Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought his engine was a little sour Saturday night during the Sprint Unlimited.

But there was nothing wrong with the engine. It was just the way his car was handling in the draft in the preseason race at Daytona International Speedway.

Earnhardt finished eighth among the 12 cars still running at the end of the race. While he expected more, he didn’t seem too upset after the race, knowing that this wasn’t his best car for the weekend.

“This is the car we tested and it didn't really run that great when we tested it,” Earnhardt said. “I could get a run and charge up into the top-five, but it didn't like the clean air up there. It got real draggy, just real slow up front.”

At one point in the second segment of the three-segment, 75-lap event, Earnhardt suddenly fell to the rear. He reported that his car might have had a little engine trouble.

“It was just the draft was easy to lose,” Earnhardt said. “With this little spoiler on the back, it's really easy to lose the draft because the air gets to your nose pretty quick, and the distance of the draft isn't as far back as it used to be off the car in front of you.

“So you can lose it pretty easily. You have to be real careful. Me and the No. 99 (of Carl Edwards) both lost it right there at the end of the second segment."

The day wasn’t a totally clean one for Earnhardt, who rubbed doors with Tony Stewart during the second segment.

“He said he got tight underneath me,” Earnhardt said. “I pulled down real fast to try to go to the middle. I had a good run on that 22 (of Joey Logano) and was trying to get up to the front.

“I felt like it was going to get harder and harder to pass as it went on.”

Stewart made sure his spotter told Earnhardt’s spotter what had happened, and Stewart described it similarly afterward.

“When Dale Jr. came down to the middle, where he was at made me really tight,” Stewart said. “I got up into him and then I got into him and couldn’t get off of him, bounced off of him about three times.”

All in all, Earnhardt, who has 13 career wins at Daytona, said it was a productive day.

“I had a good run on the No. 16 (of Greg Biffle) … in the second segment,” Earnhardt said. “My run was really strong, and I thought it would be enough to clear him, and it wasn't. The car died out pretty quick when I got down to the bottom in the clean air.

“Technically I thought that would be an easy pass. Hopefully, the 500 car has that kind of muscle, and maybe just this car didn't.”

Earnhardt appeared satisfied with the style of racing he saw in the Unlimited. He didn’t like the style of tandem drafting, and he is glad they can’t push too much.

After causing a multicar accident in testing in January, Earnhardt was able to at least get 75 fairly clean laps in Saturday night. He said he is fine with the cars being a little bit of a handful.

“The bumpers aren't perfect,” Earnhardt said. “They are imperfect when they line up, and that is going to cause some action and some drama out there.

“That is the way it used to be, and I think everybody is OK with that. The drafting and the way you work the draft, I think everybody is still kind of learning that. I learned a lot tonight, but I still think there is tons to learn."

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