AVONDALE, Ariz.— Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be on the bottom.
After staying out on old tires for the final restart with two laps left in Sunday’s Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, Earnhardt knew the bottom lane wasn’t the place to be.
Race leader Kevin Harvick chose the outside lane, putting Earnhardt, who was running second at the time, on the inside. It took just two corners for Carl Edwards, who restarted fourth on fresh rubber, to leave Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet in the dust.
And while Harvick and Edwards knocked fenders on the final lap, with Harvick winning the race by a scant .010 seconds, Earnhardt slipped to fifth at the finish.
“I would have loved to have had the top, so I could get them guys on the bottom and hold them down, but I had the bottom and new tires on the outside of me,” Earnhardt said. “But we finished really good.
“I don’t dislike the call to stay out. We had an awesome car, and that’s three weeks in a row I’ve enjoyed the hell out of driving it. I had a fun day and we ran great—really, really good. I’m proud of my guys.”
Earnhardt said his finish might have been better, had more drivers opted to forego pit stops before the last restart.
“Yeah, I was surprised we finished as good as we did,” he said. “I thought that was a good move to not pit. If a couple more guys don’t pit and we get another guy on the outside in the second row, we (would have been) in good shape.”