Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hope of earning his first win at Phoenix International Raceway in more than a decade came to a crashing end on Lap 181 of Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500.
Earnhardt was coming out of Turn 2 and heading onto the backstretch when he hit hard into the outside retaining wall, sustaining heavy right rear damage. His car had to be towed to the garage, and he was officially ruled out of the race shortly after the wreck. He was scored last in the 43-car field.
“The car was really, really loose today and just wore the right rear tire out, and blew the tire,” Earnhardt said. “You can’t wear the tire out. You have to get your car handling better.”
Earnhardt came into the race second in the Sprint Cup standings, just nine points behind series leader Kevin Harvick.
Earnhardt, who suffered his first DNF since last August at Bristol and his first finish outside the top 40 since Texas last April, tried to find a bit of levity from the incident.
“They (tires) never tell you they are going to blow out, never,” he said with a laugh. “You don’t ever have a warning. It will be alright.”
Earnhardt, who finished second in this race last year, was running 21st at the time of the incident in the 312-lap event. He’s a two-time winner at Phoenix; his last victory at the one-mile flat track coming in November 2004.