Earnhardt Left Wanting More
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on April 13, 2014 | 12:02 A.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished first or second in four of the first eight races this season. (Photo: Getty Images)
DARLINGTON, S.C. - A career-best finish in the Southern 500 left Dale Earnhardt wanting more Saturday night.
He was headed toward a victory at what he considers one of his worst tracks when a caution forced a second attempt at a green-white-checkered. At that point, Earnhardt had little hope. He had gotten only two new tires on the previous caution - trading track position for four tires - while Harvick’s team changed four tires and lost track position.
The fresher tires proved to be too much to overcome, as Kevin Harvick scored his second victory of the season. Earnhardt finished second.
“Everybody was telling me I had a 15-car length and I don’t want to hear about that,’’ Earnhardt said of his advantage before the final caution for Kurt Busch’s accident. “I’m going to hear about it all day (Sunday), “You almost won it.’
Instead, he was no match for Harvick on the final restart because Harvick had those fresher tires.
“It's a little disappointing to come that close because I know I don't really run that well here and the opportunities to win are going to be very few compared to other tracks,’’ Earnhardt said. “Running second is great but nobody is going to really remember that. But we're proud of it. (The team) did a great job giving me a really good car to be able to run that well here. The car was phenomenal. Really proud of those guys' effort. ven though they know where my shortcomings are, they worked their guts out to try to get us the best.
“Sometimes if I admittedly say this isn't my best track, it's easy to sort of back off, but those guys really push the pedal and give me everything I can to give me the best chance to finish as best I can. They did that tonight. That was a great example of that.’’
Earnhardt’s finish ends the opening eight-race stretch of the season, as the series heads into an off-weekend for Easter.
Earnhardt is fourth in the points, his last-place finish at Texas keeping him from leading the points.
Still, Earnhardt and his team will have some things to ponder in the coming days before the series resumes in two weeks at Richmond International Raceway.
“I think we've really got some great performances from our team,’’ he said. “We just need to look at our competition, try to understand what we're seeing and where are some areas where we can improve.
“There's some spots where we can improve and get better, but we run second at one of our worst tracks tonight, so our performance is there. We've got the cars ‑ we seem to be on the leading edge of trying to learn these new rules and trying to understand what's going on. A lot of guys middle of the pack are scrambling with their set ups. We seem to be on a path and setting a pattern with what we're doing, and it seems to be working.’’
Saturday night, it was almost good enough to give Earnhardt a Southern 500 win. Instead, he’ll have to take a runner-up result and move forward. Twenty-eight races remain in the season, giving him plenty of opportunities to win more races.