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Atlanta Recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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DATE: March 7, 2010
RACE: KOBALT Tools 500
START: First
FINISH: 15th
POINTS POSITION: 13th

RECAPPING THE RACE:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard team made an impressive start in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway and worked through tire issues to earn a 15th-place finish in the 500.5-mile event. Earnhardt advances two spots in the driver standings to 13th, and trails 12th-place Scott Speed by seven points after four races in the 2010 season.

Earnhardt set a positive tone for Sunday's race by scoring the pole position -- his first of the season -- during Friday's qualifying session. The 35-year-old toured the 1.54-mile oval in 28.761 seconds at roughly 192.761 mph to earn the front-row spot and set a record for fastest in the new Sprint Cup Series car.

On Sunday, he led the field to the green flag under sunny skies and mild conditions and raced in the top six during the opening laps. He reported to crew chief Lance McGrew that he was happy with the way his green-and-white Chevy was handling.

Almost 50 laps later, Earnhardt notified McGrew that the No. 88 Chevy was developing a loose-handling condition. The team took advantage of a caution flag on Lap 77 to fine-tune the car. Earnhardt was running seventh at the time of the caution and improved one spot for the Lap 83 restart thanks to quick work by the pit crew.

On Lap 112, Earnhardt made an unscheduled pit stop due to a vibration in the right-rear wheel. He made his way down pit road for a fresh set of tires, and the precautionary move put the team to 32nd, one lap down from the leaders.

On Lap 153, the problem occurred again and Earnhardt decided to make another unscheduled trip down pit road for a fresh set of tires. He returned to track running 32nd and two laps down from the leaders.

McGrew made the most of several late-race cautions to put Earnhardt back on the lead lap. When the caution flag was waved on Lap 288, McGrew told Earnhardt to stay on the track to redeem a lap. After the restart, Earnhardt improved five spots to 27th before an accident with two-laps remaining extended the race to a green-white checkered finish.

While the leaders pitted under caution, McGrew instructed his driver again to stay on track and get back on the lead lap. Earnhardt was running 25th for the race's first attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish. During the restart, seven cars in front of Earnhardt were involved in an accident. The No. 88 team opted to pit for four fresh tires, and Earnhardt lined up 20th for Lap 229 restart. During the second, successful green-white-checkered flag attempt, Earnhardt picked up five positions to finish 15th.

QUOTING DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

"We were running pretty good. We got two bad right-side tires and the right-rear tire, I don't know, it felt like the wheel was coming off. We pitted and the wheel was fine, but the car was vibrating so bad, I could hardly see. I should have not pitted but I thought the wheel was loose, and I have had them come off here, and that isn't fun."

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Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports.
Media Relations | No. 88 AMP Energy / National Guard Racing

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