Oct 13, 2013, 6:03 PM EDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked as strong as his Hendrick Motorsports teammates early in last night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but fell back to a 15th-place result as handling issues progressively got worse on his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Earnhardt led 19 laps in the opening stages of his 500th career Sprint Cup start, but a long green-flag run following a restart at Lap 178 proved detrimental as his car went tight on him.
By the time the final caution came out for debris with 28 laps to go, he had been lapped and had also fallen to 14th in the running order.
“The car was real quick at the start of the race and I was real happy with the speed,” Earnhardt said about his night. “The 5 [Kasey Kahne] was really good and the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] got really good, but I still thought we had a Top-5 car. We lost a rubber out of the right-rear spring or something like that, but it just would not turn at all that last half of the race pretty much. We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on.
“…The car just don’t get that tight from running that good without any adjustments. We were freeing it up – moving the track bar, taking wedge out and it just kept getting tighter and tighter.”
As a result, Earnhardt dropped one spot to ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup (66 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth) and now finds himself in a battle to stay in the Top 10 of the standings. Carl Edwards sits 10th at one point behind Earnhardt, while Joey Logano is just nine points behind Earnhardt in 11th place.