Junior posts best finish at Sonoma
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt Jr. practices at Sonoma Raceway. Earnhardt Jr. finished third Sunday, his best run at the road course.
By Dominic Aragon
June 23, 2014
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third at Sonoma Raceway Sunday, tying his career-best finish at a road course event.
Earnhardt Jr. ran as high as second place, pressuring A.J. Allmendinger for the lead early in the race.
Yet, Earnhardt Jr.’s race didn’t end uneventful. He and Matt Kenseth tangled on Lap 75, with Kenseth on the receiving end of damage.
“My car had the tires and I was able to drive by those guys at the end, but I had an eventful race,” said Earnhardt Jr. at the media center post-race. “I tore Matt Kenseth's car up pretty bad jumping that curb. I was racing him a little hard there coming out of Turn 7.
“He probably had the preferred line and I probably should have yielded to him, but … I thought I was a little bit faster than him and didn't want to be stuck behind him.”
Earnhardt Jr. scored his first top-ten at Sonoma Raceway in 14 starts at the racetrack. Before Sunday, Earnhardt Jr.’s Sonoma best was 11th three times.
“I had a fast car all weekend, and we figured that our best opportunity to run well here would be to pit and get newer tires more often than everybody else,” said Earnhardt Jr., who pitted for tires five times. “So having the two wins in the season, it allowed us to really kind of gamble and go ahead and get back there in the mess and have newer tires, and it paid off. We were able to drive up through there.”
Earnhardt Jr. statistically has not run well at the road course events. Earnhardt Jr. had not scored a top-ten on a road course since 2005, but he told the media he enjoys running at the races.
“I really enjoy running at Watkins Glen, and I feel like that I understand what I need to do,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “[Sonoma] is a real technical …[it] takes a certain mentality and a certain understanding of road course racing that guys like myself don't have coming from late models and oval tracks and stuff like that.”