Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s appeal fails

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. was adamant that he should have finished 14th instead of 15th in Monday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

NASCAR didn't agree.

After protesting the order of finish for nearly 15 minutes, Earnhardt emerged from the NASCAR hauler giving the thumbs down signal to crew chiefs for Ryan Newman, David Ragan and Brian Vickers, who also questioned the results.

The biggest issue was whether Richard Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer improved his position after the caution flag came out on the final lap to secure Marcos Ambrose's first Cup win.

NASCAR officials told Earnhardt that Bowyer did not improve his position and awarded him 11th. Earnhardt, who is fighting to stay in the top 10 in points, stayed at 15th.

"I thought the 33 (Bowyer) was in the accident and that we should be positioned in front of him,'' Earnhardt said. "Points are points, man. They're real important. But they said he maintained reasonable speed and was positioned to finish in front of me, which I can't argue with them.''

Although Earnhardt lost that battle, he improved a spot to ninth in the standings. With four races left before the Chase field is set he has a 36-point lead over 11th-place Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer moved up a spot after Denny Hamlin crashed early in the race en route to a 36th-place finish.

The top 10 in points and two wild cards based on the drivers with the most wins between 11th and 20th in points make the Chase. Brad Keselowski, 14th with two wins, currently has the first wild card spot. Hamlin at 12th with one win has the other.

Although the finish wasn't what Earnhardt wanted, it was the first time since he was third in points eight races ago that he has moved up in the standings.

"I was real happy with the way we ran,'' Earnhardt said as the series moves to Michigan this weekend. "I hated we didn't get our strategy to work out well. We didn't have the gas mileage we thought we were getting and ran a little short there.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.