Earnhardt Avoids Late-Race Carnage to Finish 11th at Martinsville

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 10/29/2017

Dale Jr. Martinsville NASCAR Nationwide News

Dale Jr. scored his fifth consecutive finish of 12th or better with an 11th-place run at Martinsville Speedway.

Race: First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway
Track Specs: .526-mile oval / 500 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 49 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 11th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed an 11th-place finish in Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The result gives the No. 88 Nationwide team their fifth consecutive finish of 12th or better.

Racing his personal favorite paint scheme, a.k.a. the Grey Ghost, Earnhardt started 21st on a dreary day at the Virginia short track. Throughout the first stage, the former Martinsville winner reported that his Chevrolet needed more front grip to help him move his way forward. Despite making progress at various points in the 130-lap stage, Earnhardt took the first green-checkered flag right where he started in 21st.

Crew chief Greg Ives and the No. 88 team continued making adjustments each time Earnhardt visited pit road. While the second stage ran green for its entirety, Earnhardt reported that his Nationwide Chevrolet had no rear grip and that problem thwarted his initial progress inside the top 15. By the end of the stage, Earnhardt was scored one lap down in 18th.

Early in the final stage, Ives elected to keep Earnhardt on track while the leaders so he could take the wave around to rejoin the lead lap under caution at Lap 302. The strategy play was rewarded almost immediately as the caution waved again just a few laps after the ensuing restart. The caution allowed Earnhardt to take on fresh tires and restart with the other lead lap cars.

The positive momentum continued as Earnhardt rallied his way inside the top 15 and for a short period inside the top 10. As the race shifted to night time, Earnhardt found himself mired between 11th and 15th.

With a trio of restarts in the final 50 laps, Earnhardt was able to dodge the beating and banging going on around him to take the checkered flag in 11th.

Kyle Busch captured the win to advance himself to the Championship 4 in Homestead in three weeks. Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.