Dale Jr.s final Daytona start ends in disaster

After battling back from two laps down in Coke Zero 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr.s night ends with a major wreck

Jasen Vinlove—USA Today Sports
NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) during the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. did everything he could to fight his way back to the lead lap only to see his day end in disastrous fashion. A massive wreck ended likely his final race at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night as Kevin Harvick spun out and collected the No. 88 on Lap 106.Dale Jr. ends up in the garage. pic.twitter.com/vjA7reM4eV— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 2, 2017
Dale Jr. ends up in the garage. pic.twitter.com/vjA7reM4eV— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 2, 2017
Earnhardt hasn’t been able to put together many great runs this season, only collecting one top five and four top-10 finishes this season. But after collecting the pole for the Coke Zero 400, Junior was viewed as the favorite to finally win his fifth race at Daytona.The No. 88 ran near the front throughout the first stage, finishing second at the end of the first segment. A bump from Paul Menard sent Junior careening into the wall and caused him to lose two laps. Earnhardt got back the two laps and was running in sixth place when Harvick spun, sending both to the garage.”We just blew a tire,” Harvick said afterward. “I hate it for our Jimmy John’s Ford guys. That’s the way it goes. It just blew out right in the middle of the corner. I hate to wreck half the field. That’s a part of what we do.”Outside of Harvick and Junior, however, most of the pack wasn’t affected. Both Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne spun out, but neither suffered severe damage and remained on the track.Though the wreck wasn’t necessarily the “Big One,” it dealt a big blow to NASCAR’s most popular driver in his final season. With just nine races remaining before the start of the playoffs and no more restrictor-plate races prior to the cutoff, the pressure is on Earnhardt.But after a strong run at a track that has been dubbed “Dale-tona” in previous years, Earnhardt is confident heading into the final stretch of the regular season.”As soon as we got our laps back, I knew anything was possible,” Earnhardt said. “We were just drafting back up through there and I think [Harvick] had a flat and just really had nowhere to go. … It was fun. We had a pretty strong car.”