Kenseth wins again, Earnhardt Jr. struggles to 22nd; No. 8 Budweiser team leads early, falters late. Matt Kenseth earned his league-leading third victory of the season today at Michigan International Speedway as he held off a strong charge by ...
Kenseth wins again, Earnhardt Jr. struggles to 22nd; No. 8 Budweiser team leads early, falters late.
Matt Kenseth earned his league-leading third victory of the season today at Michigan International Speedway as he held off a strong charge by Dale Jarrett on the final lap of the Sirius Satellite Radio 400. Jarrett was second, followed by rookie Ryan Newman in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team led nine laps early in the race, but fell victim to a poorly timed yellow flag, dropping two laps down when the first caution flag of the day flew as they were exiting pit lane. The team was able to make up one of the laps, and finished 22nd, one lap behind Kenseth at the conclusion of the race. With the five bonus points earned for leading the race, Dale Jr. and the Bud bunch have now gained more bonus points for leading races this season than any other team. The finish dropped the team to 15th place in Winston Cup points, one spot behind teammate Michael Waltrip and the DEI NAPA team, who finished fourth this afternoon.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting third, took the lead on lap nine and streaked away from the field for nine laps. However, as the day moved from overcast and cool to sunny and warm, the No. 8 car became tighter and tighter (the front tires would not turn efficiently, causing the nose of the car to push up the track in each corner). The handling of the car slowly deteriorated, dropping Dale Jr. to 12th place by lap 94, when the team made the second pit stop of the afternoon. As the Bud car was exiting the pits, the first yellow flag of the day flew, trapping them two laps behind the leaders in 27th place. Dale Jr. was able to get away from the field on the restart, regaining one lap when the second yellow flag flew on lap 115. From that point forward, it was a game of frantic catch-up, with Dale Jr. passing 10 cars in 15 laps and then hovering around the 20th position for the final 40 laps.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "Terrible. The car was terrible for much of the day. Even when we were leading, it was getting tighter and tighter. I was able to help it early on by running low on the track - even down on the apron - to get it to turn better. But, it just got worse and worse as the sun came out. I have been wearing my hat forward this week. When our luck gets better, I'll turn it backwards again like I usually wear it.
"I am happy for Michael (Waltrip) and the NAPA guys - they have been getting better every week. They're working together really well right now. We just keep missing the set-up on race day, but we're going to keep pushing until we're up front every week like we were early in the year. We need some breaks to go our way. Like todayif we would have run one more lap - 40 more seconds - before making a pit stop, we would have still been on the lead lap and still in the hunt for a top-10"
Best Radio Conversations
With the team losing two laps near the halfway point of the race, the remainder of the day was spent trying to make changes to the car to help it handle better.
Dale Jr: "I really need more grip all around. It has no traction at all. At the start of a run, we're really loose for a few laps and then it gets tighter and tighter for the rest of a run. But, I'm tellin' ya, there's no grip overall. The tires just feel real rocky today. It's like they're really hard - I'm feeling EVERY bump out here. The tires are chattering and bouncing through the corners and the car feels like it's rolling over on the front tires."
Points Position: 15th
Money Won: $80,677
Laps Led: Nine laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 46 / 4 tires and Fuel / 16.19 seconds
I Want My Dale-TV
Those who tuned in to see Dale Jr. on MTV this weekend will have to wait awhile longer to see the "True Life" marathon. The documentary series marathon has been rescheduled for the weekend of July 6 and 7. ("True Life: I'm A Race Car Driver" is a one-hour documentary about a segment of Dale Jr's 2000 rookie season.) The re-airing will include additional interviews with Dale Jr., taped recently at California Speedway.