Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has reason to smile after losing out at Pocono

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 07:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 7, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

LONG POND, PA – JUNE 07: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 7, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

For a time Sunday it looked as though Dale Earnhardt Jr. could pull it off.  The driver who swept both races at Pocono Raceway last season was aiming to become the third driver in NASCAR history to win three consecutive Sprint Cup races at Pocono.  At the end of the day his bid fell short, however despite not winning, Earnhardt still had reasons to celebrate at the end of the Axalta 400.

Earnhardt started the day 20th, but by lap 6 had worked his way forward to 12th. By lap 22, Earnhardt was seventh and looked like a definite contender.  His contender status only improved when he rocketed to second on a restart on lap 74. He remained there for a time, but began to struggle and fell back as he end neared.  Earnhardt kept his Chevy inside the top 10 though falling outside the top runners during a pit stop.

He was working his way back forward when on lap 126 he and teammate Kasey Kahne made contact. MORE>>>

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