Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kurt Busch Bumps His Way To Bristol Win Dale Jr. and Bud Team Come Home 11th Kurt Busch applied the bump-and-run to leader Matt Kenseth with four laps to go and held off Kevin Harvick at the end to win Sunday's caution-filled Food City 500 at ...

Kurt Busch Bumps His Way To Bristol Win
Dale Jr. and Bud Team Come Home 11th

Kurt Busch applied the bump-and-run to leader Matt Kenseth with four laps to go and held off Kevin Harvick at the end to win Sunday's caution-filled Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch came from an early one-lap deficit to lead 30 of 500 laps and score his fifth career victory at the Tennessee short-track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team avoided the usual Bristol carnage (there were 18 cautions overall, two short of the record) to finish 11th, his sixth consecutive finish of 11th or better at Bristol. Dale Jr. raced in the top-10 for much of the afternoon, but fell victim to an ill-handling car at the end. Even so, he improves one spot to sixth in the Nextel Cup point standings, just 13 points behind fifth-place Kyle Busch and 118 points back from new point leader Matt Kenseth.

Key Moments: Starting 19th by virtue of last year's owners point standings, Dale Jr. quickly and efficiently worked his way into the top-10 and raced there for much of the afternoon despite never making big threats for the lead. Part of his good fortunate rested solely on avoiding the chaos around him, as wrecks were aplenty. His scariest moment came on lap 118 when he was turned sideways coming off of the fourth turn. He was able to collect the car, keep it off the wall, and remain in contention. He climbed to sixth on lap 298, and at times was clocked as fast as the leaders. But a worsening tight condition hindered his ability to accelerate off the turns in the closing circuits. The Bud team banked on a final pit stop for fresh tires and one last adjustment with 48 laps to go, but the big boost it was hoping for never happened. Junior slipped to 14th and was able to pick up three spots in the closing laps.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"Man, just glad to get out of here in one piece. We struggled. We were tight all day. We got a couple of bad breaks there at the end with track position, but that's just hard racing. I had to drive hard all day. It was real frustrating at times, because I could get up to seventh or eighth, but we never really made any real challenges for the lead guys. I guess I should be counting my blessings, because there were some good cars torn up today, and we weren't one of them. I really like this place for all its history and stuff, but I'm ready to get out of here and call it a day."

On improving one spot in the points standings:

"We did? Wow. Well, that's certainly a positive we can take out of all this. I just wish we could have run better. I was real happy with the car at the end of practice yesterday, but I don't know if the track changed a whole lot or what. I guess it did considering all the weather we had this weekend. (Laughing) I guess we've never really had to factor in how snow affects a race track. We definitely have notes for it now."

Best Radio Chatter:

Typical Bristol, Dale Jr. had already rubbed fenders by the time the first caution flew out on lap 12:

Dale Jr.: "Tell the 25 (Brian Vickers) I got under him there, I had a hole, but I didn't try to wreck him."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Nah, he's cool. I went right to him. They said they slid up and they actually felt like they came back down on you."

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "What's your water temp right there, Junebug?"

Dale Jr.: "Two-hundred-sixty."

Tony Jr.: "Two-hundred-sixty on the water?"

Dale Jr.: "Oh, my bad... 200. The little needle was in the way. Heh heh... I'm just joking with ya. It's good. (Long pause). It might be 260 later, so keep asking."

***

It took great driving and a miraculous save for Junior to keep his Budweiser car off the wall on lap 118 after being hit from behind:

Hmiel: "Whoa, get it back, get it back. You're fine. Cautions out... big wreck behind you."

Dale Jr.: "What a save!"

Hmiel: "That's why I said 'You're Fine." I was hoping you could get your breath back!

Dale Jr.: God almighty, now that was my best save ever! No (doubt)! This concrete and stuff, that was a save right there... Get my in-car camera --- wop, wop, wop!"

Hmiel: "We got a little bit of bumper damage, Tony Jr., but no big deal."

Tony Jr.: "Yeah, just cleaned that corner off. That's good. That means they can get that far underneath us and not bother us."

Dale Jr.: "Alright then. I'll try to get them spots back. I hate I missed those spots there."

Tony Jr.: "You'll be alright. Just feel it out there. See if we got it turning better."

Dale Jr.: "It felt like I was sideways for about a minute, but it probably wasn't but just a second. Heh heh."

Hmiel (using signage on the wall to make his point): "It was from the end of the Nextel Cup Series (sign) going into (turn) 3 right up to the Chevrolet. You'll see it when you go by there."

Dale Jr.: "I thought I was for sure going to get nailed. "

Hmiel: "Actually, Denny (Hamlin) did a good job staying off you."

Dale Jr.: "If nothing else cool happens today, that was cool!"

***

The Bud team was somewhat fortunate it didn't encounter bigger problems in the pits on lap 161, as Dale Jr. gassed the car out of the pit box before the stop was complete. Fortunately all the lug nuts were tight and no real damage sustained (despite a completely demolished jack).

Dale Jr.: "Sorry about that, but the stops have got to get better."

Tony Jr.: "Yeah, 10-4 there."

Dale Jr.: "Hope I didn't rip anybody's fingers off. I'm real sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."

***

As is usually the case at a short track, a tight pit road left many drivers momentarily trapped in their pit stalls by other cars. Dale Jr. wanted to avoid such a circumstance with friend Bobby Labonte:

Hmiel: "Four-thousand, June, we'll have to come around that 43. He's in the pit directly behind us."

Dale Jr.: "Alright, tell him to stop short if he wants a chance getting out at all. Heh heh. (Pause) I just have to get the right-front in the box?"

Tony Jr.: "That's all you got to do. Get the nose in the box. Nobody's going to come in front of us."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Brian Vickers , Tony Eury Jr. , Kyle Busch