After disappointing Darlington, NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be without his crew chief for Richmond
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a less than memorable last race at Darlington Raceway. NASCAR’s most popular driver, who is set to retire from full time racing at the end of the season, had one more chance to dance with NASCAR’s “Lady in Black”.
Turns out her dance card was already full.
Earnhardt started 22nd and was holding his own. And for a time seemed to be having fun. At one point, he nearly spun out his Chevy, saving it and holding on.
“How ‘bout that save,” he told his team on the radio. “I don’t get a attaboy or nothing?”
Later during a round of pit stops, he missed the entrance to pit road and was forced to go around again losing several positions. Then a loose wheel just after the round of pit stops forced him back in.
“Yeah, I mean when they saw, they picked right up on it,” Earnhardt said. “I had a really bad vibration that last run and there was a bunch of them loose on the right-rear. They must have just kind of had a screw up. It wasn’t intentional they wouldn’t leave two loose like that when they are not even tight up on the wheel. So, something must have happened on the pit stop because those guys have been great all night.”
The misery wasn’t over for Earnhardt.
“We had a flat at the very end,” he said. “Something was going, the right-rear was going down for a very long time and finally it went flat. Came in changed that and went back out and it was so loose you couldn’t go so we had to abuse those tires too much at the end. Twelfth to 15th is where we all ran and I’m not too disappointed because we sat there and ran right with our teammates all night.”
Sadly, his teammates didn’t have stellar runs; Earnhardt finished where he started, 22nd.
The news was even worse after the race. During post-race inspection NASCAR found two missing lugnuts on Earnhardt’s Chevy. The penalty means not only a fine, but his crew chief Greg Ives, will probably be suspended for the next race, that being Richmond. It’s the final race before the field is set for NASCAR’s playoffs. Without a win, Earnhardt will have to secure a victory at Richmond, and do so without his regular crew chief.