Budweiser Team Dominates, Wins at Bristol
Dale Jr. records fourth win of season, remains third in point standings
Bristol, TN - Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team led a career-high 295 of 500 laps to dominate the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. It was Dale Jr.’s 13th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Victory and his career-best fourth of the season. Ryan Newman finished second and Jimmie Johnson third. Dale Jr. took his sixth and final lead on lap 416 and drove away from the field, this after starting 30th. Coupled with his win in Friday’s NASCAR Busch Series race, Dale Jr. becomes the first driver to sweep races at Bristol, although it was the third time he has swept Busch and Nextel Cup races in one weekend (Talladega in 2003 and the 2004 Daytona Speedweeks were the others). Bristol becomes the eighth different venue Dale Jr. has conquered, and the first half-mile track. He now has eight top-fives in the last 11 races on half-mile courses. Dale Jr. remains third in the championship point standings, now trailing point-leader Johnson by 75 points.
Key Moments: Starting 30th, his worst starting position of the year, it was the decision not to pit during the third caution that propelled Dale Jr. from 31st to second, setting up a spirited battle with Rusty Wallace. Dale Jr. passed Wallace for the lead on lap 64, and the two traded the lead four more times over the next 100 laps. Dale Jr. gave up the point on a lap-215 pit stop, but an unusually long green-flag stretch (230 laps) not only allowed him to reassume the lead but run away with it. Dale Jr. lapped cars a torrid pace (lapping all but six cars) while also benefiting from lightning-quick pit stops by the Bud crew. In third place on a lap 399-restart, Dale Jr. needed only 18 laps to pass Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman to regain the lead he would never relinquish.
Dale Jr. Quotes: “To win at Bristol, let alone sweep races at Bristol, it’s awesome. With about 100 laps to go I was thinking about how bad I hated this track, but now that we’ve won, I love it. It’s a love-hate relationship, because it just wears you out. That was probably the most physically draining experience I’ve had in a race car. That long green-flag run, man, it was something else. I came to a lot of races here when my dad drove them. He made this place magical if you're an Earnhardt fan, and me being one of 'em. I might not have done it like he did it just now, but that was pretty damn close. He had some great races here. That's why this place is so magical to me. I've wanted to win here so bad. I never thought I'd win a Busch race and a Cup race the same weekend at Bristol. Good Lord. What a great day!
“We might not bounce back to full consistency right away, but we're gaining on it. I count on my team. When everybody thinks we're down and out we get it back. We figure it out. We keep going. That's what makes us tough. We’ve taken a lot of heat lately, but I’ve said it a hundred times: These are the guys I want to go racing with. Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. and all the guys on the team, man, they find a way to get it done. They were the ones that made this car bad-ass tonight – nobody else. They were the ones making the calls from the pits. I'm real proud of my team. Seeing their faces in Victory Lane never gets old.”
Best Radio Chatter:
In 26th when the third caution flew, the Bud team elected not to pit despite brief concerns that Dale Jr. might have run over debris from Ricky Rudd’s hard crash:
Dale Jr.: “I don’t know what I did or what I hit when I went across the apron.”
Tony Jr.: “Do you feel anything vibrating? I mean, I’d like to stay out, but if you feel like you need to come in, come in.”
Dale Jr.: “Ahhhh, I don’t know. Look at the replay (on the jumbo screens located in the center of Bristol Motor Speedway).
Tony Jr.: Well, if you feel something vibrating… (quick pause while watching the replay) Stay out! Stay out! Replay looks good.”
Dale Jr. took his fourth lead on lap 240 and completely checked out from the field, lapping all the way to sixth place, including pole-sitter Jeff Gordon. Realizing their car was in a class of its own, the Bud crew found amusement in Dale Jr.’s “criticism” of the car when the caution finally came out on lap 327:
Tony Jr.: “Good job everybody. We’ve lapped everyone up to sixth place. Dale Jr., you had an 11 second lead (on the second-place car) before that caution.”
Dale Jr.: “Yeah, it felt like (crap)! It got real tight when I was behind people. When I ran by myself it was good.”
Tony Jr.: “That green-flag run there was like a 230-lap run.”
Dale Jr.: “Geeze! That was a long green-flag run.”
Tony Jr.: “Yeah, you’ll have to write that one down. That’s probably the most (green-flag laps) we’ve ever run here.”
Dale Jr.: “That’s points racing for ya. Nobody is wanting to race.”
Tony Jr.: “Yeah, it looked good from here, watching you lap everybody. That was pretty damn neat.”
After taking the checkers to earn his fourth win of the season:
Dale Jr.: “That’s awesome! Hell yeah Eurys! Good job team. We needed that one, huh?”
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): “Yeah, you killed ‘em!”
-- 30th place is the farthest back Dale Jr. has started for a victory (not including Talladega when the team started at the back after changing an engine...) (previous: 13th starting spot: Daytona July 2001 and at Talladega: Oct. 2002)
-- In his career, Dale Jr. has 13 Cup wins, 20 Busch Series wins and three non-points Cup victories.
-- Dale Jr. led 420 laps (out of 750 total) in the last 24 hours (295 and 125 laps led).
Finished: 1st (fourth win of the season)
Points: 3rd (-75 to the leader; Dale Jr. clinches spot in
the “Chase for the Championship”)
Best Pit Stop: Pit stop number 5 of 5 / four tires and fuel / 12.78 seconds
Pit Stop Average: 13.58 seconds
Thanks to Jade Gurss and Mike Davis from fingerprint inc. for sending the race reports.