Budweiser Michigan II race report

Sterling Marlin won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race since the 1996 Daytona 500, and he ended an even longer drought for Dodge, who won for the first time since 1977 at today's Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Dodge returned to the...

Sterling Marlin won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race since the 1996 Daytona 500, and he ended an even longer drought for Dodge, who won for the first time since 1977 at today's Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Dodge returned to the series this year, and not only gained their first victory today, but also placed four cars in the top 10 in the rain-shortened event. Ricky Craven was second and Bill Elliott was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished 12th for the second week in a row. The team, gambling that the race would go the full scheduled distance of 200 laps, chose a pit strategy that was foiled when the race ended on lap 162 due to rain.

The Key Moment: Starting in the 12th position, Dale Jr. seemed to hover near that position for much of the race. Running among the top 10 as the race reached 70 laps, the weather and the race soon took a turn for the worse for Budweiser-backed team. Increasing dark clouds, swirling winds and cooler temperatures were not suited to the Bud car, and Dale Jr. had dropped to 13th position when the race was stopped for more than an hour and 45 minutes due to rain on lap 100. After the rain delay, the Bud team gambled that the race would run the full 200 laps, stopping for a splash of fuel on lap 101. Although they were able to gain five positions after the extra stop, the rain-shortened distance did not allow their strategy to play out.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "As the race went on, we got better. We made that pit stop right after the rain delay, so we lost a lot of positions and we dropped back into heavy traffic. But we would have been in good shape if the race would have gone the distance. It was really starting to work for us. I think the last five laps before it rained were our best laps of the day the car was starting to work well and we were able to pass some guys before the rains came. I guess 12th is decent, but it could have been better.

"It was almost like we had too much downforce on the car. I mean, it was almost as if there was so much (aerodynamic) drag that the engine couldn't pull me down the straights. I know it wasn't the engine because when we were in the draft behind other cars it would haul some butt down the straights."

Dale Jr, at the urging of veteran drivers Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, used the Hutchens Device this weekend. The device is designed to protect the head and neck in case of a head-on collision.

"It was a little uncomfortable in a few places, but we'll work on making it fit me a little better in the race car. Overall, I didn't notice it too much, and we'll be using it from now on."

"I was surprised that those guys took the time and the interest to approach me about it. When they are that serious about it, you have to listen and give it a try."

Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day

With the extended rain delay, much of the team's sometimes comical, sometimes insightful radio discussions about the car's handling took place on a water-logged pit lane. Dale Jr. (half-teasing his cousin,car chief Tony Eury Jr.) "You guys need to speak up (on the radio), especially Tony Jr. I wanna ask all o'you guys if you can hear him when he talks?! Is it just me? I mean it like he's on AM radio and everyone else is on FM!" Tony Jr: "10-4" Dale Jr: "C'mon Tony Jr! Speak up! It sounds like you're using some sorta megaphone! I just can't hear it over this screaming engine. Or is it that your voice is just not masculine enough?! (laughter erupts among the crew.)

Race Notes / Pepsi 400

Points Points Points
The Bud team and Dale Jr.remained in sixth place in the standings, but gained significant points on three of the five teams ahead of them in the chase for the Winston Cup. With their second straight 12th-place finish, they closed to a margin of 185 points behind third-place Dale Jarrett.

NASCAR Announcement NASCAR will announce the findings of its long-awaited investigation into the tragic crash that killed Dale Earnhardt at Daytona at a news conference in Atlanta Tuesday afternoon. Dale Jr. will not make any statements about the report Tuesday, but he will attend a previously scheduled media luncheon at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC Wednesday. He will be taking questions about the report at that time.

Today's Stats Started: 12th Finished: 12th Current Points Position: 6th Money Won: $75,188 Laps Led: -- Best Pit Stop: Lap 123 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.97seconds

-Budweiser Racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Sterling Marlin , Ricky Craven , Tony Eury Jr.