But when his team took a look on pit road, there was nothing broken, and about seven laps clicked away while he was on pit road on the green flag.
Earnhardt told his crew the car wouldn't turn in Turns 1 and 2 and that it felt like something in the steering was broken. He told his crew he was coming in to pit right away.
But after going under the hood, the team couldn't find anything wrong with the car, and several laps later, Earnhardt was running consistently fast laps.
"There was nothing to be fixed," a dejected crew chief Lance McGrew said afterward. "Nothing."
Earnhardt ended up 10 laps down in 30th, dropping four positions to 16th in the standings.
"There's a bunch of marbles on the race track down there, and I was on the inside," Earnhardt told SBNation.com. "We got the green, and I hit those (marbles) and the car went straight. We'd been dragging the splitter all day in the corner coming off of (Turn) 4, and the car just went straight like it had a flat tire.
"We'd been so loose before that, I figured something must be (messed) up and broke on it. That thing drove like it was ... broke in half."