DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. saved his first tweet for the night of his 2014 Daytona 500 win.
About 5,100 tweets and one year later, Earnhardt lamented on Twitter his lost shot at back-to-back championships.
“That car should have won the race,” he tweeted Sunday.
Earnhardt stalked the leaders late until a mistake on a restart with 19 laps left dumped him from contention. Earnhardt rallied for a third-place finish in his first race with new crew chief Greg Ives.
“I’ve got a great team,” Earnhardt said. “I feel like Greg is going to be awesome.”
Earnhardt led 32 laps in the No. 88 Chevrolet and had the checkered flag in sight until that restart misstep knocked him to 20th.
“I thought (Jimmie Johnson) was on the quarter panel and he was going to get a good run down the back and I wanted to get in behind him,” he said. “Somebody got on the outside and I was stuck in the middle then. Just a bad decision. I should have stayed on the bottom and been a little more patient.”
Earnhardt, who won one of last week’s Daytona qualifying races, finished behind winner Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
“We had a really fast car, maybe the best car here,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt lost his chance to become the first repeat Daytona 500 winner since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95.
He parlayed that win into an automatic spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. That took some of the pressure off his Hendrick Motorsports team, and he responded with his best season in a decade. He won four races with 12 top fives.
He drove in 2014 with house money until the Chase.
“It makes the rest of the season a whole lot different,” he said. “You can get a lot more aggressive on pit road with fuel mileage and stuff. Worked great for us last year.”
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