Healthy Finish For Junior

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Having the flu isn't fun for anyone anytime. Imagine trying to race in a NEXTEL Cup race.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. most likely would have rather been home in bed than behind-the-wheel of his racecar Saturday night in Darlington after suffering from flu-like symptoms all weekend.

"I was sick when I got here (on Friday)," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "I’ve kind of been fighting the flu. Went to the infield care center on Friday, and they helped me out a little bit."

Earnhardt, Jr. qualified the car Friday afternoon in 22nd position and rested in preparation for Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500.

Still suffering from the illness, he took the green flag and started a steady climb to the front.

By the midway point, the Budweiser No. 8 car was running with the leaders, although Earnhardt, Jr. radioed his crew that there was the outside chance he wouldn't be able to finish the race.

“Nah, I was going to be able to finish the race," he said afterward. "I told them to maybe have someone on standby just in case, but I wasn’t planning on getting out. Just screaming over the motor really tore my voice up. I don’t know whether they could hear me or not. It’s a tough race, man. I’m tired. Whether you’re sick or not, you’re going to be tired.”

After slipping back out of the Top 10 when he brushed the wall two separate times, Earnhardt, Jr. finally made it back into the Top 5 with 70 laps to go and kept his car there until the checkered flag flew.

"The team did great job today, gave me great pit stops," he said. "The adjustments they made were good all night. Anytime I can come in here and get a top-10 I’m pretty happy. A top-five is almost like a win, so I’m pretty excited.”

It was Earnhardt, Jr.'s fourth Top 5 of the season and second-in-a-row, moving him up to fifth in the NEXTEL Cup Series point standings.

“Yeah, I’m real happy to see us put a couple of good runs there together like we just did," he said. "It pads our points on some of the guys behind us. I really don’t worry about who’s in front, or whether we’re catching them or not. I just kind of watch the guys behind us and whether they’re coming. It’s sort of been my style. Maybe we can keep it up and make the Chase. I think we have a great team right now.”

And Saturday night's run was just what the doctor ordered.



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