Junior, 88 Team Log Strong Run at Sonoma

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 6/25/2017

Axalta Dale Jr. NASCAR News Sonoma

Dale Jr. recorded his second consecutive top-10 finish with a sixth-place result at Sonoma Raceway.

Race: Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway
Track Specs: 1.99-mile road course / 110 laps
Weather: Clear, 74 degrees
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 6th

For the fourth consecutive season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. logged a finish of 11th or better at Sonoma Raceway with a sixth-place result in Sunday’s Save Mart 350. The strong effort by the No. 88 Axalta team gives them back-to-back top-10s for the first time this season and their fourth finish of 11th or better in the past five races.

Earnhardt started 10th and began working his way forward in the opening laps. While running seventh entering turn 11 on lap 14, Earnhardt looked to the inside of Danica Patrick when she moved right to fend off the No. 88. The block forced Earnhardt into the marbles and resulted in the Axalta Chevrolet spinning backwards entering the tight hairpin turn. Earnhardt managed to avoid serious damage as his out-of-control Chevrolet made slight contact with Kyle Larson’s No. 42 car and Patrick nosed into the No. 88’s door as the car came to a stop. Crew chief Greg Ives and car chief Travis Mack oversaw repair efforts on Earnhardt’s car and sent him back on track where he finished the opening 25-lap stage 36th.

After pitting on lap 22, Ives elected to leave Earnhardt on track between stages, which allowed the No. 88 to climb all the way to 19th for the ensuing restart at lap 30. From there, the combination of a strong car and several other drivers opting for varying pit strategies allowed Earnhardt to charge his way up to sixth by the end of the second stage.

Ives again kept Earnhardt on track between stages and gave his driver prime track position in second to start the final stage. The No. 88 remained solidly in the top 10 before pitting again at lap 68. As the laps clicked away, Earnhardt remained sixth, but began to feel pressure from cars with fresher tires. That predicament led Ives to call the No. 88 to pit road once again at lap 96 to provide him four fresh Goodyear Eagles for a 15-lap sprint to the finish.

Earnhardt fell outside the top 10, but went on the offensive to make a charge back up to sixth before the checkered flag.

Kevin Harvick took his first victory of the season followed by Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.