RICHMOND, Va. — If Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck. Sunday at Richmond International Raceway was a microcosm of his abysmal final season to date.
Going into Richmond, Earnhardt’s season has included being taken out of the Daytona 500, while leading, in a multi-car wreck, finishing 30th at Atlanta, 16th at Las Vegas, 14th at Phoenix, 16th at Fontana, taken out in a late-race multi-car wreck at Martinsville, a fifth-place finish at Texas and wrecking out at Bristol.
Starting 12th, Earnhardt was running eighth at lap 72 when, under the second caution of the Toyota Owners 400, he was busted for speeding on pit road and restarted 26th.
He made it to second in the running order, thanks to a cycle of green flag pit stops as he had yet to pit, with 57 laps to go when teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was exiting pit road, slammed into him exiting Turn 2.
“He (Johnson) said he didn’t see us,” Earnhardt said. “He had pitted and got tires and we were out there running around the top and weren’t ready to pit yet. He said he didn’t get any notice that he had a car outside. He was coming to pass me. I was running the top right against the fence and really wasn’t watching the mirror, so I didn’t know he was there or anybody was coming. TJ (Majors, spotter) was giving me pretty good warning about guys getting on my inside, but otherwise when you are running the top you don’t have to worry about it everybody kind of takes care of you, but Jimmie (Johnson) didn’t know we were there. Came off the corner and didn’t know the car was there. It was an explosion, but the car held up pretty well.”
Eight laps after the ensuing restart, the left-rear tire on Earnhardt’s car gave out and he spun out in Turn 3. He brought his car home to a 30th-place finish. It’s his fifth finish of 30th or worse in nine races, amounting to a 24.4 finishing average on the season. He avoided his fourth DNF of the season running two laps down at the finish.
He leaves Richmond 24th in points, 257 behind points leader Kyle Larson.