DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. exited his car disappointed, yet optimistic for the future, after a scary five-car crash eliminated him from Sunday’s Daytona 500 at lap 105.
Earnhardt took the lead three laps prior to the halfway point and was on top of the field when Kyle Busch, who was hanging onto the tail end of the lead lap just ahead of Earnhardt, lost a rear tire and spun in front of the field at the entrance to turn three.
With nowhere to go, Earnhardt drove up and over the front fender of Busch’s machine as he tried to turn left and avoid the carnage, catching air and causing heavy damage to both his and Busch’s cars in the process.
Though Earnhardt drive his car back to pit road and the team attempted to make repairs, they eventually called the car to the garage after it was clear they would not be able to complete repairs and get the car to a point where it could maintain minimum speed within the five-minute time limit.
Earnhardt was credited with 37th in the final Daytona 500 rundown, after a strong weekend where he qualified on the front row and led 53 laps of his Can-Am Duel before finishing sixth.
“I really enjoyed the whole week. We had a lot of fun and everybody’s support to get back to the race track meant a lot to me,” he said after being released from the infield care center. “I’m just sorry that we weren’t able to deliver a better result today for all our fans and everybody that was looking forward to today.”
The perennial Most Popular Driver led a total of eight laps and appeared to be turning into a favorite to take home his third Harley J. Earl Trophy.
“We had a great car … at least we went out leading the race! I don’t know what really happened there with the wreck, but iit just looks like Kyle had a flat tire. I turned the wheel left, but you’re also out of the gas there and it got on the splitter and it kinda went straight.”
Though the impact Earnhardt took appeared to be a harsh one, he was quickly cleared from the medical center and will look to contend for his first Cup victory since November of 2016 during next weekend’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Luckily the hit wasn’t that hard and we’ll be able to get to Atlanta and compete again. It’s gonna be a fun season and we have pretty high spirits. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it was still a fun week.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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