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Dale Earnhardt Jr. bounces back from Phoenix, loose wheel for sixth-place finish

Auto Club 400

Auto Club 400

Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebounded in more than one way with his performance in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

After two green-white-checkered attempts and a close call with Kyle Larson on the first, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevy crossed the finish line sixth.

The first rebound was from his 43rd place finish last week at Phoenix after losing a tire. It was his first 43rd place finish since the spring Texas race in 2014. It also came after earning top-five finishes in each of the season’s first three races.

“We’re just glad to be able to rebound,” Earnhardt said. “Last week was very dismal, disappointing and frustrating.”

Earnhardt, who started 17th, eventually found himself in the top 10 and remained there most of the day, climbing into the top three.

“Never really got exactly what we wanted out of every single restart to get the track position towards the end, but we did gain spots on all the restarts.” Earnhardt said. “Things didn’t go exactly our way.”

One aspect that could have proven worse, had it not been for a timely caution late, was a loose wheel.

The No. 88 team rebounded from that, making its way toward the front. Earnhardt fought teammate Jimmie Johnson for third before the first green-white-checkered sequence.

Earnhardt’s performance through five races is made more impressive given that he is in his first season with a new crew chief, Greg Ives.

“Greg’s real sharp,” Earnhardt said. “He’s still … learning the ropes and taking everything in. He’s a sponge, just absorbing everything he can. He’s got a great help, too. Kevin Meendering is my lead engineer from last year.”

The performance has Earnhardt fourth in the driver’s standings, 61 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Follow @DanielMcFadin