Million Dollar Bonus for Victorious Bud Team
Dale Jr. Turns in Scintillating Drive to Win at Talladega
Talladega, AL - Dale Earnhardt Jr. grabbed the victory and a million dollar bonus from series sponsor Winston as the No. 8 Budweiser team won the EA Sports 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday afternoon. It is the third victory of the season for the team and moves Dale Jr. into sixth place in the Winston Cup point standings. Dale Jr. led the most laps for the fourth time this season, heading the field 11 times for 67 laps, as he dueled Tony Stewart to the finish line while a serious, multi-car crash exploded behind them. No drivers were seriously injured in the last lap crash, but 15 or more cars were damaged in the crash. Earnhardt Jr. topped Stewart at the finish line by a margin of .388 of a second. The prize money of $1,165,773 is the richest payday of the team’s career. It is Dale Jr’s fifth career win in 70 starts, and it gives Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) three wins in four restrictor plate races this season.
The Key Moment: Starting sixth, Dale Jr. took the lead for the first time on lap nine, and then ran among the top three (except for pit stops) until the team’s final pit stop on lap 151 (of 188). Twelve teams did not make a pit stop on that lap, dropping Dale Jr. to 13th position. When the green flag fell, it took the red Bud car only seven laps to move back into second place. In the final 20 laps of the race, Dale Jr. led the race three times, falling as far back as fourth place with three laps to go before he sliced, diced and zoomed his way to first place on the final lap.
Dale Jr’s Quotes: Series sponsor Winston offers the “No Bull Million,” a bonus program that awards a million dollars to a driver and fan at selected races on the circuit. A lucky fan, Carrie Richter of Conneaut, Ohio won a million as well. “A million bucks?!? Wild, isn’t it?!”
“We had such a great car today – Tony (Eury, crew chief) and all the guys tweak and polish and work on this speedway car all the time, just making it better and better. The engine guys too – every man on this team finds a little improvement in their area, and so overall it makes a huge difference. This was the car we won with at Daytona, and we looked forward to coming back here and showing some muscle. The car was so good that I had time to contemplate and really think about how it would end and how I was going to race certain guys. I thought the 55 car (Bobby Hamilton) was going to be the strongest, and the 15 (teammate Michael Waltrip) and maybe the 20 (Tony Stewart). I know Bobby (Hamilton) got a run on me at one point and I was able to pull back in front of him, so I knew we had a good car that could win. I guess 7/8th of that race was probably not that exciting for the fans, but the last bit was sure as hell exciting.”
In four restrictor-plate races this year, Dale Jr. has two wins, a second and a sixth-place finish, giving him the best record of any driver in those races. His late, great father won this race last year, and was considered the king of restrictor plate racing. Dale Jr. was asked after the race about his father’s influence and teaching him about restrictor plate racing: “I paid a lot of attention to my dad for a lot of years, so I think I had some sort of idea what he was doing. Then, racing against him last year, I learned a lot more. He was always teaching me lessons by leaving me behind out there. I think it’s a lot easier to know what he was doing than it is to actually go out and do it. These guys gave me the best car, but I knew that in the last 10 laps, I was the one that was gonna have to wheel it. If we didn’t win, it would have been my fault. No matter how fast the car is, you have to be spiteful or uncaring in those last laps. I ran into Bobby (Labonte) at the line on the white flag lap, and I thought I might have wrecked him, but I had a great run and my momentum was carrying me past him no matter what direction he was going.”
“It’s cool to do things that my father had done. You know, like winning the Winston (NASCAR’s all star race in 2000). I had watched him win that race a few times, so it meant a lot to me when I won it to say ‘I did that too.’ When I was a little kid, I’d look back through the all the books and magazines and it would show the winner of the year before and I’d always look to see where dad had finished. So, now when I win, I feel like it’s a mark for me. I wanna be one of the good drivers.(My dad and grandpa were voted among NASCAR’s top 50 drivers of the first 50 years, and) I wanna be in that book when the next one is written. I want my boy to look in there and see how his daddy did in 2001…”
After a dominating win at Daytona, some cynics suggested that the race had been somehow fixed. Dale Jr. was asked if today’s win was satisfying to quiet the critics. “It feels great. It felt great to win. We were looking forward to it. It feels good that I get credit because I was driving it, but there is a lot of credit to go around, and it feels good to make those people (critics of the Daytona win) sleep in the bed they made.”
Did he see the big crash in his mirror? “Yeah. At first I thought, ‘wow man, I’m gonna win.’ Then, I felt the 20 car (Stewart) get a draft on the side of my car. You can feel that. He was alongside of me, and I knew I had company.”
Radio Chatter (the best moments of radio conversation during the race)
The frantic two- and three-wide action usually produces a non-stop barrage of chatter from spotter Ty Norris. However, because Dale Jr. was nearly always in the lead or in a single-file line in second place, there were long periods of silence on the radio. For 12 laps, as Junior led the race early on, the radio was silent, so Norris decided to check in with Dale Jr.
Norris (spotter): “Everything cool?”
Dale Jr. (after long pause): “Yup.”
Understatement of the day:
Dale Jr.: “Are we really this good, or is everybody else just chillin’?”
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): “They’re chillin,’ but we’re pretty good.”
As he approached the finish line, Dale Jr. almost couldn’t believe his eyes.
Dale Jr.: “Are we gonna win?… YEAH! I’m gonna win!”
Tony Jr.: “YEAH! This one is for everyone who doubted the Daytona win!”
Race Notes / EA Sports 500
Points Points Points
For the second time in five weeks, the Bud team scored the maximum amount of points, as they won the race and also grabbed the 10 bonus points for leading the race for the most laps.They achieved the same feat at Dover in the first race following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The point bounty moved Dale Jr. into sixth place in points with five races left in the season. He is now 73 points behind fifth place and 115 points out of third place.
The Tonight Show
Dale Jr. will appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno next Monday (October 29) on NBC. Dale Jr. will appear along with other guests John Travolta and the band Alien Ant Farm. It will be Earnhardt Jr’s first appearance on Leno’s show.
Money Won: $1,165,773
Points Position: 6th
Laps Led: 11 times for 67 laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 95 / 4 tires and Fuel / 14.65 seconds
TECHNICAL INSPECTION UPDATE:
Two hours following the victory, NASCAR announced that the No. 8 Budweiser car was approximately 1/8 inch below the minimum height at the roof line. The car had passed pre-race inspection, but did not pass the post-race test. Any penalties will be announced tomorrow (Monday) by NASCAR. Historically, a violation of this nature results in a fine for the team, but does not impact the victory.
Thanks to Jade from BudPR for this information. Jim 8-)