SONOMA, Calif. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t have the speed to hang with the contenders in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, but perseverance and astute pit calls had him in position to escape the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road-course race of the season with a top-15 finish.
That’s when a multicar wreck after the final restart quashed his prospects. His No. 88 Chevrolet damaged in the melee, Earnhardt struggled home with a 23rd-place result, one week after ending a 143-race drought with a victory at Michigan.
He fell one notch to third in the Cup standings, 14 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth.
“We had new tires, and we were running good and restarted 13th (for a green-white-checkered-flag finish),” Earnhardt said. “So, if it had been somebody else getting wrecked at the end, maybe we would have finished in the top 10.
“I’m just mad because we didn’t run better . . . I’ve run better here. We weren’t good all weekend. We’ve got to put a better car on the racetrack. I ain’t the best road-course racer out there, but I can damn sure do better than that.”