After finishing a dismal 38th at Pocono last weekend after blowing two engines during the race weekend, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. headed into Michigan looking to bounce back and bounce back is exactly what he did as he was scored ninth when the checkered flag flew.
Aside from the Pocono finish, Earnhardt’s finish on Sunday marks finishes of 11th or better in three of the last four races, giving his No. 88 team some momentum heading into a summer stretch that will be crucial for his playoff hopes.
“We had a great car,” said Earnhardt. “Just had a hard time getting any track position and keeping it. Greg (Ives, crew chief) did a good job trying to get us that track position on one stop. We just got real loose on that run, about wrecked the car a couple of times and lost a lot of spots. Got lucky there at the end to restart on the outside in 18th and got a bunch of spots there the last few laps to finish in the top 10.”
“We had a little bit better car than ninth, I thought. After last week, it’s good to get one finished and would like to finish a little better though. The car is a little bit better than that.”
Michigan has been a good track for Earnhardt as he has broken two winless streaks at the track and always seems to run well on the blazing fast two-mile oval, but the race weekend did not start as well as they had hoped as he only managed a 17th place starting spot for Sunday’s race.
The poor qualifying effort would hinder Earnhardt through the first two stages as he was unable to crack the top-10 at the finish of either, but pit strategy from crew chief Greg Ives allowed him to gain some all-important track position late in the race.
Taking two tires during a late caution while many of the other leaders took four, Earnhardt climbed as high as fourth place, but shortly after the restart, he would find himself fading back into the pack after getting loose and having to back out of the throttle a few times.
Though he would be mired back in traffic on the final restart with five laps to go, Earnhardt made quick work of the cars in front of him to break back into the top-10, taking the checkered flag in ninth place.
His Michigan finish now gives him one top-five finish, three top-10 finishes and 10 laps led on the season as he sits way back in 23rd in points heading to Sonoma.