Chicagoland: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Jeff Gordon Wins at Chicagoland Bud Team Finishes a Strong Fifth, Leads 27 Laps Jeff Gordon took advantage as leader Matt Kenseth spun out with less than five laps to go, winning the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It is Gordon's 75th...

Jeff Gordon Wins at Chicagoland
Bud Team Finishes a Strong Fifth, Leads 27 Laps

Jeff Gordon took advantage as leader Matt Kenseth spun out with less than five laps to go, winning the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It is Gordon's 75th career Cup victory. Jeff Burton finished second while Kyle Busch was third. The No. 8 Budweiser team with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a very strong day, leading 27 laps and finishing in the fifth position. The finish strengthens their hold on the third-place position in the NASCAR Nextel Cup point standings. The Bud team has led eight races this season, and have finished in the top-five six times with eight top-10 finishes. It is the 65th top-five finish in Dale Jr's career (237 starts).

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 25th at Chicagoland for the third consecutive season, wasted very little time moving forward, consistently running the fastest laps among the entire field, taking into the top-10 by lap 51, and then used strong pit strategy to take the lead on lap 110. The sequence of pit stops dropped the Bud car as far back as 14th with less than 50 laps to go, but making three-wide passes for position, combined with taking advantage of the misfortunes of others who spun or ran out of fuel, Dale Jr. passed point leader Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to take the fifth-place finish.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We're pretty darn happy with that. Hell yeah, a top-five finish is what we need to do every week. We had a very very fast car today but we needed long green flag runs to really take advantage of it. That made all of those late cautions so frustrating. We needed 20 laps or so, and then our car would get after it! We were kickin' everyone's butt, but in the middle of the race we didn't adjust the car enough for the track, and we dropped back a bit. But, Tony (Eury, crew chief) Jr. made some great changes near the end and we were able to gain back a lot of spots.

"I found that high line yesterday in the Busch Series race. The car just worked up there - and that's really fun rim-ridin' up near the wall. It's fun to race like that when you have a fast car, but it can get frustrating when you're stuck in traffic and you can't take advantage of what the car is capable of doing. I'm proud of my guys. We struggled on pit stops all day and that put us back in traffic, but how can I be mad at my guys when they built me such a good car?"

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. had one of the fastest cars for much of the afternoon. However, the Bud car needed about 20 laps into a run before the rest of the field began slowing down significantly, making long green-flag runs essential to get them to the front. As the race came into the final 100 laps, the yellow flags began to multiply, causing frustration among the team and driver.

Steve Hmiel (spotter) (lap 199): "Coming to the yellow flag, Junior...

Dale Jr. : (frustrated) "Debris?!"

Hmiel: "No, the 96 car spun and didn't hit anything."

Dale Jr. (mock melodramatic tones) "WHY?!? WHY did he spin!?!?!... Damn, I was just coming on strong."

***

The team then made their final pit stop on the following lap.

Hmiel: "Tony Jr., do you think anyone can make it from here?"

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "We can."

Hmiel: (surprised) "Oh! Cool!"

Eury Jr.: "Yeah, we'll be good. If ya wanna save some fuel for a green-white-checker, Junior, that's cool. But we're OK."

***

The frequent yellow flags continued on lap 216.

Dale Jr. "We were just starting to get good there. How did we look?"

Eury Jr: "Good. You looked good. And we're not coming to pit road."

Dale Jr: "10-4 on that. If it goes green, we'll be the best at the end of the run."

Eury Jr: "That's why we're staying out."

Dale Jr: "That was a sweet-ass pass on the 11 (D. Hamlin) and 41 (R. Sorenson) cars! I've had some bad-ass passes today!"

Hmiel: "Yeah, but I dunno what the 12 (R. Newman) was doing. He's really been in the way."

Dale Jr.: "He's just a real hard racer. He just races hard like that every lap."

Dale Jr. ran the final lap side-by-side with point leader Jimmie Johnson, racing for the fifth position.

Eury Jr: "Get him! Get him in that corner!"

Hmiel: "HOP IT! HOP IT!"

Eury Jr: "GREAT! You got him. A great top-five. Way to carry us today, driver"

Dale Jr: "Y'all gotta be proud. You built me a fast car. It was fun - a lotta fun with this car. Everybody oughta be proud."

-dei-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Tony Eury Jr. , Kyle Busch