EARNHARDT’S WILD RIDE
As the laps wound down in Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, more and more cars were being collected in big incidents.
And time after time, Dale Earnhardt Jr. found a way to miss them.
“Just got lucky on those wrecks,” he said. “Just things start flying around, I don't know. Ain't nothing I'm doing, I'm just not getting hit, you know, and not losing control of my car. Just really luck.”
On the last of the multiple-car incidents with six laps to go, however, Earnhardt made slight contact with a competitor while attempting to avoid getting caught up.
“The last one knocked the right front end really bad and bent the splitter down about an inch-and-a-half and knocked it on the racetrack,” he explained.
While he was able to stay on the racetrack and battle it out for the final three laps to the checkered flag, he wasn’t able to push forward to the front of the pack.
“When we got going there on that last restart, it just wouldn't go in the corners especially, so everybody around us was just wasting their time pushing us,” he said. “They sort of figured that out after a lap or two and decided to leave us alone, and we just kind of hung on there to get seventh.”
Through it all, Earnhardt was pleased to have taken home a top-10 in his final trip to Talladega as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver.
“I'm glad to be able to finish and finish well. That means a lot to me,” he said, noting that he wishes he could’ve had a shot at the win without damage to his car at the end. “I know a lot of folks came and traveled here to see us run, so I know they're disappointed we didn't win, but I'm glad they got to see us run the whole event, and hopefully they enjoyed it.”
The final multiple-car incident that damaged Earnhardt’s car also involved Chase Elliott.
Elliott, who had led 26 laps in the race, was pushing back toward the front. He took the field three-wide as he looked to split two competitors and sprint back into the lead.
“I had a really big run,” the driver explained. “Dale was giving me a great shove and Daniel (Suarez) had left enough room in the middle and (Kyle) Larson left me enough room from the bottom. There was a hole, and I filled it.”
But Elliott wasn’t able to complete the pass, as contact halted the run and caused an incident that resulted in a red flag.
“I don’t guess Daniel saw me in time or what it was, just had a high rate of speed coming and he didn’t know or tried to block it – I’m not sure,” he said. “The car was good again today, and that means more than anything, so we’ll move on.”
JOHNSON’S DAY ENDS EARLY
Jimmie Johnson, like Elliott, was caught in a multiple-car incident late in Sunday’s race.
It ended his day prematurely while he was running inside the top 10.
“Really hard to tell what started it – I just saw the No. 38 turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall,” he explained. “I’m OK. It knocked the wind out of me for sure.”
The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS noted that earning extra points in the first two stages of the race helped soften the blow of what was scored a 24th-place finish.
“Definitely valuable,” he said. “That was part of the plan coming in here, and I think the whole field kind of had that same mindset. We had a very fast Lowe’s Chevrolet even with it torn up after a couple of little incidents on the track. We were still in there mixing it up for the win.”