Earnhardt Jr.: ‘I learned a lesson’ in route to a second place finish at RichmondBy Kelly Crandall
Finding himself second to Kyle Busch with less than 10 laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. knew he wasn’t going to catch the No. 18. His car just didn’t have enough brake and therefore his chance at a win, along with Hendrick Motorsports chance at #200, was nothing but a nice thought.
All because he the driver, had made the decision to bring the same master cylinder to Richmond he had run at Martinsville a few weeks ago. Earnhardt Jr. went on to finish second for the second time this season. He also moves to second in the Sprint Cup Series points after nine races, five markers behind leader Greg Biffle.
“Our car was pretty good yesterday and started the race nice,” said Earnhardt Jr. afterwards. “We made some good adjustments to help it roll to center points in the race. I got them talked into going to a different master cylinder for a little softer pedal at Martinsville and then we brought it here and you take on the brake pedal so far down in the corner that it just cooked the fronts and I’d get a real soft pedal pretty quick.
“I couldn’t get enough front brake in it at the end to run as hard as I wanted to and we just had hurt the balance a little bit on entry. But really happy come home with second. We were running fifth all night and just got lucky on that restart to be on the inside and get a couple spots.”
He went on to not that the No. 88 National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet was horrible at Richmond last season and he was curious to see how they would run on Saturday. It was much better.
Running in the top 15 for much of the night, Earnhardt Jr. was able to climb his way into the top five before having a problem on pit road. He was unable to turn out of his pit stall because of the way Stephen Leicht had angled his No. 33.
The extra time cost Earnhardt Jr. about 10 positions. He was able to rebound and climb back into the top 10 when things started to crazy. Cautions, pit stops and a black flag put him back into the top five.
“If the car was good I could have dealt with the brake problems, if the car was faster than the 18 we would have got there to him and maybe we’d raced for it, but the brake problems were that bad,” said Earnhardt Jr.
“I just chose a different master cylinder at Martinsville and I shouldn’t have brought it here. I just shouldn’t have done that because I know better and these cars are going too fast in the corner running that kind of master cylinder. I learned a lesson and we’ll have an idea what to use when we come back.”
That being in September, the last race to make the Chase. First comes Talladega next weekend, where Earnhardt Jr. has won six times. His fans are pumped up and willing to bet the streak ends in one more week.
Last season Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth after pushing teammate Jimmie Johnson to the win. Johnson edged Clint Bowyer by 0.002 seconds, tied for the closest finish in NSCS history.
Earnhardt Jr. though isn’t think about the past or present. Driver and team are performing as they should and earning the finishes they’ve worked hard for. Getting better and better in the process.
But even though he’ll enter one of his best racetracks coming off a second place finish, second in points and off to solid start to the season, he’s not counting on it to push him towards a win.
“No, I don’t think momentum is a real thing,” he said. “The team is confident, we’re feeling good. We feel like we’re competing well. Really close to winning a race. We ain’t really raced for a win yet and lost one, so I wouldn’t count tonight.
“But we’re getting better at running top five and top 10s. We’ll just try to keep doing that. There’s too many variables going into races at Talladega whether you feel confidence winning or not. There’s just too much going on there.”