First Top Five of Season for Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice. I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, we will take top five." (Photo: Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his first top-five finish of 2017 Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt Jr., who missed the second half of last season due to concussion-like symptoms, hadn’t been inside the first five finishers of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since last June at Pocono.

“I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice,” Earnhardt Jr. said.  “I know our fans are really pulling for us.  Could have finished a little better, we will take top five.”

It wasn’t easy for Earnhardt Jr., who battled a newly repaved and reconfigured TMS on an extremely hot and windy day from a 37th starting position. The 500-mile grind definitely took its toll.

“It was warm,” he said. “I thought the car was pretty warm all weekend, but our air conditioner wasn’t doing very good job today.  We’ve just got to relocate the outlet or the inlet to give it a better opportunity to get some air.  But, with the wind, as windy as it is here you’ve got to put that thing in a more opportune place.

“It’s kind of like a vacuum it’s pulling air out of the helmet it’s going one side of the track.  I just ran with the visor up the whole day. I was happy to see that caution late to get us some Gatorade and cool off a little bit.  It was hot.”

It has been a frustrating start to the year for Earnhardt Jr., who has been looking for more speed in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets. He found some on Sunday and is hoping the Texas performance will give the No. 88 team something to build on going forward.

“I mean I felt like we were pretty good and we ran with the cars, the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the guys that have been really fast," he said. "I think the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) car have been really the class of the field.  I saw those guys weaving after the race and downshifting hard to reset their housing, so we have to figure out what they are doing and see if we can’t make it better.”


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