Budweiser Team Wins at Richmond!
Dale Jr. earns third victory of the season
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team beat Jimmie Johnson by 3.5 seconds to win Saturday nights Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Bobby Labonte finished third. The victory was Dale Jr.s 12th career win in 158 starts and series-best third win this year. It was also his sixth victory at a non-restrictor plate track and second at a short-track (the Bud team now has nine top-fives in the last 15 races at tracks less than one mile in length). With his trio of victories and seven top fives, Dale Jr. continues to lead he NEXTEL Cup point standings with a 40-point advantage over Johnson.
Key Moments: In second place when the ninth caution flew on lap 343 (57 laps from the finish), the Bud team elected not to pit with leader Tony Stewart and eight other lead-lap cars, instead opting to stay out with 40-lap old tires and leaving the balance of the race in the hands of its driver. Dale Jr. responded by not only keeping the lead he inherited when Stewart pitted, but running away with it. He put several lapped-down cars in between himself and second-place Jimmie Johnson, and he padded his advantage to over three seconds when the checkered flag waved.
Dale Jr. Quotes: Man, this is pretty exciting. It just came down to a gut decision on whether to pit with everyone else or stay out. We live by the sword and die by the sword. We knew Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) werent going to pit, and they had really strong cars. We stayed out, and it ended up being the right thing to do. All night we were loose getting into the corner, so I was running about 90 percent just to stay in the top five and keep the car from getting torn up. When the (final) caution came out, we thought about pitting with Tony, but I was just so loose on new tires that I knew I wouldnt be able to catch them.
(On being able to hold off Johnson and Gordon): With the way our car was, it was absolutely the most perfect scenario we could've had by being in first place with 40-lap-old tires.Â I knew I had plenty of car left, and I got a good lead.When we went green, I started lapping cars, and just took it easy. Some guys tonight had faster cars than us.Â Kurt Busch was awesome before he blew up. Tony was real good, and so was Jeff. We didnt have the best car, but after long runs we were stout!
Best Radio Conversations:
On lap 102 under the second caution:
Dale Jr.: I like the way the car drives.Im just riding out here, trying to save the car.
After a thrilling side-by-side battle with Johnson, Dale Jr. took his second lead of the race on lap 132:
Dale Jr.: Ahhh, that was fun!
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): I dont think he (Johnson) was expecting that.
Dale Jr.: Admit it, none of yall were I'm telling you boys, that was the first time in my career I felt like my old man for five minutes!
A wreck involving Jamie McMurray and Joe Nemechek brought out the eighth caution merely two laps after the halfway point:
Dale Jr. (sarcastically): I guess that puts the whole field back on the lead lap now, huh?
During the ninth (and final) caution on lap 343:
Dale Jr.: The cars real loose getting started.
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): The problem is the 24 (Gordon) and the 48 (Johnson) arent gonna pit back there. We know that for sure.
Dale Jr.: Youre call...make it.
Tony Jr.: If the car aint falling off, stay out there.
Dale Jr.: Well, yall know the lap times. Are we gonna get our ass kicked, or are we gonna be the ones kicking?
Tony Jr. (after discussing with team members): Stay out.
Tony Sr.: We had a lot of cautions at the end of yesterdays (Busch Series) race, so I think thats the smart thing to do. The car was pretty awesome at the end of that run.
Tony Jr.: Besides, we got the best driver.
After taking the checkered flag:
Dale Jr.: Good job guys. Lets celebrate, baby
Started: 4th (9th Top-10 start in 11 races)
Finished: 1st (Series-best third win in 2004)
Points: 1st place (+40 ahead of Jimmie Johnson)
Best Pit Stop: Stop 2 of 3 / lap 171 / four tires & fuel / 13.86 seconds
Thanks to Jade Gurss and Mike Davis from fingerprint inc. for the race reports.