Dale Earnhardt Jr. Overcomes Early Misstep to Finish Runner-Up

by Tucker White On Sun, Apr. 17, 2016

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talking with Peyton Manning prior to the start of the race. Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

BRISTOL, Tenn.– Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to overcome a loss of power and loss of laps to come home runner-up at Thunder Valley.

After making an unscheduled stop on lap 1 for lack of power and falling two laps down, the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet rallied back to a second-place finish in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Yeah, we got the Roush system on our cars for the stuck‑throttle issue, and just warming the brakes up, I engaged that system to kill the throttle,” Earnhardt said. “I was warming the brakes up like I always do, and apparently I applied too much pressure and it killed the motor.

“We’ll work on that and maybe raise that threshold a little bit because I wasn’t really using the brake that much.

“So I just needed to cycle the ECU, reset that, came to pit road and did that. I probably could’ve done it on the track and saved ourselves a lot of trouble, but you don’t know what’s going on at that particular point, and you listen to the first thing anybody tells you when it comes to direction, and the first thing that my spotter said was that if I need to pit, I need to come on now. We got on pit road, cycled it, lost a couple laps. Greg did a good job getting the wave‑arounds and knowing when to take them and stuff, and we got back on the lead lap. We had about a 10th‑place car. We weren’t really that good all day. We tried a setup that we’ve never really ran here before, just trying to learn a little something going forward, and we’ll go home and science it out a little bit.

“We got real lucky the last three restarts to be on the outside line. We restarted 10th, 6th and 4th, and when you restart 4th you’re typically going to come out in second place after that. I was hoping we didn’t have any more cautions after that. So it was good. We’ll take it.”

This runner-up finish is his second consecutive second-place finish this season after a runner-up the week before in Texas.

“Well, I hope the second comes a little easier than this one did,” Earnhardt said. “I’d love to get a win. We weren’t really as close today as we were last week. We had a really good car last week, a top‑3 car. This car wasn’t that good, but we kind of understand why. We’re going outside the box as far as what we typically run here for setup.

“And that’s good. You didn’t ‑‑ the setup didn’t quite work but you still had a good day and you can go home and learn and try to science it out and make that setup work. I like finishing good, and that’s going to help us get into the Chase pretty comfortably if we don’t have any major issues, but we certainly want to win. Going to victory lane is important to our sponsors, and it’s obviously fun. But it’s good for our team to set ourselves up to not have to worry about the Chase anymore. Even though you know you’re a top‑5 team or top‑10 team that should make the Chase without any issue, you can’t help but count them points to 16th or 17th each week.”

Earnhardt leaves Bristol sixth in points trailing new points leader Kevin Harvick by 37.

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