Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s strategy in Sunday's race was to power to the front with drafting partner and teammate Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps, but a green-white-checkered finish left them without enough time to make a move.
Earnhardt finished 25th in his No. 88 National Guard NASCAR racecar.
Earnhardt lined up in the sixth position at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with Johnson close in front of the No. 88 racecar. Earnhardt and Johnson, using the two-car draft, opted to be conservative and hang back from the lead pack of cars for opening laps of the 188-lap event.
On Lap 77, the crowd came to its feet and a roar could be heard across the 2.5-mile track as Earnhardt took the lead for two laps.
The caution flag was displayed on Lap 105 for a six-car wreck on the front stretch, which involved two Chase contenders. Once again, Earnhardt and his drafting partner opted to hang back a safe distance from the lead pack to avoid any unnecessary cautions.
With nine laps to go, Earnhardt told Johnson that it was time to hammer down and move to the front. Earnhardt was running 24th on Lap 180, and the tandem began to work through the field. Earnhardt was running 16th when the caution flag waved on Lap 182, but he ran over debris during the ensuing incident and had to come down pit road for a fresh set of tires.
Earnhardt lined up 16th for the green-white-checkered finish. It was an exciting showdown to the finish but Earnhardt was forced to separate from his drafting partner to avoid any incidents. Earnhardt crossed the finish line 25th.
Earnhardt remains ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings. He sits 74 points behind leader Carl Edwards with four races remaining in the 2011 season.