Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t get off to a great start at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Earnhardt’s car stalled at the green flag of the Food City 500, forcing the No. 88 car to limp onto pit road during the first lap. But the inauspicious start didn’t keep Earnhardt from making the race plenty competitive.
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Despite being behind two laps right away, Earnhardt pressed forward, moving closer and closer to the top 10 with each passing lap. There were 15 total cautions at Bristol on Sunday, and Earnhardt was able to use those to his advantage—particularly on Lap 53, when the leaders all went onto the pit road. Instead of pitting along with the group, Earnhardt stayed out on the instructions of crew chief Greg Ives, allowing him to make up ground on the track.
With 20 laps remaining, Earnhardt was in the top 10, and by the time another restart came in, No. 88 had catapulted into the top five. Once the race resumed, Earnhardt got aggressive, moving up from fourth into second place behind eventual winner Carl Edwards. It marked Earnhardt’s second straight runner-up finish—his third overall second-place result this season, and his fourth top-five finish out of his eight total starts.
“We got real lucky the last three restarts to be on the outside line. We restarted 10th, sixth and fourth, and when you restart 4th you’re typically going to come out in second place after that. I was hoping we didn’t have any more cautions after that. So it was good. We’ll take it.” Earnhardt told Fox Sports.
With the way things opened up on Sunday, the No. 88 car would have been lucky just to make it into the top half of the field. But that wasn’t enough for Earnhardt.
“We had a little trouble early, and it just made (Sunday) more difficult and made the challenge more fun. To run second, it’s a great feeling to come back from what we did. It’s something to smile about,” Earnhardt said.
Junior has had himself quite the month already—his car caught fire at the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago:
Earnhardt next will be in action when NASCAR descends on Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. The race is set for Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 1 p.m. Eastern time with coverage on FOX.