=== The Inside Line: Earnhardt Jr. 'disappointed' with second at Dover ===
By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - While Jimmie Johnson claimed his record
eighth win at Dover International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. felt
discouraged after finishing second in Sunday's AAA 400.
Earnhardt had a solid performance at Dover -- the third race in the Chase for
the Sprint Cup championship. He won the pole with a new track qualifying
record there on Friday. Earnhardt ran in front for a total of 80 laps, which
is the most laps he's led in an event this year. But a pit-road mistake in the
early going probably cost him an opportunity to win his first race of the
During a round of green-flag stops, Earnhardt overshot the commitment line for
pit road and was forced to make another lap around before coming in for
service. He was leading the way prior to his stop but dropped to eighth.
"I take responsibility for getting a little too eager coming onto pit road for
that green flag stop," Earnhardt said. "We were lucky we didn't have more
trouble through that whole deal. I didn't know what the heck the rules are for
that, so I was figuring we got off pretty light."
Earnhardt encountered another problem on pit road late in the race when he was
caught up behind the slower car of Mark Martin. It cost him more track
The fourth and final caution with less than 30 laps to go set up the last
round of pit stops. Earnhardt made a four-tire change, while his Hendrick
Motorsports teammate, Johnson, took just two tires. Johnson came out of the
pits first while Earnhardt exited in fourth.
After the restart with 26 laps left, Earnhardt quickly charged to second and
chased down Johnson for the lead. But Johnson held off Earnhardt at the finish
by a half second to surpass Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most career
wins at Dover.
Earnhardt finished in the runner-up spot for the third time this season.
"I'll be honest with you, it sucks to lose regardless of who wins," he said.
"It's probably harder to run second than it is fifth or 10th. When you have a
car like we had (Sunday), you don't get good cars every week, you like to
"It doesn't bother me that it was Jimmie. I know Jimmie is going to be good
here. Plus he's my teammate. I want to see him do well. When he does well, it
indirectly affects us and benefits us."
Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, put on a dominating
performance by leading 243 of 400 laps. With the win, Johnson trimmed Matt
Kenseth's lead in the Chase standings to eight points. Kenseth finished
seventh after winning the first two races in the playoffs -- Chicagoland and
"I ran my guts out to stay ahead of (Earnhardt)," Johnson said. "Any switch I
could flip in the car that was a fan that might help the car turn my brake
bias, everything and anything I could twist, turn, pull, push, I did, then
just drove the (expletive) out of that thing. I was able to keep him at bay
for 10, 12 laps. At that point I was able to stretch a little bit and get back
to running a smart race."
With seven races remaining in the Chase, Earnhardt sits 10th in the standings.
He trails Kenseth by 57 points. Earnhardt finished 35th at Chicagoland after
suffering engine failure late in the event but rebounded at New Hampshire with
a sixth-place run.
"I feel like in the last couple of weeks, we've been able to really show what
our team's capable of," Earnhardt said. "We've been really quick on the sheet
every day, fast in practice. The changes we're making, everything seems to be
working right, going in the direction you want. I feel like when we get it
right, we can compete and we can win."
Earnhardt has not won a race since June 2012 at Michigan (48 races ago). While
a Sprint Cup championship might be a tall order for him this year, a race win
wouldn't be. Earnhardt recently said he would be disappointed if his team did
not score a victory this season.
The next Chase race is Sunday at Kansas. Earnhardt did not compete in last
year's fall events at Charlotte and Kansas due to a concussion he sustained
during an accident at Talladega.
09/30 13:54:33 ET