Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Dale Jr. Earns Top-5 Finish at Bristol, Harvick Wins Budweiser team comes home fourth in crash-filled event BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 3, 2005) -- Kevin Harvick earned his first victory in 55 races by surviving a crash-filled Food City 500 at ...

Dale Jr. Earns Top-5 Finish at Bristol, Harvick Wins Budweiser team comes home fourth in crash-filled event

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 3, 2005) -- Kevin Harvick earned his first victory in 55 races by surviving a crash-filled Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. Harvick took his final lead on lap 434 of 500 and pulled away at the end, this despite starting in the rear of the field for a parts change. Bud Pole winner Elliott Sadler finished second and Tony Stewart third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team came home in fourth. It is the team's second top-five finish this season and first since the Daytona 500. Dale Jr. now has finished fourth or better in five of his last six short-track races, and he has finished in the top-10 in three of his last four events at Bristol. More importantly, Junior made the biggest jump in the point standings of any driver on Sunday, improving nine spots to 17th. He is now just 84 points out of 10th place.

Key Moments: Starting 19th, it took only 78 laps for Dale Jr. to make his way into the top-10, as he used early cautions and a slightly different pit strategy than the leaders to make his biggest gain. Dale Jr. would not fall out of the top-10 for the rest of the afternoon, although typical Bristol action made for some nervous moments. One of those moments came on lap 323 when Dale Jr., in fifth-place, had to slam on the brakes to avoid the spinning car of Matt Kenseth. Thinking he may have flat-spotted his left-front tire, Dale Jr. summoned a team member to turn 2 where the Bud car was parked during a red-flag period to make sure the tire was in good shape. With no evident damage, the Bud car continued its top-10 run. Dale Jr. came out seventh after his final pit stop on lap 415. He then picked up three spots in the final 12 laps en route to his best finish since Daytona.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "Man that was some hard driving! There at the end I kind of felt like I was arm-wrestling Sylvester Stallone. I don't know, just hard driving. I had a great car, a top-five car all day. But being faster and passing those guys are two different things. We took advantage of everybody else's mistakes, had a pretty clean run, and stayed up there in the top-10 all day. Pretty exciting. There at the end, the car was really sliding a lot. Really loose. But other than that, we had a really good car through the middle, and I was happy with the way the team got through the day."

Best Radio Chatter:

Having worked his way into the top-10 relatively early, Dale Jr. showed no signs of being content:

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Biffle (in sixth place) said he'd appreciate you letting him go, June."

Dale Jr.: "OK, I think I got a better car... and I'm in a big hurry. Tell him to make some holes."

During the eighth caution, Dale Jr. collected his thoughts after a tiring 109-lap green-flag run (that was the only long green-flag run of the day, as the race was marred by 14 cautions):

Dale Jr.: "These long greens are good, because I typically do OK on the long run, but damn boys, they are long. It's really hard to keep your concentration. It's basically seeing the same thing in every corner. I get to overdriving it and I keep forgetting to lift at the flag stand. That's where you're supposed to lift ... but you can't do it when you're around people because they'll just drive right under ya."

Steve Hmiel: "You took the weekend off and learned how to drive again, June!"

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, well my daddy told me how to get around this place.JAs long as I remember what he said I should have this place down pat pretty much. The rest of them I'm a rookie out to lunch. (Long pause). I thought I had the 18 cleared a while back. We about bought the farm on that one."

A 10-car wreck on lap 331 brought out the 10th caution and even a 10-minute red-flag period:

Dale Jr.: "Damn, that was a big one! Man, I just asked the 49 to give me some room and back off the inside, and he got punted and wrecked. (Dejected pause.) Well, when pit road opens, we're gonna pit, because a lot of lead cars got taken out right there."

During the red flag, which came under the same caution:

Dale Jr.: "Heck yeah, this is a pretty good day so far. This place is a hard, hard race track compared to the way it drives at night."

While apparently listening to the track's loud speakers during the red-flag period:

Dale Jr. (repeating what he hears Richard Childress saying on the radio): "'This race is crazy, man.' That's what Richard just said. 'I don't know why they wanna tear all those cars up.'"

Hmiel: "You know the rule. You can't ever laugh when the hearse goes around."

Dale Jr.: "I know. I'm just picking on Richard Childress now."

Hmiel: "I'm 100 percent clear. I just want to get through the day and be happy."

Dale Jr.: "I'm already happy. It's run good. The motor can blow up or catch on fire for all I care. I'm pretty happy with how my car drove today."

Hmiel: "That's cool."

Pete Rondeau (crew chief): "I'm not happy yet."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I know. I'm just trying not to get run over.JThat's number one. Number two is you gotta catch the guy in front of ya."

After taking the checkers:

Dale Jr.: "Where'd we finish?"

Rondeau: "Fourth place."

Dale Jr.: "Whoohoooooo. Top-five!"

-dei/bud-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Elliott Sadler