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Loose wheel stymies Dale Earnhardt Jr. late at Talladega

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 07: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Poised to make a run for the win and earn a playoff spot, Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw his hopes end because of a loose wheel in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

He said after the race that the issue had been glue on the lug nuts but stated later on his Periscope Sunday night that he found out it was not a glue issue. He said the team would inspect the air gun Monday to see if it failed to secure the lug nuts.

The problem led to Earnhardt’s car making contact with the wall and finishing 22nd.

Earnhardt was third on a restart with 15 laps to go. He struggled with the car throughout the race and felt something wasn’t right during the caution. Jamie McMurray pulled alongside Earnhardt’s car during the caution to check his tires. All were inflated.

Shortly after the restart, Earnhardt drifted high, hit the wall and fell back.

“Just unfortunate,’’ Earnhardt said on his Periscope. “It sucked.’’

After the race, he said there was only one lug nut securing the wheel.

“It was going to come off in the race,’' he said. “It wouldn’t have made it to the end. That would have been pretty catastrophic.’’

That culminated a frustrating day for Earnhardt, who did not lead a lap despite starting on the front row.

“I was hoping we would have been able to rebound late,’’ he said. “We just didn’t get in the right lane. Our car wasn’t very good in the pack in traffic, it wasn’t very good at all. We didn’t run many laps inside the top five, the top 10 all day because the car didn’t have a lot of speed. We’ve just got to kind of work on that.

“The car runs great by itself. Out front, I’m sure it would be great. Any time we got a little bit close to the front, those guys around me were a little stronger.’’

In a race some viewed as one of the best chances for Earnhardt to win to earn a playoff spot, he failed to score a top-20 finish and fell one spot to 25th in the points standing. Sunday marked his sixth finish in 10 races outside the top 20.

“I don’t know what the heck we’ve got to do,’' Earnhardt said on Periscope. “This luck has been awful. Not going to be in a very good mood for a couple of days.’'

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