Hard Crash Knocks Bud Team Out of Contention Dale Jr. Gunning for Third Place When Blown Tire Sends Him into Wall Jeff Gordon can begin making room on his mantle for his fourth Winston Cup, as he won the inaugural race at the brand new Kansas ...
Hard Crash Knocks Bud Team Out of Contention
Dale Jr. Gunning for Third Place When Blown Tire Sends Him into Wall
Jeff Gordon can begin making room on his mantle for his fourth Winston Cup, as he won the inaugural race at the brand new Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, Kansas.Gordon won a long, crash-filled race, with rookie Ryan Newman in second and his nearest points pursuer Ricky Rudd in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among those who were knocked from the race by a crash. Dale Jr., who had the fastest car on the track for significant portions of the race, was challenging for third position on lap 228 when the right front tire blew, sending the red Bud car careening hard into the outside wall in turn one. Dale Jr. was uninjured, but the race car suffered terminal damage. What had looked likely to be another top-three finish for the team turned into a 33rd place tally. It is the worst finish for the Bud boys since the Michigan race in early June.
The Key Moment: Starting 22nd, Dale Jr. moved up with apparent ease early in the race, but was hampered several times by encounters with slower cars that forced him high above the groove on the new race track. The new surface allowed for only one preferred racing line, and venturing beyond that groove proved to be dangerous. Once the field got strung out during long green-flag segments, Dale Jr. began consistently passing cars with quicker lap times than the rest of the field, moving into the top 10 on lap 111 and then into the lead on lap 120. After a quick pit stop for a splash of fuel on lap 138, Dale Jr. was never worse than fourth from then on, until the blown tire on lap 228 knocked him from the race.
Dale Jr: "I hit hard, and it's a damn shame because that was a great car. It would almost drive itself. I never really pushed hard, I was just kind of hanging in there until the last segment of the race. The car was that good. I was closing fast on the 25 car (third-place Jerry Nadeau) and closing on the leaders when I radioed the guys that I felt a bad vibration and I may need to come in the pits. I said that on the front straight, and as soon as I turned down into (turn) one, it blew. My left foot is kind of sore because I really hit the brake pedal hard when it hit the wall, but otherwise I'm OK."
"I'm sorry for Tony (Eury) Jr. and the guys that prepared that car. It was awesome, and I think the new Kansas track was great. It will get better and better when we come back in the future. I was having fun out there, and I think that we are really turning into a championship-caliber team. Tony and the boys have come a long way, and we're up front every week now. I think we all feel the confidence growing each week."
Radio Chatter (the best moments of radio conversation during the race)
The inaugural Kansas Speedway race was marked by repeated yellow flag segments following crashes on the one-groove race track. It is a typical condition for a new racing surface, and will improve with each race. While the field was at full speed, Dale Jr. was enjoying the action tremendously, but a fast car only increased his impatience when slowed by a yellow flag.
Ty Norris (spotter, during a long yellow flag from lap 137 through 149) "I wonder how many people have turned over to football by now?" Dale Jr. : "I'll bet they all have turned over. These caution flags are endless. I'm bored out here."
Danny Earnhardt (front tire carrier, making reference to Dale Jr's love for the Washington Redskins) "Do you want to know the Redskins' score?"
Dale Jr: "NO! I don't want to hear any scores. I am in a great mood out here, and I don't want anyone to ruin my good mood. Maybe I can use this time for something productive, like brushing up on my rapping skills or something"
A lap or two later. Still bored.
Dale Jr.: "Hey (car chief Tony Eury) Juniorwhat do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back?"
Tony Eury Jr.: (immediately) "A stick."
Dale Jr. (laughing loudly) "Hah hah hah hah hah you must have met the same girl I did!"
Dale Jr. ran third for a long time behind Rusty Wallace and the car of Johnny Benson. As Junior approached to pass, the engine in Benson's car blew up in a plume of smoke, debris and fluids. Dale Jr. somehow managed to avoid hitting Benson or the wall.
Dale Jr. (after catching his breath) "Whoa! The save of the day there boys! Save of the day! If we can avoid that, we can avoid anything. Let's put some tires on it four tires. Whatever tires you want. The car is really, really good"
RaceNotes / Protection One 400
Points Points Points
With all but first place in the top 10 positions in close contest each Sunday, the hard crash hurt the Bud team and Dale Jr. in the point standings. They dropped one position to seventh place, but heading into his "home" track of Charlotte next weekend, Dale Jr.remains only 150 points behind third-place Tony Stewart.
Points Position: 7th
Laps Led: One time for three laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 122 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.64 seconds