Bristol II: Earnhardt Jr race report

Edwards Wins at Bristol, Fifth Place for Dale Jr. Bud Team Runs Strong for 500 Laps at Bristol Carl Edwards won for the second time this season in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kasey Kahne led the most laps and finished second while...

Edwards Wins at Bristol, Fifth Place for Dale Jr.
Bud Team Runs Strong for 500 Laps at Bristol

Carl Edwards won for the second time this season in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kasey Kahne led the most laps and finished second while Clint Bowyer was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among the fastest cars all night on the half-mile high-banked Bristol track, running among the top-five positions for much of the race. Dale Jr. led lap 35- for five bonus points. He has now led 743 laps at Bristol in his Cup career, more laps led than at any other track on the Nextel Cup circuit. He now has six top-five finishes at Bristol, and has five top-five finishes so far in the 2007 season.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr., starting 17th, sliced through the field with the ease and speed of a stealth fighter jet, quietly passing one car after another. He climbed into the top-10 by lap 39, then needed less than 30 additional laps to climb into the top-five on lap 67. He would stay among the top-five for the remainder of the night with the exception of pit stops. After chasing down leader Kasey Kahne on lap 325, Dale Jr., Carl Edwards and Kahne waged a wicked battle for the lead, often going three-wide while fighting through lapped traffic. Things go dramatic on lap 387 when the 12 car of Ryan Newman sent the Bud car flying out of the groove and toward the wall. Dale Jr. made a dramatic save and kept the No. 8 from hitting the wall, then caught Newman and offered several bumps of his own to get past the 12 car again on lap 394. The final 100 laps were run in a series of short bursts of green flag runs interrupted by many yellow flags. Dale Jr. dropped to sixth on lap 486 when Tony Stewart slipped past, but regained a top-five finish by passing Kurt Busch with five laps remaining.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

ON GETTING A TOP FIVE FINISH BEFORE THE CHASE AND GETTING A BOOST IN POINTS: "Yeah, I ain't worried about that. I had a good night tonight. I just run 500 laps at Bristol so I'm pretty stoked about finishing fifth. Sunday off baby! Finally! Every time ESPN does a race it rains Saturday night and we have to race Sunday. Just about the worst week ever having to race on Tuesday. My guys come out here on Friday and all day Saturday and it's 95 degrees out here (and they're) working all day long. I'm proud of them. They gave me a great car. My whole team did good. I'm proud of them. I enjoyed myself tonight. I wanted a top five."

HOW DID THE NEW SURFACE AFFECT THE RACING OUT THERE? "We ran the top some. The Busch race the top was great, what I could see. Ran it some tonight but at the end the bottom was where you needed to be. I don't know why that is. Goodyear brought a hard tire because they wanted to make sure it was a good, safe tire and it was and we managed with it. Maybe they dialed the tire down a little bit and get a little softer. The top may come in. I don't know if that's the answer or not. I'm just speculating. But it's got a groove up there, we just couldn't find it."

ON HIS TOP FIVE: "Yeah, I'm real happy. I want to thank my team. They gave me a great car. I want to thank Budweiser and all my sponsors. We had a fun night tonight. We ran pretty good. I was pretty happy with that. We didn't get the win like I wanted to. It's a nice race track. They did a good job on the track. I enjoyed the new configuration and hopefully next we'll come back here and do a little bit better. I had a good time though."

ON HAVING A GOOD RUN BUT STILL BEING 158 POINTS OUT OF 12th: "Well I can do is be WFO and run as good as I can run. Kurt (Busch) runs good here. It's going to be hard get any here but we were able to finish a spot ahead of him. I'd say you're doing pretty good because he wins a lot here."

ON IT NOT BEING THE TYPICAL BRISTOL: "I just mash the gas man and go. I don't think about what the race's going to be like or anything. I try to pass who I can pass. I didn't know what to expect. What can you expect? Just go out there and see what happens. I don't know what it looked like to y'all. I raced some people and had some fun. It's about like the same old track, run right around the bottom, and threw people out of the way. The top's a little bit better. You can hold people off. It'll come in maybe after a couple trips."

YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE SAME BUMPING AND KNOCKING PEOPLE OUT OF THE WAY TO MAKE A PASS THAT YOU'RE USED TO HERE. DO YOU THINK THE FANS WILL MISS THAT? "The COT, you can beat on each with the COT but you can't knock each other up out of the way with it. The bumpers hit square so it's hard to send somebody up the race track in the COT. I don't know. We don't like running into each other all the time. Is that what y'all want us to do? I want my tires to run straight. I go beating on people I mess my car up. The 12 car run into me there one time, almost put me in the fence, so we beat on each other a little bit over that for about 10 laps and we got over it I reckon cause he quit beating on me. But other than that I didn't have to run into anybody."

ON TONY STEWART SAYING IT WAS THE MOST FUN HE HAD AT THIS RACE TRACK EVER: "I don't believe him. I think he's making it up. When's he ever said anything like? I think he had a good line going there at the end. He looked like he was able to run like he wanted to. You're going to have fun doing that. The track was real fun the first half. At the end of the race the bottom groove became the prominent groove. That's all you can do. I ain't going up there to the top to get passed by everybody."

ON POSSIBLY NOT MAKING THE CHASE AND WHAT IS GOING THROUGH HIS MIND: "I want to win. If I can't get into the Chase, let's win a race. Let's do something."

ON NOT MAKING THE CHASE A FEW YEARS AGO AND IT NOT BEING A HAPPY EXPERIENCE AND IF IT'D BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR: "Y'all make it pretty miserable because that's all y'all talk about. I shouldn't tell you that you dictate my mood. Now you know but anyways, when we don't make it everybody makes a big deal out of it. They talk about it pre-race, they talk about it post-race for a couple weeks and it is a bummer. It's a bummer when you see that and have to watch that and read it and what not. You kind of want to go under the radar when you can't get it done but maybe we can get us a win. I'll be more ticked off if I don't win a race this year because I've run good all year. We've had so many opportunities, you know? And you won't credit for running fifth and blowing up, running up second blowing up. You just won't."

WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU AND THE 12? "I don't know. We were coming off around (turns) three and four and I might have left him a window or enough for the radiator (to) fit in there and he hit me in the quarter panel. The spotter said he hit me right square in the back end. I almost wrecked and I was like I'm going to get back to you and I'm going to hit you back so I did. I hit him three or four times and he's like 'What you hitting me for?' and hit me a time or two back and it was over."

IS THAT THE RESULT OF YOU BOTH BEING SO CLOSE IN POINTS WITH THE CHASE? "No, had nothing to do with that. He's aggressive, I'm aggressive. Neither one of us don't like to take any crap from anybody. We like standing our ground. That's what happens when you hit two hammers together."

ISN'T THAT TYPICAL OF NOW RYAN NEWMAN DRIVES? "Newman races like that and you know, you take a chance letting him know you don't like it because he might send you in the fence because he's done it here before to people but I think me and him got a good understanding of who each other is. I didn't wreck him. I just hit him back. I think that's all fair."

YOU SEEM AWFUL HAPPY: "I'm ready to go home, get on the lake! It didn't freakin' rain."

***

Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. was uncharacteristically quiet for much of the night, at least until a caution period on lap 395 after nearly being crashed by Ryan Newman.

Dale Jr.: "Did the 12 (Newman) not know what he did?"

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Yeah. He wasn't even under you. He just gave you a shot."

Dale Jr. : "Damn. I gave him a shot back and now he's flippin' me off! I didn't wreck and he didn't wreck. Can't ya trade a few blows and keep on racin'?!"

Hmiel: "It's a new world, June."

Dale Jr: "Yeah. I forgot. I ain't taking (expletive) from him! It's over!"

***

The many late restarts led to a lot of traffic with the lapped cars lined-up inside the lead lap cars. For many of those restarts, Elliott Sadler (a lapped car) slotted in behind Dale Jr. and ahead of Newman.

Dale Jr: "Hey, tell Elliott I like how he gets up there and blocks the car behind me!"

***

After the race, Dale Jr. looked forward to the plane ride home...

Dale Jr.: "You know what T. G. Sheppard says?! (singing) "whoooaaa... whoooaaaa... it's party time!"

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer