News & Media

Late tire troubles doom Earnhardt, Newman

September 26, 2011, David Caraviello,

LOUDON, N.H. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s bid for a second consecutive strong finish to start the Chase seemed well underway when the driver of the No. 88 car cracked the top 10 late in Sunday's event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But in the end, it all unraveled. Earnhardt was trapped a lap down on a caution brought out by a Landon Cassill crash late in the event, lost track position taking a wave-around to get back on the lead lap, and then had a tire go down from too much camber in his race car. The result was an 17th-place finish for a driver who's usually pretty good on the 1-mile oval, and more than a little disappointment over what might have been.

"It's frustrating, but I was happy with how the car was driving. As a driver, we haven't had that all year."


"I had an awesome car all day," Earnhardt said. "Just pretty frustrating. I want to win here. We've been so good here in a lot of races and would like to win. But you've got to get up front, and we really couldn't accomplish that all day long. We had a good, quick car and I am proud of how we worked on it. Happy about what my guys did. The car they brought and how they worked on the car, everything was seemingly going as planned until we got caught a lap down with Landon's flat tire then we had a couple flats ourselves that cost us a couple more spots there. It's frustrating, but I was happy with how the car was driving. As a driver, we haven't had that all year."

He's now had it two weekends in a row. Monday in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, Earnhardt drove into the top 10 and finished third thanks to some other drivers running out of fuel. He came to the Granite State fifth in points and 13 out of the lead, but left in eighth position and 26 back.

"We'll take it right now. It could be worse," Earnhardt said. "We could be sitting in Victory Lane, but we could be out of the Chase all together. I think having two flat tires, we got pretty lucky today to get home in the top 20."

Earnhardt wasn't the only Chase hopeful whose hopes were dashed by a late tire failure. Ryan Newman, who won the July race at New Hampshire, started from the pole Sunday and led 62 laps, second-most in the event. He eventually lost track position, but was bidding for a top-10 finish in the late stages when he had a tire go down. Newman finished 25th, falling four positions to 11th in the standings, and is now 34 points behind leader, race winner and teammate Tony Stewart heading to Dover next week.

"We just had a tough day," Newman said. "We had a couple of slow pit stops, and then we had a tire go down at the end. It was just a disappointing day for us. We just didn't capitalize on what we could have, and today was a good day to do that, and we didn't do it. Our team, we know we can do it. We've done it before. Going to Dover, we need to improve from where we were in the spring, and I think we can do that."