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.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 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 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.