Earnhardt Jr. shows strength in California

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

He may not have won the rain shortened Auto Club 400 Sunday but a third place finish for Dale Earnhardt Jr., was just as satisfying.

Starting 14th, Earnhardt began the race like many electing to short pit as for the first time in Auto Club Speedway weather threatened to shorten the event.

“We started short pitting at the beginning of the race,” Earnhardt said. “We sort of played our hand early, didn’t have an opportunity to do anything other than what we had planned from the start when we got toward halfway.  That really worked in my favor.”

For the first 129 laps there were no caution periods and Earnhardt took advantage of it.MORE>>>

 Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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