Solid run in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s return spoiled by late gamble

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Oct 29 1117


Judging by the way he raced, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed none the worse for wear in his return to competition after a two-week absence.

The concussions that kept Earnhardt out of competition at Charlotte and Kansas, however, weren't on his mind after Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Instead, Earnhardt was lamenting a decision that in all probability cost him a top-10 finish.

When caution flew on Lap 475 after Kevin Harvick's engine blew, Earnhardt and Brad Keselowski stayed on the track on old tires while the rest of the lead-lap drivers came to pit road for fresh rubber.

As the race leader, Keselowski restarted from the inside lane on Lap 481. As the second-place car, Earnhardt was trapped on the outside and dropped like a rock.

The No. 88 Chevrolet fell back through the field into harm's way, ultimately to be wiped out in a chain-reaction wreck that started with Sam Hornish Jr. knocking Carl Edwards' Ford sideways into Earnhardt's Chevrolet.

"It felt pretty good -- just a little frustrated how we ended the day," said Earnhardt, who finished 21st. "We kind of gambled a little too much there at the end and cost ourselves a pretty decent race. We worked hard all weekend, worked hard all race long -- and sold the farm at the end…

"That was really ridiculous. You've got to use a little common sense. That was not a good move."