Dale Earnhardt Jr. sees his championship hopes shift out of gear at Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 11:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – OCTOBER 11: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a great deal of confidence when the weekend started at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  NASCAR’s most popular driver was coming off a bad race the week prior, but felt the speed he had at Kansas Speedway would help his efforts.  He qualified 9th and felt good heading into Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series Bank of America 500. Sadly, it all came apart both literally and figuratively.

Earnhardt was running inside the top five and even led three times for a total of 4 laps. It all came to an end though when he had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 137 shortly after a caution flag. The transmission shifter had broken on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and the crew had to scramble to fix it.  He first came to the pits when they were closed, a move that sent him to the tail end of the field. That was the least of his worries however. The crew removed the passenger side window to get better access to the cockpit to try and fix the shifter.  In order to avoid losing a lap, the repairs were cut short as Earnhardt headed back out.  He returned to pit road after it had opened. The crew frantically worked on repairs, replaced the window and he went back out, restarting 23rd. The repairs fell short though.

“I gotta come back, it didn’t work,” Junior said on his radio. He reported that  he could shift from third to fourth gear, but that was all. The crew formulated a plan.  The next caution came on lap 237 and Earnhardt once again pitted for repairs. The crew again worked on the issue and sent him back out. Earnhardt was once again at the tail of the field and a lap down with 90 laps to go.  He wasn’t able to make up much ground and finished 20th, one lap down. MORE>>>

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