DALE EARNHARDT JR.
NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
Date: April 2, 2017
Race 6 of 36: Martinsville Speedway
Track Specs: 0.526-mile oval / 500 laps / 263 miles
Standings (from leader): 25th (-169)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
An incident with less than 100 laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Martinsville, Virginia sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet team after showcasing solid runs throughout the course of the 500-lap event.
Inclement weather cancelled Friday’s qualifying session, which slated Earnhardt 21st on the starting grid. He made quick work of the field, advancing to 14th by Lap 80 and into the top 10 at Lap 117 after crew chief Greg Ives called for two right-side tires during the second caution period of the race. While running seventh, contact with a competitor caused him to spin out with seven laps remaining in Stage 1. He was able to stay on the lead lap after quick repairs on pit road during the ensuing caution, and ultimately finished the stage 24th.
Earnhardt restarted Stage 2 from the 11th position after Ives elected to keep his driver on track in order to gain track position. Happy with how his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS was handling, Earnhardt marched through the field and advanced as high as fifth by Lap 172 before ending the second stage in the sixth position.
A speedy pit stop during the caution period before the final stage placed Earnhardt fifth for the restart. After being shuffled back a few positions and pitting for routine service and adjustments under the Lap 310 caution period, the Kannapolis, North Carolina native restarted 13th on Lap 314 and once again had his Chevy geared to move up toward the field. He was 10th by Lap 327, eighth by Lap 333 and sixth by Lap 361.
With 135 laps remaining, Earnhardt was racing in the ninth position after tussling with a loose-handling Axalta Chevy. Ives instructed his driver to bring his red and yellow Chevy to pit road under caution for adjustments. As Earnhardt was leaving pit road, NASCAR deemed he was too fast exiting and had to serve a speedway penalty, which placed his 21st for the Lap 399 restart.
He advanced to the 17th position before being collected in a multi-car incident on Lap 418 that ended the team’s day early. He was scored 34th.
Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates across the finish line in third. For the second week in a row, teammates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson finished back-to-back in 14th and 15th, respectively.
QUOTING DALE EARNHARDT JR.:
“I love this place. It was a lot of fun today. The car was really good. Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys made a lot of changes last night and made our car way better. I must have sped on pit road. They said it was in the segment right after our pit stall, so I must have gotten a good launch out of there. I don’t know how you speed in a little segment just coming out of the pit box, but we must have. It got us in the back and we got bottled-up there in (Turn) 3 and there aren’t any bumpers on these cars. It knocked the radiator out of it. We went to the garage to try to fix it, but can’t with the new rules. I was having a good time. But, I’m disappointed with the way we’re finishing. We’ve got to finish better than this.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR. - An incident with less than 100 laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Martinsville, Virginia sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet team after showcasing solid runs throughout the course of the 500-lap event.