Darlington: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Biffle Wins at Darlington, Driver No. 8 Finishes Eighth Dale Jr. Fights Back for Fifth Top-10 of 2005 Greg Biffle won Saturday night's Dodge 500 at Darlington Raceway, taking the lead with one lap to go in a wild two-lap green flag dash to the...

Biffle Wins at Darlington, Driver No. 8 Finishes Eighth
Dale Jr. Fights Back for Fifth Top-10 of 2005

Greg Biffle won Saturday night's Dodge 500 at Darlington Raceway, taking the lead with one lap to go in a wild two-lap green flag dash to the finish. Jeff Gordon was second while Kasey Kahne finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team fought from a 39th-place starting position to finish eighth. Dale Jr. remains ninth in Nextel Cup points, but is now only 55 points behind the fifth-place driver. This is the fifth top-10 finish for Dale Jr. and the Bud team in ten races this season.

Key Moments:

Starting 39th, it was a quick ascent through the field, as a fast car and even faster pit work put the red no. 8 into the top-15 after 53 laps, and then into the top-10 by lap 82. Even when the car didn't handle well on a given set of tires, consistently fast pit work continued to gain positions through the night for Dale Jr. A pit stop on lap 234 put the team into sixth place, but an ill-handling set of tires sent them just as quickly back in the field, falling as far as 20th by lap 269. As the race entered the final 60 laps, Dale Jr. was in 18th, and fighting heavy traffic. But, a fast car and some aggressive driving resulted in a gain of ten positions by the green-white-checkered finish.

The Budweiser pit crew was consistently fast all night, gaining a number of spots on multiple yellow-flag stops. Here are some examples:
Stop # 2 / lap 40 / gained three positions
Stop # 3 / lap 80 / gained three positions
Stop # 6 / lap 195 / gained two positions
Stop # 8 / lap 234 / gained three positions / 12.68 seconds (fastest of the stops)
Stop #10 / lap 317 / gained two positions

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I had fun out there -- well, about as much fun as you can have at this ol' place. It's a tough track, and we worked really hard to get that finish. Man - we had great pit stops all night and I had a good car. The motor was really good too. I've been complaining a little bit about that, but the whole company has been working hard and we're seeing the results on the track. We had a terrible qualifying lap, so we had a long way to go, and it feels good to finish as high as we did.

"I tried really, really hard in the first half of the race to take it easy on my tires for the first few laps of each run. It was tough to do -- because I would lose a few positions on the restarts, but then the whole field seemed to come back to me on long runs. That's how we moved up so strong early in the race. But, as the race goes along, everybody just drives so hard on every lap, it's almost impossible to take care of your stuff and take advantage of long runs. We had one set of tires that just slowed us down -- we didn't change anything on the car but the tires, and we dropped from sixth to 20th place. It feels good to be that far back and that frustrated, then to have the guys fight to get it dialed back in so I could race hard at the end... that's what's rewarding. It's hard not to want to do well for these guys."

Best Radio Chatter:

Size 11's ain't big enough... During a caution period on lap 195, Dale Jr. registered some suggestions for his team. (Because of the team-swap at DEI, Dale Jr. is driving cars originally prepared for Michael Waltrip.)

Dale Jr.: "This car's gas pedal needs to be moved down. I'm barely catchin' it with the top of my foot and it hurts like hell. Y'all gotta move 'em on all the cars. I'm not as big as Michael. It's like the gas pedal is a foot off the floor... I need a board or a platform in here!"

Dale Jr. had a bird's-eye view of a hard crash between two lapped cars on lap 242...

Dale Jr: "Ahahahahahahahah! That was trip! Gollllllllllllleeeeeee! I could see that comin' from way back."

Steve Hmiel: "Good job. We were lucky to miss that one."

Dale Jr.: "Yeeeeeeeeoooooooooowwww! I hope nobody's hurt. They hit hard there. CRASH! BAM!"

After the crash, there was an animated discussion regarding pit strategy.

Dale Jr: "I'm comin' in..."

Rondeau: "The leaders are staying out... stay out! Stay out!

Hmiel: "OK, a lot of guys behind the 24 (J. Gordon) came in..."

Dale Jr.: "Awwww. DAMN! I shoulda come in."

Rondeau: "It was only three laps on those tires."

Dale Jr: "You don't understand, man. Three laps here is like 20 anywhere else. I ain't lyin'!"

Rondeau: "I believe ya. You'll be OK. Nice job avoiding that wreck. I could tell you could see it comin' the way you dropped back there."

The car didn't react well to a set of tires, and it was a relieved Dale Jr. when a yellow flag came out on lap 317 and saved him from going a lap down.

Dale Jr.: "The car is over on the right front (tire), I really need some help here. I know you hear me, and you're probably tired of hearing me. I'm drivin' this damn thing and I'm tired of hearing me too. But, let's get it better.

After the pit stop...

Dale Jr: "Whhhhooooo! We gained a few spots there... We've got some work to do. (making up seemingly random numbers) That felt like 100 pounds of air pressure in the left front. I'd say the right front felt like... 22 pounds and the right rear, oh... I'd say... 45 pounds."

Rondeau: (laughing) "Alright. We'll get 'em now. 50 laps to go..."

Dale Jr: "The stops have been so kick-ass all night, I can't believe it."

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Kasey Kahne