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Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes through gamut of emotions watching Phoenix race

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 06: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid with crew chief Greg Ives and Dale Earnhardt Jr. prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. can now empathize with NASCAR fans, especially those who root for him.

Earnhardt couldn’t help but share his thoughts on the Can-Am 500 throughout the day on Twitter as he anxiously watched his car, piloted by Alex Bowman, contend for the race win. At his home track, Bowman started on the pole and led a race-high 194 of 324 laps.

When the caution flew with two laps to go, Bowman was given a second chance at what could have been his first career win. He lined up second to Matt Kenseth, who was looking to advance in the Chase. Then, things went south.

Bowman, on the inside, attempted to block Kyle Busch as the field charged toward Turn 1. He was bumped by the Busch and then went into Turn 1 and collected Kenseth. Although he escaped without damage, Bowman lost his track position and ultimately finished sixth.

Earnhardt also offered his thoughts to Kenseth’s spotter, who took the blame for the accident. Chris Osborne had cleared Kenseth as Bowman charged inside, resulting in Kenseth moving down. Bowman, apologetic for the contact, also felt over the radio that Kenseth had come down on him.

With a 21st-place finish, Kenseth failed to advance to the Championship 4.

Sunday was Bowman’s best performance in the No. 88 car for Earnhardt.

Called upon when Earnhardt was initially sidelined because of a concussion, Sunday was Bowman’s ninth start in the car. While the results have not been indicative of how well Bowman has run, he has earned three top-10 finishes in nine starts.

At Phoenix, Bowman broke through with his first career pole and earned a career-best finish. His 194 laps led also eclipsed the number (nine) he had led in his previous 79 career starts.

Bowman will finish the season in the No. 88 car next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt is expected to return to the driver’s seat in February at Daytona International speedway, perhaps happily leaving behind the emotions that come with being an observer.

Follow @KellyCrandall