Dale Jr. ends promising weekend with spill into the wall at Bristol

Nigel Kinrade/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s hopes for a good race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway ended shortly before the halfway mark of Monday’s delayed Food City 500.

After showing speed throughout the weekend in practice, Earnhardt was attempting to march his way through the field after a lap 218 restart when oil coming from his No. 88 Chevrolet got onto the machine’s tires and sent the 18-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran into the wall.

“We came out of the pits and there was some oil in the pit stall,” Earnhardt said. “I noticed when I was getting lined-up for double file, (the car) smoking. I don’t know why. But it’s got oil all over the engine compartment. So, in the corner, it just went straight in the wall. I don’t know what’s broke, but I think that’s the end of the day.”

The crash ended Earnhardt’s day, relegating the North Carolinian to a 38th-place finish.

The result comes at a bad time for Earnhardt. The two-time Daytona 500 champion entered Bristol on the heels of a fifth-place run at Texas Motor Speedway, the 42-year-old’s first top 10 since a concussion diagnosis that removed him from competition in July 2016.

Earnhardt returned at the beginning of 2017, but a combination of crashes (Daytona, Martinsville Speedway) and subpar performances left the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team as deep as 32nd in the series standings. Earnhardt had climbed back into 20th with his Texas top five, but Monday’s result promises to drop him once more.

“It’s unfortunate.  We weren’t running that great, but we were working on our car and trying to figure out how to get it to run better.  And get something out of today, but we are going to have another bad finish.  We have had a lot of them this year.  It’s going to be tough.”

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