What the heck happened to Dale Earnhardt’s tires this weekend during the running of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? For a track that’s not known for being incredibly harsh on tires the No. 88 team found themselves running out. Sure, it’s not uncommon for a team to use all of their tires nor is it completely uncommon to keep something in reserve.
To have a tire issue in the pits and resort to snatching old tires to finish a race in the top ten coming from one lap down is pretty amazing! Especially if you’re a driver in the Sprint Cup Series Championship race. In short; Dale Earnhardt Jr. may have avoided disaster this weekend at Dover!
It looks as if Earnhardt’s team decided to go for broke in order to keep their driver in the running for a transfer spot into the second part of the Chase. That included going to the well for some used tires. The driver thinks a top-ten finish at a track where he’s averaged finishing 15th was a good weekend. Earnhardt says his team worked hard all day.
“I like the way we worked all day,” Earnhardt said. “We had to put on some real old tires there. We ran out of tires so that last set of tires we put on had some practice laps on them. We still hung in there and had some good restarts.”
The No. 88 team battled back after what could have been a disastrous moment in the pits. Earnhardt was cruising along but following a pit stop he suddenly dove back down the track onto pit lane for an unscheduled green flag stop. The move would send him a lap down.
The reason for the stop was a loose wheel. Apparently a lug nut was not fully tightened during the pit stop. Earnhardt could feel the vibrations and decided to not risk losing the car. It was a good move as he was able to climb back out of the hole over the course of a few more stops when he could eventually get back on the lead lap and start racing to the front. The driver said he was happy with the way the team pulled together.
"I'm proud of my team. You're going to have mistakes; I'm going to make mistakes, but nobody really got on anybody - everybody sort of regrouped and we finished out the day."
The top ten finish at New Hampshire for Earnhardt places him in the sixth position heading into race three of the Chase. The top twelve drivers in the Chase move onto the next round. Four drivers will be eliminated following next weekend’s race at Dover.
Earnhardt does have a win at Dover but that single victory came back in 2001. He fared well over the last few races at the Monster Mile. During the spring race this season he finished 9th. Last year he placed second in the fall race at Dover.