DOVER, Del. -- It all came down to the final 23 laps at Dover International Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was teetering on the edge of advancing to the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and as the green flag dropped for the last restart of the race, he knew what he had to do.
"I didn't know what the points looked like, but they just told me I had to beat Jamie (McMurray)," Earnhardt recalled.
So, that's exactly what he did. He jumped from eighth to fourth on the restart, passing the key competitor in the process.
"It was a great move that Dale Jr. made on the outside," McMurray said.
Earnhardt said the caution flag that waved to set up the final restart of the race was key.
"(McMurray) was trying to get in to the bottom in front of the (No.) 20 into (Turn) 3. They just kind of rolled that corner real slow for some reason. I drove in there on the outside. That was pretty much my only shot to get at Jamie," Earnhardt said. "So I just had to jump out there and hopefully it turned in the middle of the corner and didn't push. And it worked."
The move allowed Earnhardt to finish third and earn his way into the next round of the Chase in the process.
Teammate Jeff Gordon, meanwhile, was just as concerned about the final restart.
"I'd hardly call it drama-free -- I was freaking out there at the end," Gordon said. "We knew we needed to be top-10, 11, maybe 12 if we were lucky. We did that. Until the end where that caution came out and people swapped up their strategy. We just got eaten up on that restart and were falling back -- I didn't know what was going to happen. So it wasn't easy but I'm real proud of this entire AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet team. Now we reset and go see what we can do the next three."
Gordon's 12th-place finish was enough to push him into the Contender Round along with Earnhardt.
Both teammates said they were proud of the effort their teams put in throughout the race and all season long. Now, that effort will have to continue as the postseason moves forward.
"Half the battle is preparation," Earnhardt said. "We've just got to show up ready in the ballpark with a fast car. That starts on Monday and Tuesday. We'll have a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions, a lot of phone calls, text messages, just a lot of conversation trying to prepare for this next race. You do that each week and hopefully you do it and get ready and when you show up your car's fast."