sunday’s 600-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His fifth third-place effort in 12 races so far this season was unlike the previous four. This time, the result came by way of stretching his fuel mileage over the race’s final 59-lap green flag stint to the checkered flag.

Earnhardt’s night began much like the previous week’s All-Star Race with his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet lacking overall grip and stuck mired just outside the top 15. However, after the team’s second pit stop, crew chief Greg Ives shifted the team’s efforts in the right direction with a chassis adjustment that allowed Earnhardt to move inside the top 10. His progress wasn’t done there as the blue and white No. 88 moved all the way to third by lap 129.

From there, Earnhardt raced among the top five until the final 100 laps. Seeing that it would be difficult to leapfrog several stronger contenders, Earnhardt urged Ives to get creative with pit strategy in an effort to win the race. Heeding Earnhardt’s advice, Ives called his driver to pit road under caution at lap 338 despite having pitted only nine laps earlier. The move dropped Earnhardt from sixth to 11th for what ended up being the final restart on lap 342.

Over the race’s final 59 laps, Earnhardt found himself stuck outside the top 10 until Ives asked that he reduce his throttle input to only 80 percent with 20 laps remaining. That fuel conservation allowed Earnhardt to stretch his fuel to the checkered flag while many other leaders were forced to pit.

Carl Edwards also saved enough fuel to the finish to earn his first victory of the season over Greg Biffle, Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.