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DALE EARNHARDT JR.
NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RACE REPORT

Date: March 26, 2017
Race 5 of 36: Auto Club Speedway
Track Specs: Two-mile oval / 202 laps / 404 miles (overtime)
Start: 18th
Finish: 16th
Standings (from leader): 21st (-152)

RECAPPING THE RACE:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his 600th career NASCAR Cup Series start on Sunday in Fontana, California. Earnhardt qualified 18th, but started the race from the rear of the field after the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS team needed to replace a cut right-front tire prior to the race.

Earnhardt made quick work of the back half of the field in Stage 1. By Lap 10, he had moved up to 20th and was inside the top 15 by Lap 21, even though the driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet reported that he was loose in and off and tight in the center of the corner. Earnhardt made a green-flag pit stop on Lap 33 and was running 18th after the cycle of pit stops ended. He finished the first segment in 17th.

Continuing his push toward the front in Stage 2, Earnhardt had a great restart at the beginning of the segment and advanced to 13th. He continued battling handling issues on the No. 88 Axalta Chevy, but ran as high as 11th and finished the stage in 12th.

After an extended pit stop before the final stage, Earnhardt took the green flag 17th and remained on the lead lap through long stretches of green-flag racing. After a green-flag pit stop with 47 laps to go, he found himself in 15th when the field cycled through. When a caution flag waved with 20 laps to go, Earnhardt took four fresh tires on pit road and took the green flag for the restart still in 15th. He continued pushing forward through multiple more caution flags, including one that sent the race to overtime. He lined up 13th for the green-white-checkered restart. On the last lap, with Earnhardt battling on the verge of the top 10, he got caught behind a competitor that had made contact with the wall and ultimately took the checkered flag 16th.

Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates across the stripe, finishing 10th. Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson finished back-to-back in 20th and 21st, respectively.

QUOTING DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

“We had a lot of fun in Fontana. We had to start in the back, obviously, but passing all those cars at the beginning was cool. We got beat by some guys that had better tires at the end. I know we need to do better than 16th and we need to find more speed in the car, but we’ll keep working at it. I had a great time in the car and had a lot of fun today.” 

DALE EARNHARDT JR. - made his 600th career NASCAR Cup Series start on Sunday in Fontana, California. Earnhardt qualified 18th, but started the race from the rear of the field after the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS team needed to replace a cut right-front tire prior to the race. On the last lap, with Earnhardt battling on the verge of the top 10, he got caught behind a competitor that had made contact with the wall and ultimately took the checkered flag 16th.