Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick had their race end early in Monday's rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
This 500-mile race at Texas was scheduled for Sunday, but inclement weather postponed it until the following day. Earnhardt, who entered the event as the points leader, crashed hard into the turn 1 wall on lap 13. The rear of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet erupted into flames. He immediately climbed out his heavily-damaged car, as track safety workers quickly extinguished the fire.
While running right behind Aric Almirola, Earnhardt dropped down the track and ran on the infield grass along the front straightaway, which caused damage to his left-front tire. He shot up the track before smacking the wall.
"Just ran into the grass on the apron on the front straightaway there," Earnhardt said. "I was following the 43 [Almirola] and just didn't see the grass. Didn't know the grass was down there that close...I really didn't have a good visual where the grass was and just got down in there pretty good. That's awful."
Earnhardt's car was damaged beyond repair. He will end up finishing 43rd. It was his first DNF (did not finish) since last September at Chicagoland -- the first race in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Earnhardt began this season by winning the Feb. 23 Daytona 500.
"You can't run through there [grass] with the way we've got these cars on the ground like that," Earnhardt added. "Just a mistake on my part. I just didn't know I was that close to the grass and made a mistake."
Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion and three-time race winner at Texas, was behind his teammate, Earnhardt, at the time of the incident. Debris from Earnhardt's car caused damage to the windshield on Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet, forcing him to pit multiple times for repairs. Johnson later suffered a flat tire, putting him three laps down.
Harvick suffered engine failure on lap 29, which put him out of the race. He was running second to pole sitter and then leader Tony Stewart. Harvick did not comment on his race, as he quickly left the track in disgust. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will finish 42nd. He won at Phoenix on March 2 but has finished 36th or worse in four of the past five races.