Earnhardt Ends Up 22nd at Darlington

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 9/3/2017

Dale Jr. Darlington NASCAR Nationwide News

An unscheduled pit stop late in the race relegated Dale Jr. to a 22nd-place finish at Darlington Raceway.

Race: Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Track Specs: 1.366-mile oval / 367 laps
Weather: Clear, 85 degrees
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 22nd

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final NASCAR Cup Series start at Darlington Raceway ended with a 22nd-place finish. The result leaves Earnhardt 22nd in the standings with only one race remaining before the Playoff cutoff. Earnhardt must win next Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway in order to qualifying for this season’s Playoffs.

Racing a Nationwide Chevrolet that resembled his AC Delco Chevrolet from his 1998 and 1999 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship seasons, Earnhardt ascended up the leaderboard in the opening laps. After starting 22nd, the No. 88 was up four positions to 18th by the first caution at Lap 16 and up another two spots to 16th when the caution waved at Lap 41. Earnhardt climbed several positions higher to end Stage One in 13th.

Stage Two didn’t start off like Earnhardt would have liked. Reporting that his Nationwide Chevrolet was too tight and struggling with poor ride quality, Earnhardt slid back to 19th. Crew chief Greg Ives made multiple adjustments during pit stops that eventually improved the No. 88’s handling enough for Earnhardt to charge back up to 14th by the end of Stage Two.

Earnhardt started the final stage 12th and picked off one spot after the initial restart. As the stage wore on, Earnhardt reported the ride quality wasn’t to his liking and his car was beginning to loosen up as the laps clicked away. The final 102 laps ran caution free with a round of green-flag pit stops. Earnhardt was forced to make a second pit stop late because of a flat right-rear tire.

The unscheduled stop left Earnhardt with a 22nd-place finish.

Denny Hamlin picked up his second victory of the season over Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones.