April 23, 2016
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
RICHMOND, Va. – After a massive late-race wreck scrambled the running order in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250, Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived a two-lap dash in overtime to win his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race since 2010 and the first in his own JR Motorsports equipment.
Earnhardt held off Ty Dillon by .266 seconds in a main event that ran nine laps past its scheduled distance of 140 laps, but Dillon collected the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus available to the two highest finishes among XFINITY Series regulars from each of the two heats that preceded the main event.
The victory was Earnhardt’s fourth at Richmond – his first at the .75-mile short track since 2002 – and the 24th of his career. Earnhardt’s last win in the series came in the July 2010 race at Daytona in a No. 3 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress.
Earnhardt has not driven the No. 3, the number closely associated with his father, since that victory. On Saturday, he drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in his last scheduled start of the season for JR Motorsports.
Though Earnhardt led 128 of the 149 laps after passing Erik Jones for the top spot on Lap 18, the final two were a challenge, with Dillon restarting beside him for the two-lap overtime.
“Those last couple of laps, we were real loose in the corner,” Earnhardt said. “I thought Ty was going to get to me – he tried to get to me. When we got to (Turn 3), we drove into the corner wide-open.”
But Dillon couldn’t pull even with Earnhardt, who cleared Dillon’s No. 3 Chevy off Turn 4 on the first overtime lap.
“We came up a little short, but we’re going to get one soon,” Dillon said.
Dillon wouldn’t have had a shot at the win at all, had a nine-car pileup on Lap 134 not bunched the field and necessitated the overtime.
The wreck came moments after a restart, with Brennan Poole leading the field to the green. Poole had stayed out on old tires when Earnhardt and the rest of the lead-lap drivers came to pit road for fresh rubber under caution on Lap 127.
Earnhardt restarted third behind Poole and JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, but when Poole spun his tires, Earnhardt dived to the inside approaching Turn 1, creating a three-wide lead group. After side-by-side contact with Earnhardt’s No. 88, Poole’s No. 48 Chevy washed up the track, clipped and turned Allgaier’s No. 7 and ignited a chain-reaction wreck that damaged three of the four cars eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus – those of Poole, Allgaier and Jones.
“When he spun the tires, I had to go to the inside,” Earnhardt said. “I tried not to drive up into him – I don’t think I got into him. They just kind of came together up there (in the outside lane) and had a heck of a wreck.
“I hate that it happened, but, man, I had to do what I had to do to try to get the win. We ran so well and led all those laps.”
Elliott Sadler came home third, followed by series leader Daniel Suárez, who leaves Richmond nine points ahead of Sadler in second. Austin Dillon ran fifth and Cole Custer sixth in Custer’s XFINITY Series debut.