LAS VEGAS – Dale Earnhardt Jr. was racing toward his second victory of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season when he ran out of fuel on the final straightaway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Kickstart Chevrolet SS held on to record runner-up honors for the second straight week. With his Daytona 500 win factored in, Earnhardt now has an average finish of 1.67 to start the 2014 season and remains the points leader.
Earnhardt was joined in the top-10 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates at 1.5-mile desert track. Jimmie Johnson finished sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Here’s a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared at Las Vegas:
KASEY KAHNE, DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne started 13th at the 1.5-mile desert track, but almost immediately reported looseness in Turn 4 and dropped four positions. He regained momentum, though, and moved into 12th by Lap 28. Kahne climbed as high as seventh, but maintained the loose-handling condition wasn't budging in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS. He made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on Lap 92, before moving into the 15th position by Lap 106. Kahne broke into the top 12 by Lap 155 prior to NASCAR officials waving the yellow flag for debris. During caution, crew chief Kenny Francis called Kahne down pit road for fuel, a four-tire change and a chassis adjustment. While running 12th at Lap 176, Kahne radioed to Francis that his No. 5 Chevrolet SS still was feeling loose while exiting the turns. Nevertheless, Kahne cracked the top 10 on Lap 197. He pitted at Lap 201, taking four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment once again. The adjustments seemed to help, as Kahne was able to move into the 11th position by Lap 215. With 30 laps to go, he moved into the eighth position, where he finished the race at the 1.5-mile speedway.
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: After qualifying 15th at the 1.5-mile speedway, Gordon moved into 13th by the first caution on Lap 18. Seven laps later, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS broke into the top 10, and two laps later, he was running seventh. Gordon restarted from the second position on Lap 50 and maintained his footing inside the top five as the race unfolded. He was running sixth by the halfway point before hitting pit road at Lap 140 for his second green-flag pit stop. Gordon returned to pit road 16 laps later during a caution period and took fuel only. After the restart, Gordon moved into the fifth position, but radioed to crew chief Alan Gustafson that he was having trouble with the car at Lap 174. Nevertheless, he moved into the runner-up position with 60 laps to go, behind leader and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon made another green-flag pit stop at Lap 211 and with 17 laps to go, he was running 10th. He finished ninth at the 1.5 mile desert track.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: After starting fifth at the 1.5-mile desert track, Johnson moved into third by Lap 4 and was running second by Lap 16. During the first yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 18, Johnson told crew chief Chad Knaus that he needed more drive on Turn 4. After making necessary adjustments, Johnson settled into third by Lap 23. He restarted first after the second caution at Lap 49, and within four laps, Johnson had put 1.366 seconds between him and the runner-up car. He led for 30 laps before taking his first green-flag pit stop at Lap 96. By Lap 106, Johnson had moved back into the runner-up position, but dropped to third 10 laps later. At Lap 140, Knaus radioed for Johnson to come into pit road for his second green-flag pit stop. Just 16 laps later, Johnson returned to pit road during the third caution for a yellow-flag pit stop. Knaus elected for a tire change and slight adjustment for the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS. With 75 laps to go, Johnson moved into the runner-up position. He made a green-flag pit stop with 60 laps to go, taking four tires. Johnson was running third with 50 laps to go. With 15 laps to go, he was running seventh and moved into sixth with 10 laps to go. He finished sixth at the 1.5 mile desert track.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW KICKSTART CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: After qualifying 14th at the 1.5 mile desert track, Earnhardt moved into 11th by the first caution at Lap 18. By Lap 51, he was running third and moved into the runner-up position by Lap 82. Earnhardt led Lap 97 before making his first green-flag pit stop. Crew chief Steve Letarte opted for a four-tire change, and Earnhardt moved back into second by Lap 98. By the halfway point, he was running fourth in between teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Letarte called Earnhardt into pit road during a caution at Lap 156, electing for a fuel-only stop. After slight issues during the restart, Earnhardt slipped to seventh. However, with 60 laps to go, Earnhardt moved into the top position. He pitted at Lap 211, and this time, Letarte opted for right-side tires and a full tank of fuel. Earnhardt restarted first with 41 laps to go and led the final 40 laps. While battling eventual winner Brad Keselowski, Earnhardt ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished second.