Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes on new tires, loses lead, finishes fourth in highest-placing Monte Carlo. Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy Monte Carlo, led 181 of the 500 laps, but lost the race when the team opted to make a...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes on new tires, loses lead, finishes fourth in highest-placing Monte Carlo.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy Monte Carlo, led 181 of the 500 laps, but lost the race when the team opted to make a late-race pit stop to change all four tires. With 90 laps to go, under the 13th of 14 full-course caution periods, Dale Jr. pitted for fresh tires, which dropped him to ninth on the restart. He worked his Monte Carlo back to the front, taking fourth place on lap 461, which he held to the finish.
Rookie contender Jimmie Johnson, in the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, had another strong run, finishing seventh. Johnson is the highest Chevrolet driver in points, in fourth, while Dale Earnhardt moves up to sixth.
Only one other Monte Carlo driver is in the top 10: Jeff Gordon, in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Kurt Busch, in a Ford, won the race.
Jeff Gordon, who claimed his first pole position in Bristol at a record speed, led the early laps -- 63-83, 109-138 -- then lost control in turn 2, causing damage to the left rear quarter panel. After quick repairs, Gordon was back, but four laps down. He held on to the finish, ending up 20 laps down in 31st at the end.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO (fourth):
"We weren't quite as good as everybody else on the same tires. We took advantage on having new tires a lot of times. Congratulations to Kurt. I'm happy - a top-five and our first-ever finish at Bristol. This has always been a really tough track for us, and we had finished on the lead lap only once before. (Their previous best was a 14th place finish last August.) We've got a week off, which is great. We left here last year with our tail between our legs (31st place finish/ 26th place in points), but we're really coming on strong this year. The guys were awesome on every stop - we were the first ones out nearly every time."
ON THE FINAL PIT STOP: "We needed to make that pit stop (with 90 laps to go - dropped them from first to 10th) because we didn't feel like the car was as good as it had been earlier. We didn't believe it was fast enough to win if we didn't stop. We were great all day on fresh tires, so that was why we stopped."
TONY EURY JR., NO. 8 CREW CHIEF:
"We changed four tires. With 100 to go I just figured everyone was going to come in and make one more stop and run 100 laps on the tires. We were starting to spin the tires. I didn't think we were going to win the race like we were, so we just took a chance and everybody stayed out, and it kind of messed us up. It's one of those deals, but we got beat. But that¹s the first time we finished Bristol, so we're pretty happy about that and now we're sixth in the points, so we're all pretty pumped." NO REGRETS? "No, I'd probably do the same thing again. I feel that if we would have stayed out there we still might not have won."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE¹S MONTE CARLO, first rookie (seventh):
"It was awesome to have these guys not give up on me and believe in me and bring out the backup car. We knew it wasn't as good as our primary but it's come back and to keep our nose clean and race like this all day long was awesome and the biggest thing is I had to learn something overnight and stop driving this thing in so hard. It turned out pretty awesome."
ON RACING WITH JERRY NADEAU AT THE END: "We were racing pretty hard with Jerry and the track position was so important. We were turning the fastest lap, but we couldn't do anything with it, so I¹m just very happy to be in the top 10."
JIMMIE JOHNSON QUOTES COURTESY OF RAYBESTOS (sponsor of Rookie of the Year):
"After the way the weekend started, I didn't know if we would get to this point. I just wanted to finish. I've just really got to thank this entire team for keeping my spirits up and staying behind me and not letting me feel down. I felt bad tearing up that car (in practice Friday morning). That was our best car we had for here. We knew we were going to be at a little bit of a disadvantage. We couldn't run the exact setup we wanted but it turned out awesome. It's neat to have so much support behind you that when you are down they lift you back up and you work as a team."
HOW CLOSE DID YOU COME TO MAKING A RUN ON MATT KENSETH FOR SIXTH IN CLOSING LAPS? "I'll tell you what, I've got a lot more respect for Matt Kenseth. That boy can drive the wheels off a car sideways. I was waiting for him to spin out but he stayed in it and did an awesome job. I could have put the bumper to him and moved him but that's not my style. I pass you clean and race you clean."
YOU HAVE PUT TOGETHER A GOOD STRING OF FINISHES: "I'm afraid to wake up. I think I'm dreaming or something. It's been unbelievable, how this stretch has come together. We had every reason to get down and out and have a bad day here today and a little bit of pit strategy at the beginning from Chad (Knaus, crew chief) to get us up front and then we just pitted when the leaders did and stayed up front all day long and it worked out awesome."
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO (20th): ON SITUATION WITH DALE JR.: "He moved me out of the way early and it cost me about 20 positions. After the race he comes in and runs in the side of me, so I hit him back."
ON THE PENALTY FOR JUMPING START: "I don't think that hurt me as much as when Junior turned me sideways early in the race. When he turned me sideways that's what hurt us the most."
JERRY NADEAU, NO. 25 UAW DELPHI MONTE CARLO (eighth):
"Our car was really good til abouat lap 300, we got really tight. And we starated making adjustments trying to make it better. Track position was everything today. We just didn't get very good track position. We got caught in pit road three times today. Came in second, came out 14th. It's a tough break. Pit road was really tough on us today." GOOD RACE WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON: "But he beat me; he had a little better tires than I did. I'm happy for the UAW Delphi team; we'll get them in Texas."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO (31st):
"We had the car to beat. The car was a little bit twitchy getting into the corner all day long and I come up on a lapped car and I got out of it early and arced it in there and that front end grabbed and it just spun right around. It was unfortunate because I don't know if I've ever had that good of a car here. It seems every time I get that good a car here in Bristol something happens. Either I mess it up or I get caught up in something or we have a failure. We'll keep digging, keep working hard, keep putting race cars like that out on the race track and it'll come."
TYPICAL BRISTOL, HARD TO COME OUT HERE WITH A GOOD RUN: "At least most of the time you can blame it on somebody else. Today I'm the guy that is to blame. I know we all make mistakes. That was a tough one 'cause I know how good the car was and how hard this team worked to put this DuPont Chevrolet on the pole and up front like that all day."