Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t regret late pit call at Phoenix

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 13: Dale Earnhardt Jr, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, races Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 13: Dale Earnhardt Jr, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, races Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, AZ – MARCH 13: Dale Earnhardt Jr, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, races Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, Ariz.— Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be on the bottom.

After staying out on old tires for the final restart with two laps left in Sunday’s Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, Earnhardt knew the bottom lane wasn’t the place to be.

Race leader Kevin Harvick chose the outside lane, putting Earnhardt, who was running second at the time, on the inside. It took just two corners for Carl Edwards, who restarted fourth on fresh rubber, to leave Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet in the dust.

And while Harvick and Edwards knocked fenders on the final lap, with Harvick winning the race by a scant .010 seconds, Earnhardt slipped to fifth at the finish.

“I would have loved to have had the top, so I could get them guys on the bottom and hold them down, but I had the bottom and new tires on the outside of me,” Earnhardt said. “But we finished really good.

“I don’t dislike the call to stay out. We had an awesome car, and that’s three weeks in a row I’ve enjoyed the hell out of driving it. I had a fun day and we ran great—really, really good. I’m proud of my guys.”

Earnhardt said his finish might have been better, had more drivers opted to forego pit stops before the last restart.

“Yeah, I was surprised we finished as good as we did,” he said. “I thought that was a good move to not pit. If a couple more guys don’t pit and we get another guy on the outside in the second row, we (would have been) in good shape.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.