Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard racecar, finished 21st in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway after a late-race incident with another car that caused moderate damage to the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Despite the less than desired finish, Earnhardt remains third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings, and he sits 27 points behind leader Carl Edwards, and seven points behind second place Kevin Harvick after 15 races in the 2011 season.
Earnhardt lined up his green-and-white Chevrolet 15th for the 400-mile event, and after the drop of the green flag, he radioed crew chief Steve Letarte that he was experiencing a loose-handling condition all the way around the track.
Earnhardt raced inside the top 20 while working through the handling issues, but took advantage of a caution flag on Lap 26 to make a pit stop.
During the stop, Letarte called for four fresh tires, fuel, and an air pressure and chassis adjustment to improve the handling of the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt restarted in the 16th spot when the field went back to green-flag racing on Lap 30.
Earnhardt started his climb through the field and cracked broke into the top 10 on Lap 35. He was running sixth by Lap 49. Handling issues resumed during the run, and Earnhardt was running ninth when the third caution flag waved on Lap 83.
Letarte called his driver down pit road, and during the stop, a lug nut fell off and cost the team time on pit road. Earnhardt restarted the race in 19th on Lap 87.
During the middle stages of the race, Earnhardt worked to regain valuable track position and was running 13th with 10 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, when another competitor made contact with him sending his car hard into the Turn 2 wall and bringing out the fifth caution. With heavy right-side damage, Letarte called his driver to pit road to make necessary repairs.
The crew got their driver back out on track, and Earnhardt was 25th on the Lap 195 restart, but only gained four positions to finish 21st.