Jeff Gordon wins, Dale Jr. third at Bristol; No. 8 Budweiser Team leads field for 140 laps in Saturday night battle. Jeff Gordon, the defending Winston Cup champion, ended the longest dry spell of his career, grabbing his first victory in nearly...
Jeff Gordon wins, Dale Jr. third at Bristol; No. 8 Budweiser Team leads field for 140 laps in Saturday night battle.
Jeff Gordon, the defending Winston Cup champion, ended the longest dry spell of his career, grabbing his first victory in nearly a year Saturday night in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Gordon passed Rusty Wallace for the lead with less than five laps remaining in the 500-lap race. Following them across the finish line was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team. The third-place tally is Dale Jr's best Winston Cup finish here at Bristol, and tops his finish of fourth place in the spring race here at the high-banked .533-mile oval. The red No. 8 car led the field for the first 130 laps, and then returned to the head of the field at the midway point of the race. After leading 181 laps in the spring race, Dale Jr. led a combined 321 laps in the two Bristol bashes this season. The laps led gave the team an additional five points, and added to their league-leading total of 85 bonus points. After a strong run last week at Michigan, the team now has two consecutive top-10 finishes.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting in the second position (and on the front row for the second week in a row after winning the Bud Pole at Michigan), got a great start and led the race for the first 130 laps. He then dueled with the new leader Jeff Gordon, as the duo swapped the lead twice in the next 250 laps. A difficult pit stop on lap 292 dropped the Bud bunch to seventh place, where Dale Jr. made several dramatic, zig-zag-self-survival-close-your-eyes-and-hope-you-make-it-through-the-carnage avoidances of multi-car accidents to remain in contention. After climbing back into the top four, the Bud team made the last pit stop of the evening on lap 372, returning to the track in 13th place. The final 125 laps were a dramatic challenge as Dale Jr. sliced through the field in concert with Gordon and Wallace to reach the checkered flag in third place.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "I'm really happy with that finish. I'm really happy with my guys. We have had a bad middle-of-the-season, and we all got together and decided we were going to buckle down and try harder to get ourselves back to the competitive team we believe we should be. It's been a great two weeks for us, and I think it will only get better. We're excited about doing this every week. We're feeding off each other right now, and I think I'm getting along better with Tony Jr. (Eury, car chief) than any time since the Busch Series days."
"I was trying to keep this as uneventful of a race as possible. I wasn't so confident in my car even though we led a lot of laps, so I kinda let Jeff (Gordon) go, and let him lead the way through the lapped traffic. I think we were 13th with 100 (laps) to go, and it got really wild after that. I really just followed the 2 (Wallace) and the 24 (Gordon) cars right up through the rest of the leaders. The three of us had fresher tires than any of those guys, so it was really just hoping we had enough laps to catch and pass them all"
About an incident with Ward Burton on lap 404:
"I am disappointed that it happened. I don't make it a secret when I wreck someone, and I don't do it a lot, but I hope Ward knows it was not intentional at all. I had a great run on him on the back stretch and he was protecting his spot and made kind of an abrupt move into turn three. I couldn't get out from under him in time. I tried to lock 'em up, but it wasn't enough and I hit him"
About seeing Burton climb out of his car and throw his padded heel protectors at Dale Jr. as he passed on the track:
"I was disappointed that he didn't get whatever it was he threw in the car with me. I at least wanted to see what he was throwing at me."
Best Radio Conversations
The rapid-fire sub-16-second laps at Bristol make it almost impossible for the driver to speak with the crew during green flag runs, so almost all of the chatter came during the many yellow-flag periods of the race. The following exchange took place during a caution period beginning on lap 315.
Dale Jr. "How many cars are on the lead lap?"
Tony Eury Jr: "14 but the 99 car is pretty beat up, so there's 13 good cars on the lead lap"
Dale Jr: "Wow what happened to everybody? We haven't lapped THAT many cars"
Tony Jr: "Yeah man, from my seat you've been doing pretty good"
Dale Jr: "OK Tony Jr., for the rest of the night, if I say the car is pushing, you just get on the radio and tell me to quit overdriving the car, OK?"
Tony Jr: "10-4. You're little hook looks good from here." (Dale Jr. was purposely hooking his left front tire on the apron of turn one. The unusual move was actually helping to get the car turned into the first and second turns.)
After the final stop of the night, the Bud car restarted the race in 13th position with less than 125 laps to go.
Dale Jr: "Sorry guys. That was a good stop, but I could have gotten in the (pit) box a lot better. I just couldn't see those guys in the (car number) 2 pits (crew members from Rusty Wallace's team, who were pitting immediately behind the Bud pit stall). I just don't wanna hit anybody or run over those boys."
Tony Jr: "It's alright. We're gonna watch you fight back here through the field and we'll be doin' well."
Dale Jr: "We've already done well, let's keep it up. We're the last car on the lead lap, right?"
Tony Jr: "Yeah, 10-4."
Dale Jr: (speaking to Ty Norris, team spotter) "OK Ty, your work is cut out for ya"
Ty Norris: "Alright man. We can do this. Ya gotta believe in me here. Let's go!"
Dale Jr.: (After the incident with Ward Burton) "That was an accident man, let 'em know"
Norris: "I know You had a helluva run on him there. I'll talk with the (car number) 22 spotter"
Dale Jr. : "Alright"
Dale Jr. circled the track one more time, only to see Burton waiting for him on the track. Burton threw his foam heel protectors at the Bud car.
Dale Jr: "Hey did he make it in here with that?"
Tony Jr: "What? His booties?"
Dale Jr: "I dunno if they made it in the car or not."
Tony Jr: "Nah. They're laying on the track"
Norris: "Alright man, it's over with. It's past, 94 laps to go let's go"
Points Position: 15 (gained one position)
Money Won: $131,090
Laps Led: Twice for 140 laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 152 / Stop #1 of 3 / 4 tires, Fuel / 14.76 seconds