Quick takeaways from Texas: Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets first top-five finish in 10 months

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/88/" data-ylk="slk:Dale Earnhardt Jr.">Dale Earnhardt Jr.</a> last finished in the top five at Pocono. (Getty)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. last finished in the top five at Pocono. (Getty)

Consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.

• Look at that, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished in the top five.

Junior had a fast car throughout the second half of Sunday’s race at Texas and finished fifth. It’s his first top-five of the season and first since he finished second at Pocono in June.

“I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice,” Junior said. “I know our fans are really pulling for us.  Could have finished a little better, we will take top five.”

He entered Sunday’s race 25th in the points standings after crashing at Martinsville, but is now 20th after that finish. He was one of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the top 10 and that doesn’t count Kyle Larson, whose Chip Ganassi Racing team has a Hendrick alliance.

[Related: Jimmie Johnson wins at Texas]

• Junior also made an interesting observation watching other cars that finished in the top 10 after the race.

“I mean, I felt like we were pretty good and we ran with the cars, [Martin Truex Jr.] and the guys that have been really fast,” Junior said. “I think [Brad Keselowski] and [Joey Logano] have been really the class of the field.  I saw those guys weaving after the race and downshifting hard to reset their housing, so we have to figure out what they are doing and see if we can’t make it better.”

Why is this a big deal? Well, teams have been attempting to make their cars faster by adding rear skew to their cars under speed. We can’t attempt to explain how teams are doing it, but engineers have become adept at making cars pitch — for better cornering speed — as they are moving fast on track.

But remember, NASCAR measures cars during pre and post-race inspection while they’re standing still. So if the cars are legal “at rest,” then they pass inspection.

NASCAR attempted to outlaw the post-race swerving in September last year and penalized practice time for Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson at Kansas after it deemed they broke the no-swerving edict at Charlotte.

But clearly — at least in Junior’s eyes — the swerving is back. What will NASCAR do this time? Teams know that they have to push the limits for good finishes. And they do it within whatever constraints NASCAR sets.

• Should Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 team have pitted during the last caution in stage 2?

Blaney had the fastest car throughout the first two stages of Sunday’s race. And when the caution flag flew on lap 165 — seven laps before the conclusion of stage 2 — Blaney and team didn’t pit.

As the race leader, Blaney was in a tough spot. If he pits, he loses any possibility of a stage win and points for finishing in the top 10. By not pitting, he gave himself a chance to win stage 2. And he did just that.

But the tough spot happened at the end of the stage. Blaney pitted then and subsequently restarted 20th. He never got that track position back.

“I don’t know what it was there at the end of segment two and that made everybody have split strategies and we got in the back and couldn’t pass anybody,” Blaney said. “It was terrible to try to pass people.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Blaney and team would pit during the debris caution. Even though he sacrificed the points in the stage he would have restarted at the front of the field for the third segment. And possibly won the race.

Instead he finished 12th after a bad late pit stop kept him pinned outside the top five.

Austin Dillon didn’t even take the green flag for Sunday’s race. A track bar issue meant he started the race in the garage while the team fixed the problem. Dillon finished 33rd, 12 laps down.

• Fox’s coverage of the Cup Series in 2017 continues to be below average. The broadcasts can be incoherent at times and it’s not uncommon to hear one of the network’s personalities describe something that clearly isn’t what’s being shown. Witness:

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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