Late Surge Lifts Earnhardt to Top-10 Finish at Phoenix

Tyler Overstreet | JR Motorsports | 11/12/2017

Dale Jr. NASCAR Nationwide News Phoenix

Dale Jr. rallied late for a top-10 finish in his final NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway.

Race: Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway
Track Specs: 1-mile tri-oval / 312 laps
Weather: Sunny, 83 degrees
Race Winner: Matt Kenseth
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 10th

The No. 88 Nationwide team continued their strong finish to the season with a 10th-place finish Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway. For Dale Earnhardt Jr., the result is his eighth top-10 of the season and fourth in the last seven races.

The former three-time Phoenix winner started 14th and gained three positions in the opening laps before his Chevrolet began to lose grip as green-flag runs ensued on a hot afternoon in the desert. Earnhardt reported to crew chief Greg Ives that his No. 88 car was too tight in the center Phoenix’s slow, flat corners, but lacked grip on corner exit. By the end of the opening 75-lap stage, Earnhardt was scored 19th.

After a pit stop for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments between stages, Earnhardt restarted 18th at Lap 83. Similar to the first stage, Earnhardt quickly gained positions after going back green. The stage ran green for an extended period that presented the same lack-of-grip challenges from the first stage. The No. 88 managed to stay on the lead lap and took the second green-checkered flag in 20th.

The adjustments Ives and the Nationwide crew continued to make appeared to help as Earnhardt raced his way into the top 15 early in the final stage. While running 15th at Lap 226, Earnhardt reported that he felt a vibration in the right-front tire. That same lap, the tire problem was confirmed as Earnhardt nursed his Chevrolet back to pit road after the right-front tire went flat entering turn one. Fortunately for the No. 88 driver, he kept the car off the wall and rejoined the race two laps down.

Following Earnhardt’s issues, the caution waved and allowed the No. 88 to take the wave around to become only one lap down. Shortly after the next restart, yet another caution waved and Earnhardt received the free pass to restart on the lead lap again at Lap 244.

In the late laps, Earnhardt utilized a strong pit strategy from Ives and his veteran instincts on restarts to climb to a race-high 10th position where he’d finish his final run at Phoenix International Raceway.

Matt Kenseth captured the victory over Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.