Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Disappointed in Michigan

J Pat DyerAnalyst IAugust 17, 2008

My prediction was exactly right. Except for Dale Jr. winning, Kyle Busch finishing out of the top 20, and Dale Jr. moving to third in points.

The amazing part is that it all looked possible early on in the race as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the class of the field.

On lap two Junior had second and by lap eight he was leading. He extended the lead to four seconds by lap 19 when a caution came out.

After the pit stops Junior was third, but by lap 29 he had the lead again. By lap 42 Junior had already led 29 laps.

It was on lap 42 that Dale Jr. reported his water temp was 265.  The rise in temperature was caused by paper blocking his grill.

Instead of pitting to clear the debris Junior slowed, letting Brian Vickers pass him, so he could get up behind him and get the draft to clear his radiator blockage. It worked and he chose not to race hard, dropping back a few hundred feet to let the engine cool further.

By lap 52 Junior reported that his temp was 240 and he was ready to race again. Then on lap 67 he came in for a green flag stop. On 68, with everyone cycled through already, Junior was leading again.

This was the beginning of the end as his car was too loose to control. Edwards took the lead on lap 74. Junior was third by lap 77, fourth on lap 78, and fifth on lap 82.

Then Blaney, Newman, and Menard came together, with Blaney getting the worst of it and yellow flag stops started.

Junior's team did a good job and he was fourth after the caution on lap 90. The problem was that the car was not as good as the pit crew and Junior dropped to eighth by lap 96.

During the restart Gordon and Johnson had bumped, cutting Gordon's tire. On lap 97 the tire blew and the No. 24 hit the wall, bringing out another caution.

Junior restarted ninth and remained there until lap 115 when he started to move again. On lap 130 he was sixth.

On lap 142 Kyle Busch led for the first time, and 10 laps later Junior reached the top five.

On lap 165 there was a caution for debris. Junior restarted sixth and Vickers led.

Junior's car was still not good and by lap 173 he had dropped back down to ninth. Then a caution for debris came out and Junior didn't pit.

He restarted second on lap 182. Edwards passed him immediately, and the next thing we knew Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was hitting the wall. He had to pit with most of his front right side gone. When he got back out on lap 187 he was 32nd, one lap down. On lap 191 he was 27th, and two laps later he was 25th.

A caution was thrown on lap 194. The restart, with Edwards leading, came with two left and he held off Kyle Busch for the win. This was Carl Edwards' fifth win of the season. Junior finished 23rd

Busch still leads the points and has clinched a spot in the Chase. Edwards is second in points. Johnson is third after battling back to 17th and finishing the race skidding through the grass infield.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. still holds fourth in points and is almost a lock to win the race with three to go.

Bristol is next week under the lights on Saturday night.

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