Budweiser Team Rolls To Victory Lane Again!
Dale Jr. Wins in the 125-Mile Qualifier for Daytona 500
Daytona Beach, FL - Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team claimed their second checkered flag in less than a week as they claimed victory in the second of the Twin 125-Mile qualifying races at Daytona. The team also won Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout and qualified to start on the outside of the front row for the 45th annual Daytona 500. (The Daytona 500 starts Sunday at 1:00 pm Eastern time, Fox-TV). Although the Bud team had a secure starting spot on the front row for the 500 (based on their qualifying time from last Sunday), the team did not waste an opportunity to grab another victory at one of the world’s most prominent race tracks. Starting on the pole, Dale Jr. led the 50-lap race three times for a total of 38 laps. The red No. 8 car led the final 18 laps of the race after making a less-than four-second pit stop for fuel only on lap 32. Dale Jr. exited the pits with a huge lead and then held off his teammate Michael Waltrip, who finished second and Todd Bodine in third place.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr. wasted little time streaking into the lead from his number one starting position, and then held the lead for the first seven laps until Kevin Harvick managed to sneak past. Dale Jr. ran second to Harvick until making a bold pass on the outside of turn three on the 18th lap. Because the car was handling so well, Dale Jr. and car chief Tony Eury Jr. decided to not change tires on their only pit stop of the race on lap 32. The sub-four-second stop gave the team a large lead over teammate Waltrip and the rest of the field. Although the challengers were able to draft up to the rear bumper of Dale Jr’s car with eight laps to go, no one was able to mount a serious passing attempt before the checkered flag flew.
Dale Jr’s Quotes: “We didn’t need to win the race for our starting spot (Sunday in the Daytona 500), but we wanted to go out and get us another trophy. Tony Jr. and I had talked before the race about not taking any tires, but we would wait and make a decision based on how the car was handling. It was still handling really well and our cars (his and DEI teammate Michael Waltrip) were pretty good. We just didn’t see any reason to change tires, so we’d save (team owner) Teresa (Earnhardt) some money…”
“I knew that we wanted to be in first or second after the stop to have a chance to win, or at least a good chance. We also knew that even if the car wasn’t handling perfect, we’d be out in clean air, so if the car was getting tighter (not turning as efficiently into the corners), I could drive it like I needed to, or if it was loose, I could drive the hell outta it…”
About his Budweiser crew: “I can’t tell you how much I love those guys. This is gonna be our year. They’re all good guys and they wanna race, and they make me a much better race driver.”
About being considered the favorite for Sunday’s Daytona 500. (His father was able to win the 500 only after starting the race 20 times.): “It’s a long, long race and it’s not easy to win it. Everything and anything can happen… It seems like the longest race of the year, and there are so many parts, so many segments of the race that can be defining moments that it just takes so much to win. We’re gonna go out and play it smart and play it safe – try to stay out of trouble and out of the crashes.”
“This race means a lot to me. It’s a strange thing to have a chance to win it so early in my career. My dad didn’t really have a chance to win it early on, but once he and Richard (Childress, team owner) hooked up, they improved each time they came back here. As a kid, I remember how much it hurt when he would win everything except the 500. I remember when he blew the tire (while leading on the final lap of the 500). Those were tough, tough times, just awful… But I feel like winning the Daytona 500 is something you really have to earn. You have to earn your chance. I don’t know if I know how to appreciate having such a good chance this early in my career…”
Today’s Race Notes:
*** The Budweiser team could be the first in NASCAR history to win the Budweiser Shootout, a Twin-125 Mile race and the Daytona 500 in the same season.
*** The team had finished second in their two previous 125-mile qualifying races.
*** The winner’s purse of $58,720 sends the total Winston Cup career earnings for Dale Jr. and the Budweiser team past the $14,000,000 mark.
Best Radio Conversations
As the race began, Dale Jr. asked the crew if they were ready…
Dale Jr.: “Y’all ready to race?!”
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): “Yeah man, the beer’s in the cooler…”
As he left the pits after not changing tires during their only stop…
Dale Jr: “Did I slide the tires?”
Ty Norris (spotter): “No. We’re good.”
Eury Jr: “You did a great job on pit lane…”
As the field approached the back bumper of the No. 8 car with eight laps to go:
Norris: “All week long we’ve been able to hold ‘em off… Let’s make that car real wide…”
Points Position: The Twin 125 is a non-points qualifying race.
Money Won: $53,720
Laps Led: 3 times for 18 laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 32/ Stop #1 of 1 / No tires, Fuel / 3.7 seconds
Thanks to Jade for this Budweiser Race Report!