"We're getting ourselves in playoff form", Sadler said. Christopher Bell, William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were the only other cars to finish on the lead lap.
"I'm disappointed", Earnhardt said about not making the playoffs. "We had a long-run auto that was really fast, and the guys did a great job".
"You're going to be disappointed if you don't make the playoffs", Earnhardt said earlier this year. We'll try these next 10 to keep running well.
"Obviously this is one of the toughest spots we have been in as a team".
Earnhardt is a two-time Daytona 500 champion and 26-race victor who has dealt with slumps at various times throughout his career. "We can't really put it on nobody else". "I don't really know what happened but we were just trying to get every spot we could - even though we weren't in a position to win".
The second stage was a similar story for Busch, who moved back into the top spot for 52 more laps, but was unable to close it out.
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Another wild scene out his windshield Saturday night occurred under caution, when the field approached an ambulance truck parked at pit road entry.
However, all that could change in an instant should one of those below him in the standings capture the checkered flag Saturday night. We come down there and Matt knocked the radiator out of it. I think they handle pressure fine.
"You feel like you're good enough and feel like your team is good enough, and when you don't make it, it doesn't feel good".
Earnhardt spent much of the night in the top 10 at Richmond Raceway and was out front for 13 laps (his most in a race all year, Laps 335-347) as part of a strategy play to stay out as long as possible and hold the lead.
Despite the negatives, Saturday brought the warm return of competitive pace, something that has been tough to find from the No. 88 bunch this year. "Hopefully, we can get a good run, get in the playoffs, kind of get hot when we need to". "We had some odd luck [this year]". We haven't had to fight to get in the playoffs in a long time. But his three career Richmond victories gave his fans hope that if he landed on something for the race, he might be able to pull off the upset.
"You come to all these race tracks with an urgency to win, just like we did at the Daytona 500", Bowyer said.