Junior Rallies Late to Finish 9th at Michigan

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 6/18/2017

Dale Jr. Michigan Mountain Dew NASCAR News

Dale Jr. drove from 24th to ninth in the final 10 laps to notch his third top-10 finish of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

Race: FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped oval / 200 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 80 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Larson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 9th

For the third time in the past four races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. notched a finish of 11th or better with his ninth-place run in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway. Earnhardt battled inside the top 15 throughout the 400-mile event and was able to capitalize on a late-race restart to earn his third top-10 result of the season.

Earnhardt started the race 17th and ran inside the top 15 for much of the opening 60-lap stage while reporting his No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet was just a bit loose, but overall pretty good. In a recurring theme throughout the race, the two-time Michigan winner’s running position would be dependent on whether or not he lined up in the inside or outside lane on restarts. Following a competition caution at lap 25, Earnhardt took the ensuing restart on the inside lane in 11th and ultimately slipped back a few spots to end the stage 15th.

During stage two, which ran predominately green flag, Earnhardt’s running position continued to hover between 11th and 15th as he crossed the line 12th.

The final stage brought a variety of strategies that mixed up the field. Earnhardt opened the stage 18th and quickly jumped to 11th. When the caution waved at lap 150, crew chief Greg Ives chose to give Earnhardt fresh right-side tires only, allowing him to restart third with 46 laps remaining. Initially, the No. 88 maintained a position inside the top five until Earnhardt reported that his Chevrolet was becoming too loose. That forced him to slip back to 12th before yet another waved at lap 180. Ives once again called for a two-tire change, but opted to bring Earnhardt back in again after another quick caution. The second pit stop dropped Earnhardt to a race-low 24th with only 10 laps remaining.

Earnhardt jumped five positions in one lap on the lap-191 restart before another wreck slowed the race. Restarting 18th with only five laps remaining, Junior utilized the fresher Goodyears on his Chevrolet to vault his way up the leaderboard and inside the top 10 to finish the race ninth.

Kyle Larson claimed his second victory of the season over Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.