After the axle broke following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pit stop on lap 183, a lot of people were quick to point the blame toward Earnhardt Jr. Though in listening to his post race quotes, you also see that it could’ve started back the lap before.
"We tore up an axle or a drive plate–one of the two happened first," Earnhardt said. "Down in the center of [Turns] one and two, I just got back to the gas, and the car felt like it had a flat tire. I don't know. Something's going on there where we're chewing that stuff up and tearing it up. We've got to figure out why that's happening. They think it's a material issue, so we'll just have to see."
Lance McGrew, crew chief for Earnhardt Jr., also said they discovered the problem on the No. 88, finding that both the rear axle and drive shaft had broken.
A further look into the Hendrick Motorsports organization would prove that this isn’t just a problem centered on the No. 88 team.
McGrew said problems with the rear axles first surfaced during Saturday’s final practice when the left rear axle on Mark Martin’s car looked bad. After that, all four Hendrick teams changed their rear axles.
Following the Auto Club 500, the Hendrick Motorsports discovered that had they ran about six more laps, the rear axle on the No. 48 car would’ve broke.
A solution to the problem has yet to be discovered, which has caused worry in McGrew for the next two weeks as both Las Vegas and Atlanta are hard on rear axles.
"I'm sweating this weekend along with Atlanta, which is historically really bad on axles,” McGrew told ESPN. “To say there's not a stir about it would be an understatement".