Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race came to a quick and fiery end in Monday's rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Running behind Aric Almirola as they raced through the tri-oval on Lap 13, Earnhardt dipped his left-side tires in the infield, which severely damaged the nose of his car, cut a tire and sent his Chevrolet hard into the outside wall. The crash triggered a fire in rear of the No. 88, which Earnhardt was able to escape uninjured when he stopped on the Turn 2 apron.
"I didn't have a good visual of where the apron was. That's awful," Earnhardt said. "I just ran into the grass on the apron on the front straightaway. Just a mistake on my part. I just didn't know I was that close to the grass."
Earnhardt entered Texas as the Sprint Cup championship leader, holding a nine-point margin on second-place Matt Kenseth. It's a lead that Earnhardt is all but assured of relinquishing, as he will finish 43rd and last Monday. He had finished third or better in four of the first six races this season.
Sprint Cup Standings
Also involved was Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, who sustained a broken windshield and front-end damage. Johnson's crew was able to fix the damage under caution, but a flat tire would later knock the defending Sprint Cup champion two laps behind the leaders.