Darlington II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Terry Labonte wins at Darlington, Dale Jr. 25th No. 8 Budweiser Team fast but suffer axle woes Terry Labonte won Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Labonte, a former Winston Cup champion, grabbed his first victory since 1999. This is...

Terry Labonte wins at Darlington, Dale Jr. 25th No. 8 Budweiser Team fast but suffer axle woes

Terry Labonte won Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Labonte, a former Winston Cup champion, grabbed his first victory since 1999. This is the final Labor Day-weekendrunning of the longest-runningevent in NASCAR history. Kevin Harvick was second, while Jimmy Johnson finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among the fastest all day, but dropped 11 laps behind the leaders on lap 149 (of 367) when the left rear half-shaft became disengaged.The No. 8 carwas pushed to the garage, where the Bud team installed a new left rear axle and returned to the track. Despite the lengthy stay in the garage, Dale Jr. was still among the fastest cars all afternoon, and regained two laps on the leaders by race end. The 25th place finish drops Dale Jr. 389 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, but he remains in second place in the Winston Cup standings.

The Key Moments:

Starting 12th, Dale Jr. leaped into the top-10 on the first lap, and then took advantage of a brilliant pit stop on lap 10 (12.9 seconds) to jump into sixth position. Dale Jr. eventually moved into second position by lap 34, and ran among the top-10 spots until axle problems brought the red car to a stop on the racetrack. With no drive, the car had to be pushed off the track, through the infield and into the garage before repairs could be made. After repairs, the Bud car returned to the track in 33rd position, and was consistently the quickest car on the track, but Dale Jr. was able to make up only two laps and eight positions before the finish.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I'm not sure what happened with the rear axle. I was just cruising around under yellow and all of a sudden, I had no drive to the rear wheels. It happened all of a sudden. I wasn't shifting and I had no warning. There was no noise -- just silence. Something came loose or we broke the axle cap. One second it was working and the next second it wasn't. It's frustrating to have that kind of thing happen, a real fluke deal, because we had a great car today. We've led here before, but that was the best race car I've had at this place. I told the guys on the radio, I don't hate Darlington like I used to. I was because I really had a car I could drive. A driver can't help but improve each time he comes back to this place, but having a car that can run like that is a much better feeling."

Best Radio Conversations:

Matt Kenseth passed Dale Jr. for second place on lap 55.

Dale Jr: (to the crew):

"We're OK. I'm just chillin' out here. I'm saving my (stuff)."

After the axle issues, Dale Jr. and his cousin, car chief Tony Eury Jr. had some spirited chatter on the radio during several long yellow flag periods.

Dale Jr:

"How many laps down are we?"

Tony Jr:

"Nine."

Dale Jr:

"Nine? I thought I made up three laps? You said were 10 down a bit ago!"

Tony Jr.:

"I skipped one. But, you're doing a great job."

Dale Jr.:

"Well, help me out here. I don't wanna be sitting in this car doing calculus. I'm too busy to be doin' math out here. The car is OK in turns one and two, but that's OK, because you can kind of change your line and do alright. In (turns) three and four, you've gotta be ON it, or you're not on it at all for the lap. That's where I really lose or gain...."

Under the same caution period:

Dale Jr:

"OK. Gimme some incentive to drive hard here."

Tony Jr:

"You're one lap down to the 12 car (Ryan Newman) but if you make up nine laps, we'll be in the winner's circle."

Dale Jr:

"OK... tell me what position I can get to?"

Tony Jr:

"Depends on who drops out, but you might be able to get as high as 21st..."

Dale Jr:

"Oh.. OK. I can handle the 20s... It's the 30s that suck. I don't like finishing in the 30s. But, I'll take the 20s after all that..."

During the next caution period:

Dale Jr:

"How many more laps? This is a long race..."

Tony Jr:

"Less than 100 to go.

Dale Jr:

"10-4. We'll only have to race once here next year for 400 miles?"

Tony Jr:

"No, they just moved this race to November, but they're gonna race it under the lights."

Dale Jr.:

"Oh yeah. Cool. Racing at night will be cool."

Tony Jr:

"Yeah, you'll be able to see your shadow on the wall..."

Dale Jr:

"Heh heh. They'd better light this thing from the inside and paint day-glo stripes on the apron so we can see where we're goin..."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Terry Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Tony Eury Jr.