That Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is only slightly short of miraculous!
I say that because you should consider this: On Lap 14, Earnhardt lost control of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet approaching Turn 11, slid through the corner and collided with Danica Patrick’s Ford.
On Lap 31, Earnhardt was the meat in a Danica-Larson three-wide sandwich entering Turn 4, with Kyle Larson dive-bombing to the inside and Danica Patrick on the outside. A chain-reaction collision sent Patrick spinning into the path of her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., whose Ford was damaged beyond repair.
But Earnhardt persevered, and with the help of pit strategy designed to gain track position, he restarted second on Lap 55 after the conclusion of the race’s second stage. With the race running green until the final circuit (Lap 110), Earnhardt held sixth—best among Chevrolet drivers—to post his second straight top 10.
But the driver who will retire from full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racing at the end of the season adopted a more global perspective after the race.
“Long after your career, guys come along and win races, and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten,” Earnhardt said. “But who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well.
“I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever. And I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. Hopefully, I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”
As a charter member of JUNIOR NATION, and a credentialed member of the media at the Sonoma race, I can say that he has left a very good impression on this reporter–and I think that is true with many, many NASCAR race fans as well!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!