Daytona Beach, FL - Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his second consecutive win in the Twin 125s at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, taking the lead from teammate Michael Waltrip with 15 laps to go, then leading the rest of the 50-lap qualifying race. The win gives the No. 8 Budweiser team the third starting position in Sunday’s Daytona 500. It also moves Junior into a tie for 14th with Peter Gregg for the most career victories at Daytona with seven. Tony Stewart finished second, followed by Jamie McMurray, Waltrip and Jeff Burton.
The Key Moments: A quick 14.16-second pit stop by the Bud crew during the race’s first and only caution on lap 23 of 50 put Dale Jr. in second place for a lap-28 restart. The No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet remained perched behind the leader, Waltrip, for nine green-flag laps before diving to the inside in turn one and taking away the point on lap 37. Dale Jr., put four car lengths between himself and second-place runner Stewart in the waning circuits.
Dale Jr. Quotes: “This softer tire compound makes it harder to pass the leader. I knew if we were gonna pass Michael, we were gonna have to do it fast. It’s hard as hell to get to the lead out here, because these cars are just so tight. I was lifting (off the accelerator) to avoid hitting the wall, but I knew if we could get out front and get some of that clean air, we’d be all right. I knew I had to make the pass, so when I saw the hole I went for it.
“The softer tires make it harder to team up with somebody. I was behind Michael for awhile, but I got so tight being behind him that I couldn’t stay there. In the past you could kinda pick and choose who to draft with, but now it seems like you gotta do whatever it takes to get to the front and get that clean air. I know if I would’ve stayed behind him, I would’ve definitely hit the wall.
On whether today’s win means as much to the Bud team as it did last year: “I guess we don’t seem as excited because we kinda learned our lesson. We won this race and a couple others last year and were like, “Yeah, we’re kicking everybody’s butts out here, and then we finished bad in the (Daytona) 500. We’re excited to win the 125, but we want to win the 500, so we know we’ve got more work to do. The car can always be better. I don’t think we’re ever satisfied, and that’s the way a championship team should feel.”
Best Radio Conversations:
In the early laps, Dale Jr. struggled keeping the Budweiser Chevrolet in the groove, but he found a friend in Jeff Burton, who drafted with him until the caution came out on lap 22:
Dale Jr.: “Do me a quick favor. Tell Jeff thanks for hangin’ with me and being patient. He could’ve gone to the inside many times, but he stayed on my bumper.
Stevie Reeves (spotter): “10-4, I’ll relay the message.”
Dale Jr.: “You guys check out that right-front tire. Something’s been plowin’ on it. I guarantee you it ain’t gonna last much longer.”
A quick pit stop brought Junior from third to second, right behind the leader, Michael Waltrip:
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): “Great job boys!”
Dale Jr.: “Yeah, that was awesome … Hey, that boy (Scott Riggs) blew his right-front tire out, didn’t he.”
Dale Jr.: “Yeah, we were all about to do that.”
Reeves: “I just talked to Jeff (Burton’s spotter), and he said he was having the same problem as you were. He was just hangin’ there with ya.”
Tony Jr.: “We picked up one spot, Junebug. I was hoping for one more, but we’ll be alright.”
Dale Jr.: “Tell Jeff I’m gonna run the bottom for awhile, because I don’t think we can beat those guys if they’re running the bottom and we’re on the top. It will be the same ol’ deal as last time.”
As Dale Jr. crossed the finish line…
Tony Jr: “Good job guys, but we gotta a lot of work to do…”
Thanks to Jade Gurss and Mike Davis from fingerprint inc. for sending the race reports.
Started: 2nd (first of two Twin 125s)
Laps Led: Led one time for 14 laps.
Best Pit Stop: Stop 1 of 1 / lap 23 / four tires & fuel / 14.16 seconds
Sunday’s Daytona 500 starting position: 3rd