Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he’s searching for answers, but also took the blame Sunday after the No. 88 AXALTA Chevy SS was forced to retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Axalta presents the Pocono 400 on Lap 58 with a blown engine after missing a shift.
Earnhardt’s 28th starting spot was also a result of shifting issues. During Friday practice he completed eight laps before telling his team over the radio that the car became stuck in third gear and then downshifted to second. In doing so, his Hendrick Motorsport team believe it damaged the engine, which they opted to change. As a result, Earnhardt started at the rear of the field Sunday.
After climbing out of the car, Earnhardt said there was nothing different with the transmission – and he didn’t know what the issue was on his end, either.
“Just something in my motion, I mean there really isn’t anything different,” he told Fox Sports. “The shifter is not different, the handle is not different, the location, everything is the same. I don’t know. It’s something about my motion that’s not… going in the wrong gear. I wish I could blame it on something else, because this is awful, it feels awful.
“The car was fast. We drove up into the top 15 there running great lap times. Really, really happy with the car. Wasn’t really running that hard backing up the corners big time and just cruising forward, really happy. It’s just my fault. I don’t know what else to … I wish I could say that the shifter is different and something is out of line or not something I was doing last year as far as where we had the shifter mounted for Pocono. This really concerns me coming back here and the road courses you know. But, we haven’t had any problems all year long, but at places where we do a lot of shifting I don’t know what is going on, what I’ve got to do or why this is really happening out of nowhere.
“We don’t really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I’ve been doing this all my life and this isn’t a common issue, but it has been this weekend.”
On his way to the airport, Earnhardt took to Periscope to explain what happened to the fans.
“I blew the motor up again,” he reiterated. “I’m pretty concerned about all that. We had a really fast car, I think if you were watching you could see that. Top-five lap times working our way through the field, into 15th place at the end of the first stage, so Greg [Ives] and the guys spent a lot of time on the car and made it better, so I was pretty happy.”
Sunday’s finish marks Earnhardt’s six finish of 30th or worse in 14 races.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 11, 2017