At the end of the night however, Earnhardt found himself a lap down in 15th.
After starting sixth, Earnhardt quickly worked his way to the front taking the lead on lap 30 in front of a Hendrick Motorsports contingent of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne; on lap 34 though Earnhardt began to experience some issues.
Thanks to some trash on his grill, Earnhardt let teammate Kahne pass to clean it off. Not only did the move not work, but Earnhardt fell back and was unable to catch Kahne. He fell back past Martin Truex Jr. in third with no luck; it took Earnhardt one more spot to Johnson before he was able to get close enough to dislodge the debris. Gordon remained in 5th.
From there though Earnhardt would later lead only a couple more laps; by lap 275 he was to the point that he was passed by Johnson and put a lap down.
“The car just got really tight,” Earnhardt said. “Something in the set-up moved, but the car was real quick at the start of the race. We were just kind of real happy with the speed.”
Earnhardt said he wasn’t quite sure just what had happened.
“The No. 5 (Kahne) was really good and the No. 48 (Johnson) got real good,” Earnhardt said. “We lost a rubber out of the right-rear spring or something like that. It just would not turn at all the last half of the race pretty much.”
He added that he felt there may have been some sort of mechanical issue.
“We will find something I’m sure,” he said. “The car just doesn’t get that tight from running that good without any adjustments. We were freeing it up, moving the trackbar, taking wedge out and just getting tighter and tighter something wrong with it.”
The finish for Earnhardt dropped him a spot in the Chase standings to 9th.