Sitting around the garage after finally giving up on repair efforts, Earnhardt was asked by a friend on Busch's crew if he would drive Busch's car. Turns out the crew had Busch's car ready to go again, but couldn't find the driver.
NASCAR rules permit such moves, and Earnhardt agreed. The gesture allowed Busch to finish one spot ahead of Jimmie Johnson in 37th. Earnhardt finished 36th.
Busch earned three points thanks to Earnhardt - although he did drop two spots in the points standings to seventh with 856, 280 behind leader Jeff Gordon.
"I could tell that it was a real nice car before we had the accident. Smooth steering, just smooth," Earnhardt said.
Busch went immediately to the garage when he slammed into the back of Earnhardt, who had hit the brakes trying to avoid a spinning Tony Stewart in front of him on lap 253.
Earnhardt made several pit stops in an effort to repair the damage during the subsequent caution, but he surrendered not long after the restart.
Junior said he didn't care about the impact on the points. He dropped seven spots to 18th at 737, a whopping 399 behind Gordon.
Alan Gustafson, Busch's crew chief, said the driver thought they weren't planning to go back out and left the racetrack.
"Junior didn't hesitate and agreed, and it was a very sportsmanlike gesture," Gustafson said. "It says a lot about Dale and the kind of person he is."
Earnhardt led 96 laps, second to Gordon's 173, and appeared to have the best car when the wreck knocked him out.