Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed a victory Sunday to advance to the Sprint Cup’s “Eliminiator” round, but instead found he and his No. 88 Chevrolet SS spinning out down the backstretch and careening across the track into the infield grass. Earnhardt, a usual fan-favorite at Talladega, began to lead the race on lap 75 and held the position for 29 consecutive laps before dropping back into the field.
After falling through the ranks, Earnhardt was wrecked, but his race was essentially already over when he crashed out. David Gilliland tapped Greg Biffle’s rear end on the exit of turn 2, which sent Biffle sideways. Biffle then clipped Earnhardt’s rear quarterpanel, sending him into a spin.
“We were just sitting there running straight there, and it’s just hard racing,” Earnhardt said. “That is the way it goes at the end of these races. We weren’t in a good position there in the back.”
Earnhardt made his way to pit road following the wreck to have his car repaired, only to be handed down a penalty for speeding in the pits. He would go on to finish 31st, marking a disappointing end to a rough day for both Earnhardt and his team, Hendrick Motorsports.
Despite his chances at winning this year’s Sprint Cup Championship being crushed, Earnhardt isn’t letting it get to him. He recognized he didn’t race well Sunday, but acknowledged the strong season he’s had and expressed his readiness to try it all again next year.
“There have probably been worse things (than this finish). I’m not retiring or anything, so we’ll try next year. We’ve had a good season (with three wins) and have a lot to be looking forward to. We’re definitely not going to get too tore up about; we didn’t run well,” Earnhardt said.