“I don’t know what the 38 was doing,” Kahne said. “First off, he’s hard to pass. Then you get by him and he’s two laps down and he starts battling. I let him go and he still didn’t pass me. I have no idea what he was thinking, but that’s the way it goes.” Gilliland said the goal was to keep from wrecking despite the “hairy” track conditions. “(The wrecks) were right in front of me,” he said. “It was a busy day for that. We’re happy that we brought the car home in one piece. That’s a lot more than some other guys can say.” EARNHARDT’S GOOF Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s momentary brain hiccup cost him a likely top-five finish. Late in the race, Earnhardt was running sixth when he followed Jeff Burton into the pits during a caution with 16 laps to go. There was only one problem: Burton was pitting because his car was broken and needed immediate repair. The pits weren’t open yet, signaled by a red light at the start of pit road. As a result, Earnhardt was given a penalty and had to start at the back of the pack. He finished 11th. “The pit road was closed and I didn’t see, or wasn’t looking,” he said. “I didn’t even think if it was closed or open. You’re not thinking about that. “I’m sad for my team because we should have finished fifth or sixth. But I’m just happy we got to finish one, finally.” Earnhardt needed a good finish after two DNFs to start the season, a result that put him in jeopardy of souring his season after just three races. Instead, he moved up 12 spots from 40th to 28th. Drivers must be in the top 35 after the first five races in order to be locked into the field each week. THANKS FOR NOTHING Casey Mears finished 40th after getting caught up in a wreck caused by Orange County’s Robby Gordon on the eighth lap of the race. “It amazes me – every time I think Robby can’t do anything more stupid than he’s already done, he one-ups himself,” Mears said. “It’s ridiculous. He’s trying to pull off something in the first opening laps when it means nothing. I guess he’s trying to be a hero.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LAS VEGAS – Considering there are seven former Chase for the Nextel Cup participants behind him in the standings after three races, life could be worse for David Gilliland. The former Inland Empire resident finished 21st in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a result that dropped him one spot to 12th in the season standings. After avoiding several wrecks, including a pair of spinning cars right in front of him, Gilliland was eventually lapped by race leader Jimmie Johnson on the 90th lap. He later went two laps down after a pit stop with 50 laps remaining, effectively ending his chances at a top-20 finish. “We needed to start where we finished with our car,” he said. “It would have been great. But we didn’t.” Gilliland drew the ire of driver Kasey Kahne after a wreck late in the race. Kahne was running in the top 10, but spun out and crashed while driving next to Gilliland’s No. 38 M&Ms Ford with about 20 laps remaining. The two cars didn’t make contact, but Kahne blamed Gilliland for the incident. After the race, he approached Gilliland’s hauler before being shooed away by crew members. “We just kind of struggled with the car, but we weren’t the only ones today, you know,” he said. Gilliland crashed his primary car during qualifying on Friday and was forced to use a backup. NASCAR rules dictate that switching cars after qualifying necessitates starting from the rear of the field.