01 Jun Jeffrey Earnhardt Finishes 22nd in Pocono With iK9 After Incidents Late
LONG POND, PA – After running in the top ten for most of the day, two late incidents in the final seven laps put an end to a promising day for Jeffrey Earnhardt in his No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra. As the smoke settled, and the checkered flag flew in NASCAR Overtime, Earnhardt finished 22nd in the Pocono Green 250 Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
After taking the green flag from the 10th position to get things started, Earnhardt moved up one position after the first two laps. Then on lap six, the caution came out as Earnhardt’s teammate Brandon Jones got loose and his No. 19 machine slammed backward into the outside wall of turn 1.
The field went back to green on lap 10 with Earnhardt in 11th. Then less two laps later, the caution flew once again with the No. 42 of Chad Finchum finding himself slamming into the inside wall. Earnhardt was in 13th.
The green flag dropped again on lap 15, as Earnhardt wheeled his No. 18 iK9 Toyota in the 14th position. Then on lap 18, the caution came out for a third time, as Christopher Bell in the No. 20 spun out with just nine laps left in stage 1, this incident also occurring in turn 1.
Several cars stayed out, with most of the rest of the field electing to take pit stops. Earnhardt came in for four tires and a can of fuel and a chassis adjustment, noting that the handling had become tight on exit. This resulted in dropping him back to 27th before others pitted. On the restart, he was in 18th and with just three laps left in stage one, he was up to 12th and climbing. As the opening stage came to a close, Earnhardt was in 11th.
As the rest of the field made their stops under the stage end caution, this moved Earnhardt up to 2nd place for the stage two restart on lap 32. As the green flag flew, Earnhardt battled John Hunter Nemechek for the lead. Nemechek would win the battle with Earnhardt, however, Bell quickly took over the lead.
Meanwhile, Earnhardt had dropped back to 7th after taking some contact from the No. 22 of Austin Cindric while battling in the top four. With ten laps to go in stage two, the damage has seemed to slow him down a bit, falling back to 10th place.
With just five laps to go in the 2nd stage, Earnhardt continued to slide back into the 13th position slowly. As the stage came to a close Earnhardt was sitting in the 12th position. He went into the pits for his second stop of the day for four tires and two cans of Sunoco Racing Fuel.
On the start of the final stage, Earnhardt was lined up in the 10th position to the outside. It took him just one lap to jump up to 8th and after two laps climbed to 7th with 41 to go.
Still in 7th, Earnhardt came into the pits with just 32 laps to go, getting four tires, one can of Sunoco Racing Fuel and an air pressure adjustment. When he pulled out of the pits he was back in 24th. However, a slew of the leaders had still yet to take their green flag stop, and this was Earnhardt’s last scheduled stop.
With 20 laps to go, the leader came in as green flag stops continued to cycle. With just 17 laps to go, Earnhardt had climbed up into 10th position 40.002-seconds behind the leader Justin Algier in the No. 7 who had not taken his green flag stop yet.
With 15 to go, Earnhardt moved up to 9th 34.473-seconds behind the leader Cole Custer in the No. 00. Then after the cycle of scheduled green flag stops were complete and just ten laps to go, Earnhardt, was up to 6th.
With 5 to go, he was in a battle with Cindric to his inside for 7th place, and Cindric caught the left rear quarter panel of his iK9 machine. This sent Earnhardt for a spin and forced him to come down for his final set of tires. It put him a lap down and dropped him to 25th.
“The pit crew did a great job on pit road, and I felt like we were in good position to pick up a top-10 until I got run over by the 22 (Austin Cindric).” expressed a frustrated Jeffrey Earnhardt.
On the restart with three laps to go, the field didn’t make it through turn one as they went five wide at one point just after the restart. Algier in the No. 7 got sideways, and a slew of the field checked up, including the No. 90 of Ronnie Bassett Jr., causing Earnhardt to ram into the back of him, unable to slow his iK9 Toyota down in time to avoid damage.
This incident forced him to come back to the pits as his crew worked to hammer his hood down and cut out a part of the left side wheel-well. This put Earnhardt well out of contention as the field went back green for NASCAR overtime with Earnhardt back in 22nd still a lap down. That’s where he would finish as an exciting and promising evening turned sour in the final seven laps.
“We did everything in our control to keep ourselves in it until the end, but it was just an unfortunate finish for this iK9 team.” said Earnhardt.