Junior Second-Guesses His Strategy

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Given a second chance, UAW-Dodge 400 runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have done things differently on the Lap 263 restart that changed the complexion of Sunday's Sprint Cup race.

Earnhardt closed up on leader Carl Edwards as the field approached the green flag with five laps left in the 267-lap event at 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon hung back, testing the limits of NASCAR's two-car length limit on restarts.

Earnhardt spun his tires, Gordon dived to the inside, and Kenseth passed on the outside as Earnhardt struggled to get up to speed. Moments later, Gordon's Chevy slid up into Kenseth's Ford exiting Turn 2. With so much of Gordon's car strewn over the track, NASCAR stopped the race for nearly 18 minutes to clear the debris.

After the red-flag period, on cold tires, Earnhardt had no chance against Edwards' dominant Ford.

"The 17 (Kenseth) and the 24 (Gordon) dropped back to get a run," Earnhardt said. "I'm the one who should have dropped back.

"I was spinning the tires real bad on restarts. I was trying to keep my tires clean, and I just couldn't figure out a way to keep from spinning them. I was trying to keep some distance on the leader so when he went, I could get in the throttle. But he (Edwards) lifted real hard right before he went and it caused me to stop my car. Then I jumped in the gas and it sparked the tires and I couldn't hook them back up.

"The No. 17 and No. 24 got around me and we were all hell-bent to drive down in that corner wide open. But it was getting tight, so I lifted a little bit and I got in line in front of (Kevin) Harvick ... at the bottom. The No. 24 just lost the racecar and went up the racetrack and got into the No. 17. It was hard, hard racing. That's the kind of drivers we've got in this series.

"It's fun to see those guys running so hard -- but unfortunate how those guys are going to finish. They had pretty good cars."

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