Rebounding showed strength at Bristol
Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
By Zachary Lange
April 19, 2016
One of the phrases one may hear at Bristol by drivers, crews and analysts are, “If you are going to make mistakes, make them early.”
For Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano, that phrase seemed to personify their entire 500 lap run.
At the drop of the green flag, Earnhardt Jr. didn’t make it to the first turn under power, citing ECU problems that shut his engine off with the application of the brakes. The system is in place to prevent a stuck throttle from causing a driver serious injury.
“I ain't got no power,” remarked Junior via radio, unable to get to the first turn before having to come into pit road at a crawling 30 mph.
Earnhardt Jr. had gone two laps down before two laps had even been run it seemed.
Racing back from two laps down proved to be a difficult task as Earnhardt Jr. didn’t receive a free pass on any of the 15 cautions on Sunday.
But by mid-race, the No. 88 crew was in eighth position, working to secure what ultimately led to a runner-up finish at Thunder Valley.
Earnhardt Jr. remarked about his crew and finish saying, “We had a lot of luck on those last several restarts.
“You start on the outside and just gain some spots just being on the right lane.
“We didn’t have a good enough car to run in the top 5 today, but [crew chief] Greg [Ives] and those guys did a great job getting our laps back
“...Greg did a great job helping us get our laps back. The car was about a 15th or 10th place car. We were just lucky on those restarts as to where we lined up. And that really helped us.”
For Joey Logano, an up and down and overall difficult day resulted in a 10th place finish. Things fell apart early when Logano had to make a green-flag stop because of a loose wheel just past the 100 lap mark.
Logano fell three laps down after the pit stop to change the loose wheel resulted in a penalty for an uncontrolled title. Logano was forced to serve a drive through penalty.
The wave around proved beneficial for the team, as the Penske Racing crew opted to use the rule three separate times to be on the lead lap by the mid-race mark.
Turbulence didn’t stop there for the No. 22 crew. After a late race caution, Logano found himself in the top-five and contending with Carl Edwards for the victory. But on the restart, Logano had troubles similar to Earnhardt Jr. that shut the car off and bottlenecked the field.
Fortunately, Logano did not have to pit for his problem, by switching to a backup battery he was able to continue on but dropped back to 17th place. After the last two restarts, Logano worked his way up and finished tenth.
Logano spoke about his day post race stating, “I think we had a car that could have contended with Carl (Edwards) for the win. We were that fast. Then we had some self-induced mistakes and that put us in a hole.
“We fought hard and we got all the way back onto the lead lap and raced our way into the top five. I thought we still had a shot at it at that point and then on that late restart, the car just shut off for some reason.”
Troubles aside, both drivers were able to rebound to produce top-ten finishes. Mistake-riddled days may give team and driver anxiety, but ultimately separate true contenders from not come time for the Chase for the Cup.