It has been a fantastic season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., arguably one of his best in many years. Saturday night, the Irwin Tools Night Race, however, left a little to be desired.
On lap 162, Earnhardt was caught up in someone else’s wreck. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin made contact sending Hamlin, who was leading, spinning into the retaining wall collecting Earnhardt during the melee.
The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports crew made repairs, which included replacing the door foam. Earnhardt was able to make a few additional laps, but the team made the decision to park the car on lap 176.
The Steve Letarte led crew used the incident to be prepared for the Chase in case the same type of repair was needed. The main concern was finding a way to quickly replace the door foam. Letarte told his crew to “take a mental image” of the repair in case the situation occurs again.
Earnhardt came into this weekend’s race sitting second in the points standings, only three points behind leader, Jeff Gordon.
Earnhardt was asked what happened to cause the accident, and replied, “I couldn’t see what happened to Denny (Hamlin), but he got turned around or something and was coming up the track. There was a lot of smoke so I couldn’t really judge the speed of his car to know whether I needed to be going up there and go around him on the top. I had to make that choice. I just went ahead and went to the top and ended up getting into him. It wasn’t too hard of a hit just did a lot of damage and tore the lower (control arm) off the left-front. We are going to have our hands full when we get it back out there. We are going to try to fix it, but I don’t know. Obviously we are many laps down. We will see if we can run a decent speed.”
Earnhardt would end the night in 39th position.