DALE EARNHARDT JR.
NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
Date: April 9, 2017
Race 7 of 36: Texas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval / 334 laps / 501 miles
Standings (from leader): 20th (-182)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t let starting near the rear of the field for Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway slow him down. Earnhardt drove the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS through the pack to earn his first top-five finish of the 2017 season.
Rolling off the grid 37th, Earnhardt gained 10 spots in just two laps once the green flag dropped. After pitting for adjustments and right-side tires during the competition caution, he lined up 19th for the Lap-36 restart. He had the No. 88 Axalta Chevy inside the top 15 by Lap 39, and entered the top 10 on Lap 59. Earnhardt battled the handling on his Chevrolet, fighting a tight corner exit, but maintained his position inside the top 15, finishing Stage 1 in 15th.
His race to the front continued in Stage 2, as he worked his way to 12th by Lap 100 after starting the stage 19th following a four-tire pit stop. When a caution flag flew on Lap 122, crew chief Greg Ives used pit strategy with another two-tire stop to help Earnhardt gain track position. After restarting sixth, the driver of the Axalta Chevy made another stop with 15 laps to go in Stage 2 and finished the segment in ninth, earning two points.
After staying off of pit road before the final segment, he restarted third and had moved into second by Lap 211. Nine laps later, he headed to pit road for a green-flag stop, and when the field cycled through, he had settled into third once again. The final segment featured long stretches of green-flag racing, and after another cycle of stops, Earnhardt was in fourth with 44 laps to go. The No. 88 team elected to take two tires during a caution with 35 laps to go, and he restarted sixth but quickly moved back inside the top five when the green flag waved. He maintained his position and crossed the finish line fifth.
Jimmie Johnson earned his seventh win at Texas, giving Hendrick Motorsports its first win of the 2017 season in the process. Chase Elliott joined Johnson and Earnhardt in the top 10, notching his fifth top-10 finish of the year in ninth place. Kasey Kahne had mechanical trouble and finished 38th.
QUOTING DALE EARNHARDT JR.:
“I figured we would get a good finish sooner or later, but it’s nice. I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, but we will take top five. We’ve run in the top six here like seven times in a row – crazy. I like the track. I like the repave. We saw the second groove come in a little bit. I know the guys were excited – they’ve worked really hard. I’ll say this – our team, we spend a lot of time together communicating before the races. This past year, it would have been easy for a lot of those guys to give up, but we’ve kept motivating each other to be ready when the car’s ready and the luck is there, and we were today.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR. - didn’t let starting near the rear of the field for Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway slow him down. Earnhardt drove the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS through the pack to earn his first top-five finish of the 2017 season.