Earnhardt completes bittersweet Talladega weekend in 7th
Send a link to a friend
[October 16, 2017]
By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- During a memorable
weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, the reality of his final season
in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet intruded insistently
into Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s consciousness.
On Friday, the speedway gave Junior one of the most significant
parting gifts he has received this year in a parade of recognition
as he visits tracks for the last time as a full-time driver.
On Saturday, Earnhardt won the pole for the Alabama 500, his first
at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
And on Sunday, Earnhardt took the green flag from the third position
with three laps left, as fans in the packed grandstands stood,
screamed and hoped against hope that Earnhardt could pull off a
victory in his last run at NASCAR's biggest oval.
But it was Brad Keselowski who took the checkered flag in a Ford
painted in a scheme that recalled the car he once drove in the
NASCAR XFINITY Series for Earnhardt, who gave Keselowski the break
that launched his career. Earnhardt faded to seventh over the final
three laps. Earnhardt was disappointed at the result--less for
himself and more for the fans who came to witness his final run.
"I'm always disappointed when we don't run well at tracks I know we
should, but we did run well today, but I know that everybody was
probably... is a little bit of air out of the bag there at the end
to finish seventh," said Earnhardt, whose six victories at Talladega
are the most among active drivers.
"I know those folks were hoping we could put something together, and
I know there's a lot of folks came here, particularly to see this
race because it's the last one here. I hate to leave slightly
disappointed, but hopefully they enjoyed everything else they saw. I
mean, we ran as hard as we could, did the best we could."
And though Talladega perhaps offered Earnhardt his best chance at
victory before the end of the season, NASCAR's most popular driver
isn't preparing concession speeches for the remaining Monster Energy
NASCAR Cup Series tracks.
"Well, I think we go to the race track with a positive attitude,"
Earnhardt said. "We know we've won at some of these tracks coming
up, and you just go in there with a good attitude and see how the
weekend works out for you.
"I don't think that we've lost hope on winning a race by any means
with the rest of the year. We can't. I wouldn't want a driver who
felt that way, wouldn't want a team who felt that way, either. So
we'll go in there with a solid attitude and see how it works out for
Late wreck ruins Elliott's winning chances
[to top of second column]
For 182 laps, Chase Elliott avoided the wrecks that wiped out eight
of the 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders, but
after a restart on the next-to-last restart of a rough-and-tumble
race, his luck ran out.
Elliott was dicing for position on Lap 183 as the field--by then
reduced to 19 cars--approached Turn 3. He tried to split the cars of
Kyle Larson to the inside and Daniel Suarez to the outside, but
Suarez edged down the track, and contact between Suarez's Toyota and
Elliott's Chevrolet started a six-car wreck that left Elliott's No.
24 damaged beyond repair.
"I had a really big run, Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was giving me a great
shove, and Daniel had left enough room in the middle," said Elliott,
who finished 16th in a race of heavy attrition and enters next
Sunday's elimination event at Kansas Speedway sixth in the
"Larson left me enough room from the bottom. There was a hole and I
filled it. I don't guess Daniel either saw me in time, or that it
was I just had a high rate of speed coming, and he didn't know or
tried to block it. I'm not sure. We will move on."
Wild accident ends Stenhouse's restrictor-plate run
After a competitive beginning, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s bid to win a
third straight restrictor-plate race ended in a 16-car wreck
triggered by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leader Martin Truex
Jr. on Lap 172.
Contact from Truex's Toyota sent David Ragan's Ford for a wild ride
across the track near the entrance to Turn 3, and Stenhouse's Ford
suffered racing-ending collateral damage in the melee. The wreck
dropped Stenhouse to a 26th-place finish and left him 11th in the
series standings, 22 points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighth.
Next Sunday at Kansas Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.
"We were running up the bottom, and all of a sudden the 38 (Ragan)
came down," said Stenhouse, who had finished fourth in the first
stage of the Alabama 500. "I saw some stuff going on at the top and
kind of right in front of me, but the 38 ended up parked right in
front of us. I felt like we had a really good run coming up the
bottom with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), trying to get some of our track
position back that we had lost at the end of the second stage.
"Our Sunny D Ford was fast again. It felt like we had a car that was
capable of getting up there and contending for the win, led some
laps, and it was a bummer we didn't get into Victory Lane. But we'll
go on to Kansas next week and have some fun."
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.