Originally written on Fox Sports  |  Last updated 9/4/14

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 03: NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week NMPA Myers Brothers Awards at the Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino on December 3, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
When Dale Earnhardt Jr., crew chief Steve Letarte and the rest of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports race team was plotting strategy for Sunday's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, they weighed a lot of options: track position, fuel mileage and pit strategy were all examined and re-examined in their pre-race planning. What they didn't account for -- what they couldn't have conceivably even imagined -- was how a loose tire would eliminate them from contention for a victory. And as things turned out, Earnhardt, Letarte and Co. did well to salvage a 12th-place finish. What happened on track was just flat bizarre: Earnhardt qualified on the pole and was leading the race when Denny Hamlin lost a right-front tire on Lap 38. While Hamlin was coming down the pit-road entrance, the carcass of the tire came off and struck first the nose of Earnhardt's car, then the nose of teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was in second place at the time. Earnhardt hit the tire low, which bent the right side o...
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