Junior battles back from penalty, contact and vibration for fourth-place finish RELATED: Junior dishes on Hendrick's recent woes LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . wasn't able to defend his Windows 10 400 title Sunday at Pocono Raceway, but after overcoming a self-induced pit-road penalty, on-track contact and a severe vibration, he was happy with a fourth-place finish. "Just had more fuel than everybody else," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We had a lot of trouble today." By Lap 40, the No. 88 car moved up to third from 15th at the start as pit strategies played out. But when he came to pit road 13 laps later, Earnhardt Jr. was caught speeding entering pit road. "Tach wasn't working right so we got caught speeding on pit road," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That was kind of my fault because we have a backup plan, and I didn't use it very well I guess. We got behind, and never could really get our track position back." Falling to 25th by Lap 70, Earnhardt was caught between Cole Whitt low and Casey Mears high in Turn 1 on Lap 72, bringing out the seventh caution of the race. "I must have come down on Cole Whitt down there into Turn 1," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I didn't think I had anybody underneath me. I was just kind of taking it easy getting down into the corner off the gas and waiting on everybody to sort it out. I must have come down on him. We got a little damage there. We fixed that. Got back out there." By Lap 80, Earnhardt Jr. had fallen back to 36th place after fighting a vibration that neither he nor crew chief Greg Ives could diagnose. "We had a lot of vibrations for some reason, not the driveline vibrations, kind of like a bad tire or something," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The right front shook real bad on one set, and the right rear shook bad. "We ran good lap times throughout the day. We got in front of the leader there one time and was running some good laps until we had a real bad vibration kick in and turn sideways down there." After seven cautions in the first half of the race, only one caution came out in the second 80 laps, and the No. 88 team was able to climb into the top 20 by Lap 140. Host of the popular "Back In the Day" show on SPEED Channel, Earnhardt Jr. was surprised that NASCAR waved no yellows in the final 63 laps and threw in a throwback Sunday reference to the year before his birth. "The booth up there, they turned the clock back to 1973 and let that thing play out a little bit, let everybody run out of gas," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That was pretty cool, kind of like some of the older races where you just can't count on them to throw the cautions at the end. They didn't today." Sitting 17th at Lap 150, several cars ran out of Sunoco Green E15 in the final 10 laps, and Earnhardt Jr. was able to earn his third top-five finish in the last five races. He was joined in the top six by fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon in third and Jimmie Johnson in sixth. On Friday, Earnhardt Jr. said Hendrick Motorsports may not be "on top of the mountain any more," and since his win at Daytona, the team has only led four laps over the past four races, including two on Sunday by Gordon. As Joe Gibbs Racing continues its recent dominance with its fourth consecutive victory and 353 laps led in that stretch, Earnhardt Jr. was optimistic that his team may have turned the corner. "Really enjoyed the power we had today," Earnhardt Jr. "We had great motors. I could tell down the straightaway it was as good anybody or better. "We just got to work on our car. Our car wasn't very good all weekend in the corner. We had a lot of balance issues we never really cured so that held us up. We weren't as good as we were earlier this year. "Still a top-10, top-five car, but just barely a top-five car. I thought we had a good enough car to win here when we come here in the summer earlier, but we lost a little on the balance." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Cole Whitt runs into the back of Sam Hornish Jr. when Hornish stops abruptly to avoid contact with Danica Patrick on pit road during practice at Kentucky Speedway.
BK Racing co-owner believes move still likely to happen A representative for Front Row Motorsports denied rumors that Cole Whitt would join the team in 2015, saying that social media and reports about a potential move were untrue. But a team co-owner with close ties to Whitt said the transition is all but certain. A Tuesday night tweet from Anthony Marlowe, co-owner of BK Racing, seemed to indicate that Whitt had left his team to join Front Row. Via Twitter, Marlowe congratulated Whitt on securing a ride in the No. 34 Ford, which has been driven the past three seasons by David Ragan . @colewhitt congrats on landing the #34 ride @frontrownascar !! Happy Thanksgiving! See you at the track :) — Anthony Marlowe (@AnthonyMarlowe) November 26, 2014 Wednesday morning, Front Row Motorsports reps said that reports that Whitt was shifting to the Statesville, North Carolina,-based team were "not true." Reached Wednesday afternoon, Marlowe said such a move might still become reality. "I think Cole is a very talented driver. I don't think Front Row Motorsports has much of a choice but to say what they've said or respond the way they've responded pursuant to certain agreements. Cole is still under contract with BK Racing," Marlowe said from his Iowa home. "Am I 100 percent certain he's going there? No. If you would've asked me a few months ago if I would be surprised, I would say absolutely yes. If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago if I was surprised, I'd say no, probably not." Marlowe confirmed that Whitt had informed the BK team that he didn't intend to exercise a contract renewal for next season. "Maybe I've made a mistake in (that) he's going to the 34," Marlowe said of Whitt , "but I'm like 98 percent certain he's going to Front Row Motorsports, and if not, the bellwether on garage rumors and Gmail is [that] my pulse is off on that. I think 99 out of 100 times, those rumors tend to be true and an overwhelming amount of people, including your colleague team owners, are kind of unofficially confirming it." Whitt , 23, recently completed his first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finishing 31st in the overall standings as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. He began the year with Swan Racing, which was sold and merged with the BK Racing team in the spring. BK fielded entries for Whitt's No. 26, plus full-time entries for the No. 23 and 83 cars. Ragan, 28, brought Front Row and car owner Bob Jenkins their only victory in NASCAR's premier series at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Ragan struggled last season, though, winding up tied for 32nd in the final standings, a single point behind Whitt . He recorded his lone top-10 finish of the season at Martinsville Speedway in the fall with a paint scheme honoring 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott. Jenkins also fields the full-time No. 38 entry driven by David Gilliland . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Cole Whitt hits the tire barrier in Turn 1 at Watkins Glen to bring out the first caution flag of the day.
Brian Scott gets loose coming off Turn 2 and trips up the No. 88 of Cole Whitt .
After Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick get together, Timmy Hill runs in to Matt Kenseth's rear bumper in the aftermath at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Cole Whitt makes contact with Juan Pablo Montoya and spins as the rain starts again at Chicagoland Speedway.
Alex Bowman and Cole Whitt express their excitement for making the Daytona 500, while a frustrated Parker Kligerman must wait to see if the No. 30 can make the race.
More trouble for Cole Whitt as he brings out the caution for the second time in the Geico 400.
Chaos in Turn 4 collects Danica Patrick, Cole Whitt , and others.