Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recipe for success this season has included running well at the end of events, often picking off several spots at the finish.

That didn’t happen in the STP Gas Booster 500 on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Even if he could pass cars at the end, he was already two laps down and had little to gain.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. spins after contact with Danica Patrick at Martinsville Speedway. (NASCAR Media)
The Hendrick Motorsports driver posted his worst finish of the season as he placed 24th, his first finish outside the top 10 in six races this year.

Having entered the race atop the Cup standings as the only driver to finish in the top 10 in each of the first five races, Earnhardt dropped to third in the standings, 12 points behind race winner Jimmie Johnson.

“We’ve got to capitalize at the tracks where we run good and this is one of them,” Earnhardt said. “So I’m pretty disappointed that we ran like we did. We just have to try better when we come back (in October).

“It’s a long year. Things are going to happen. It doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

Earnhardt, who started 17th, steadily passed cars to reach the top 10 in the first 50 laps and the top five by Lap 100. He was fifth with 200 laps to go but then fell back to 20th, a lap down, with 75 laps remaining as the handling of his car slipped away.

“At the start of the race, we had a good car,” Earnhardt said. “We made a lot of adjustments to change that and it was a bad car at the end of the race.”

With 34 laps remaining, he spun as part of a chain-reaction accident when Brian Vickers got into Danica Patrick, who got into Earnhardt. Vickers also might have gotten a nudge from Aric Almirola behind him.

“Somebody driving over their head got into Danica and run into her and knocked her into me,” Earnhardt said. “Part of that is kind of the way the racing goes. We were in the way all day. We got run over about five or six times.”

Leave a Reply.