Brickyard Bounce Back for Earnhardt Jr.
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on July 28, 2013 | 6:20 P.M. EST
Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth on Sunday to remain fifth in the standings. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Earnhardt was forced to pit road on lap 13 for a loose wheel and immediately fell a lap behind the leaders after crew chief Steve Letarte made the decision.
“I'll tell you, you can't have a wheel come off here,” said Earnhardt. “You're running that thing at 200 mph at the end of the straightaway, you don't want to take any chances. We came in. Steve said it was loose and it was a good job and a good save."
Although disappointed with how his day began, Earnhardt had no issue with the plan to come to pit road.
“The car was shaking real bad, and wandering in the back-end on the straightaway,” Earnhardt explained. “You have a wheel falling off; you have something serious happening. Come in, it's dangerous staying out there. You can hit the wall, or wreck something, or wreck some other people. I don't want to do that. It is a long race.
“We had an early chance to fix that, and that is fine. It gave us an opportunity to try some different strategies, and it worked out for us."
Once Earnhardt got back on track, he was able to get back on the lead lap as a caution flag flew when Timmy Hill was slow on the racetrack. He had raced his way up to 14th at that point.
From there Earnhardt raced as high as third before coming to pit on the 98th lap for ties and fuel as well as a wedge adjustment. He made his last stop on lap 129 and when the checkered flag flew he had a sixth-place finish.
"I thought it was good,” Earnhardt said of his day that kept him fifth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings. “We had good speed. I thought the strategy was good.”
Earnhardt, along with race winner Ryan Newman, was one of six drivers in the top seven running Hendrick engines. Newman's win was the 11th consecutive for Chevrolet at Indy.
Earnhardt’s performance came with a heavy heart after learning earlier in the day his uncle Randy Earnhardt – a brother of Dale Earnhardt Sr. – had passed away.
“It is tough,” said Earnhardt. “It is part of life, and it is hard to get used to. I am just glad his suffering is over with; he was having a real hard time. I loved him dearly, and will miss him a lot."