After sixth-place run, Dale Earnhardt Jr. reflects on his legacy

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 24: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, drive during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 24, 2017 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

SONOMA, Calif. –That Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is only slightly short of miraculous.

Consider this. On Lap 14, Earnhardt lost control of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet approaching Turn 11, slid through the corner and collided with Danica Patrick’s Ford.

On Lap 31, Earnhardt was the meat in a three-wide sandwich entering Turn 4, with Kyle Larson dive-bombing to the inside and Danica Patrick on the outside. A chain-reaction collision sent Patrick spinning into the path of her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., whose Ford was damaged beyond repair.

But Earnhardt persevered, and with the help of pit strategy designed to gain track position, he restarted second on Lap 55 after the conclusion of the race’s second stage. With the race running green until the final circuit (Lap 110), Earnhardt held sixth—best among Chevrolet drivers—to post his second straight top 10.

But the driver who will retire from full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing at the end of the season adopted a more global perspective after the race.

“Long after your career, guys come along and win races, and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten,” Earnhardt said. “But who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well.

“I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever. And I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. Hopefully, I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”