Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashes out of NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol
A nightmarish start to the season continued for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Monday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The 42-year-old spent the first two stages of the race outside of the top-15 and suddenly crashed on the first lap of the final segment. Earnhardt sailed into Turn 1 and never made the corner on Lap 217. His car had developed an oil leak during the preceding pit stop but didn’t address it before the race resumed.
Earnhardt wasn’t entirely sure what happened immediately after withdrawing from the event.
“I don’t know,” Earnhardt said in the garage. “We broke something in the oil system under caution. The guys said there was some oil in the pit stall after our pit stop. I noticed when I was getting lined up double file for the restart the car was smoking.
“I just thought maybe we had a tire rub for some reason, but I couldn’t remember what might have caused that. And went into Turn 1 on the restart and the car went straight into the wall with oil all over the tires. Came into the garage there and they are working on where the hole in the system is. Just something is messed up, but that is going to be the finish for us.”
Earnhardt has struggled mightily this season, posting only a single top-10 (a fifth) at Texas two weeks ago. His average finish entering the weekend was 21.7 and he’s outside of the top-20 in the championship standings.
The lack of speed surprised Earnhardt on Monday because he was confident after practice over the weekend. Instead, the popular third-generation driver was struggling to stay on the lead lap.
“We ran into some issues at the end of the last practice with the car and they were still there today,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know what in our set-up is creating that. It’s not like I’m feeling something that I wasn’t familiar with.
“We did have some good practices and felt pretty confident, but apparently, whatever we got into the car late in the last practice we didn’t tune it back out. We were really tight in the center and tight in the throttle and guys beating me really bad back to the gas. That ain’t no way to run anywhere really.”