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Earnhardt Jr. loses lead on stop

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AVONDALE, Ariz.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t get the result he was looking for after finishing fifth at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

NASCAR Phoenix action

NASCAR IN PHOENIX

Check out the NASCAR action in Phoenix. See photos.

Earnhardt led 47 circuits of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Subway 500, from Lap 192 to 238, but gave up the lead to eventual winner Carl Edwards on the final pit stop when he was blocked on exit by Casey Mears.

"Well, I hate to be frustrated at Phoenix, but I think we are," Earnhardt said. "We had a real good car. We feel like we could have finished better than fifth, maybe won the race. Just didn't get the breaks on pit road. We kind of got boxed in, and picked on beating the No. 99 (of Edwards) off pit road.

"I think we could have beat him off pit road, but somebody was pulling in their stall in front of us, and just had to lift and give the spot to the No. 99. That was the race in my opinion, and we almost had it won right there. Real good race car. Tough in traffic; tough to get to people. But, we made our car good enough to actually make some passes and gain on some guys."

On the seventh and final caution, Earnhardt was posted fifth behind Denny Hamlin for not maintaining minimum speed. With Earnhardt in fuel-conservation mode, he was unable to pick up ground over the final two laps. Still, his second top five of the season allowed him to maintain second place in the points standings. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by eight.

Hamlin, who finished third on Sunday, said he was grateful to Earnhardt for laying back.

"It was a gift from Junior, really," Hamlin said. "You've got to maintain speed, and I'm trying to be a nice guy and give him some room to kind of — I knew he was lunging forward and backward, cutting his car off. Usually the — I don't know, the etiquette — is you try when everyone is in fuel-save mode you give the guy a little bit, but I was nearly stopped, so I had to pass him because I thought he had actually ran out of fuel at the time.

"I guess (in) NASCAR once you get to a certain speed and you stall, then you're free game for anyone that goes around you. I was happy."

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