Difficult Day For Earnhardt Jr
April 5, 2009 | 5:17 P.M. EST
Earnhardt led six laps on Sunday and was in contention some of the 500 miles. But his pit road adventure set the tone for what was to ultimately be a frustrating day when he missed his pit box on an early stop and was forced to come back around.
"We were already last in line on the lead lap,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We came down pit road, and all the lapped [cars] were in their stalls, and I just didn’t want to get T-boned by one of those guys coming out. I didn’t get it in the stall, so we just went around and came back in.”
Earnhardt actually came back from that obstacle but late in the going got into a scrape with Kyle Busch and then with 45 laps to go smacked the wall for good measure.
“I was running real, real hard all day, trying to run hard and trying to run well,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Just got into the wall down there in the middle of [turns] 1 and 2. The car jumped sideways. … My mistake.”
Earnhardt left Texas where he started in the Sprint Cup point standings in 16th place.
He learned that a good qualifying run - and subsequent upfront starting spot - will be a key to success when the series heads back to Texas in November.
"We were really fast,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We just started way back there and were running back there all day. If you can’t pass, you’ve got to start where you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to start up front if you want to finish there.”
“It’s so challenging and so competitive and so hard to pass – especially at a place like this – that starting up front really helps,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The cars drive a lot better when they’re up in the clean air.”