Darlington: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Budweiser Team Scores Top-Five at Darlington Greg Biffle wins Saturday night's race Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the ...

Budweiser Team Scores Top-Five at Darlington
Greg Biffle wins Saturday night's race

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team scored their second consecutive top-five and fourth overall this season with a fifth-place finish in the Dodge Charger 500 Saturday night at Darlington Raceway. Despite fighting the flu bug, Dale Jr. ran among the top-five for much of the night, climbing as high as third. It is his second career top-five at Darlington and first since the 2002 season. It moves him up one spot to fifth in the Nextel Cup point standings, 226 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 27 points behind fourth-place Mark Martin. Defending race winner Greg Biffle made it two-in-a-row at Darlington by holding off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon at the end. Matt Kenseth finished third and Jimmie Johnson fourth.

Key Moments: Exercising the most important virtue at Darlington -- patience -- Dale Jr. made a steady climb from his 22nd starting position but did so in waves. He clipped off three positions during the first green-flag run, six in the second, four more in the third, and gradually raced his way into the top-five on lap 125. He remained in the top-five for most of the night, slipping out briefly after a brush with the wall on lap 210 and again on lap 278 when opting to save his tires. It was his disciplined driving to save tires that allowed him to take advantage of a long, closing green-flag run, driving from eighth to fifth from laps 280 to 297 and holding down the fifth position in the final 70 laps. He finished three seconds ahead of sixth-place finisher Ryan Newman.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"The team did great job today. Gave me great pit stops. The adjustments they made were good all night. Anytime I can come in here and get a top-10 I'm pretty happy. A top-five is almost like a win, so I'm pretty excited."

On the momentum after last week's win carrying over to this week: "Yeah, I'm real happy to see us put a couple good runs there together like we just did. It pads our points on some of the guys behind us. I really don't worry about who's in front, or whether we're catching them or not. I just kind of watch the guys behind us and whether they're coming. It's sort of been my style. Maybe we can keep it up and make the Chase. I think we have a great team right now."

On fighting the flu bug this weekend, and how it affected him tonight: "I was sick when I got here. I've kind of been fighting the flu. Went to the infield care center on Friday, and they helped me out a little bit. During the race I was shouting into the mic, and it kind of tore my voice up a little bit. I had a good car. I felt alright, good enough to drive the car."

Did you ever consider getting out of the car? "Nah, I was going to be able to finish the race. I told them to maybe have someone on standby just in case, but I wasn't planning on getting out. Just screaming over the motor really tore my voice up. I don't know whether they could hear me or not. It's a tough race, man. I'm tired. Whether you're sick or not, you're going to be tired."

Best Radio Chatter:

Junior climbed into the top-five on the fourth green-flag run of the evening, but was concerned about wearing out his tires too fast.

Dale Jr.: "I'm burning the rear off."

Tony Jr.: "Ten-four. You have about 20 (laps) until you pit.JYou're doing great. You're in fifth."

Dale Jr.: "I'm just telling you what the car is doing to itself.JThe back feels like it's on ice."

***

Junior offered more clarification once the fourth caution flew on lap 149:

Dale Jr.: "I can't tell if I'm wearing out the left rear or the right rear, but something's wearing out. I mean, I can still hang on, but it ain't worth a dang to drive. (Pause) Actually, it was awesome until I started talking about it. The car is pretty good, don't get me wrong. It's just the long runs that got to get a little better."

***

After the pit stop on lap 151...

Tony Jr. (after looking at the tires): "The right rear we were using up a little bit... I see a few holes. The left rear is dynamite. Just letting you know which one you're using."

***

Dale Jr. had been fighting flu-like symptoms all weekend. He was still feeling the effects Saturday night, as he cautioned his crew to have a back-up driver on standby.

Dale Jr.: "Listen I'm alright, but if you know anybody my size, I may be slapping my armpit here tonight. But I think I'm going to make it."

Tony Jr.: "Ten-four you'll be alright. We're about halfway right now, so we'll take care of you."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I think I'm gonna be alright... just in case, ya know? (Pause) This is a long race."

Hmiel: "We can find a lot of people your size, June, but there's a certain part of your anatomy that's unmatched, and I don't know if we can duplicate it."

***

Dale Jr. scraped the wall on lap 208, and fortunately caught a caution three laps later. The Bud team was six laps away from making a green-flag pit stop.

Dale Jr.: "I don't know why I hit the wall there."

Tony Jr.: "Alright, from what I could tell on television, it looks good."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, well, it ain't driving exactly the same. It won't turn, and then it spins out...

***

After the pit stop...

Dale Jr.: "My car just quit getting grip right then. I don't know how many laps I had left (until the pit stop). Does anybody know how many laps I had left to run?"

Hmiel: "Yeah, you were within about five or six from pitting, and

Tony Jr., tell me if I'm wrong, but it looked like everybody had run out of stuff right there. I didn't think we were terrible, did you?"

Tony Jr.: "We were fine. We were within seven, eight laps from pitting there Junebug. (Looking at the tires) It looks like it wore the inside on the shoulder of the tire. It's not wearing the holes. It's a weird little deal there on the inside of that tire, and that's probably why it took off on you there. You said it changed a little bit."

Dale Jr.: "OK, if you can be a little better at telling me how many laps are left until I pit, so I can patience myself and not run into the wall when I only have five laps left until I get new tires."

Tony Jr.: "OK, ten-four."

Dale Jr.: "That's all. I hate running into (the wall) when I'm getting ready to get tires... I thought I had about 20 laps left."

Tony Jr.: "Alright, me and Steve will just relay it a little better to you."

***

Dale Jr. (referring to the radio transmissions): "I'm having a tough time when we're wide open... y'all come across the radio fine, but it's not very clear. It sounds sort of like a Vietnam transfer back and forth."

-dei

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin