Earnhardt misses another shift and bows out early

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 10, 2017 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started from the rear of the field in the Axalta presents the Pocono 400 because a missed shift in practice had forced him to change engines before qualifying.

After a restart on Lap 57, Earnhardt repeated the mistake. Trying to nudge his shifter into fourth gear from third, he hit second gear instead, over-revving the engine. With his power plant out of commission, Earnhardt rolled slowly into the garage and retired from the race in 38th place.

In his final year of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing, Earnhardt has six finishes of 30th or worse in 14 races. Earnhardt was at a loss to explain the cause of the mistakes that caused his engine failures at Pocono Raceway.

“The shifter is not different, the handle is not different, the location, everything is the same,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know. It’s something about my motion that’s not… going in the wrong gear. I wish I could blame it on something else, because this is awful, it feels awful.

“The car was fast. We drove up into the top 15 there running great lap times. Really, really happy with the car. Wasn’t really running that hard backing up the corners big-time and just cruising forward, really happy. It’s just my fault. I don’t know what else to… I wish I could say that the shifter is different and something is out of line or not something I was doing last year as far as where we had the shifter mounted for Pocono.”

With a road course race at Sonoma and another trip to Pocono in the near future, it’s a problem Earnhardt and his team must solve.

“This really concerns me coming back here and the road courses, you know. But we haven’t had any problems all year long, but at places where we do a lot of shifting, I don’t know what is going on, what I’ve got to do or why this is really happening out of nowhere.

“I don’t know… we don’t really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I’ve been doing this all my life, and this isn’t a common issue, but it has been this weekend.”

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