Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Harvick Wins Wild Daytona 500 Finish Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Bud Team Taken Out in Late Multi-Car Crash Kevin Harvick won the season-opening Daytona 500 Sunday night in a wild conclusion as he passed Mark Martin by inches at the finish line...

Harvick Wins Wild Daytona 500 Finish
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Bud Team Taken Out in Late Multi-Car Crash

Kevin Harvick won the season-opening Daytona 500 Sunday night in a wild conclusion as he passed Mark Martin by inches at the finish line while chaos raged behind the duo. Jeff Burton finished third, ahead of a multi-car crash coming off of turn four on the final lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were eliminated from the season-opening race of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season in another multi-car crash on lap 195. The early exit for the Bud team placed them in the 32nd finishing position. Dale Jr. was uninjured in the crash, but the Bud machine was severely damaged, disheveled and unable to continue.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 5th, ran among the top-10 positions for the majority of the first 85 laps. Following a pit stop at that stage of the race, the car became dangerously loose, sliding the rear-end in every corner. In a purely self-preservation mode, Dale Jr. gave up his fifth-place position (while spouting several colorful expletives) to drop back into the pack until the handling improved. In less than 10 laps, he dropped 29 positions, falling to 34th place on lap 96. As the run continued, the car began to improve, and the No. 8 car began picking off the field spot-by-spot, reaching 13th position on lap 126. Dale Jr. fought traffic and remained mired in the mid-teens for the next 50 laps, until crew chief Tony Eury Jr. made the decision to change only two tires during a pit stop on lap 175. The quick stop brought Dale Jr. back into the top-five, and he diced among the top-10 positions until falling victim to the multi-car crash on lap 195.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

About the crash that ended his race: "All I saw were sparks and smoke. I was tucked in behind the 88 (Ricky Rudd) coming off of turn two and couldn't see anything. I hit him pretty hard. I didn't see what happened ahead of me. I guess they were wreckin' and then I was in it. I couldn't stop."

"We struggled today, and we didn't have a car that could really challenge at the front. We didn't bring the right bullet to the fight. We didn't have the speed like we used to here, but I can't blame it all on the car. Late in the race, everybody was three-wide and I couldn't seem to make the right moves. I was indecisive, and the guys that were decisive were passing me. I seemed to pick a line and then it wouldn't move. This is a 500-mile race, but the first 400 miles are almost an after-thought. You know it's going to get wild at the end, so you try to do things that will get you to the front. But, when you're boxed-in by traffic, you can only do so much."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. was unusually quiet through the first 75 percent of the race, but had some of his usual verbal gems as the race neared its conclusion.

Steve Hmiel (spotter): (on lap 153, when leader Tony Stewart was taken out in a hard crash.) "Spin in front of ya!!! The track is blocked! Go to the outside! Go to the outside!"

Dale Jr: (slowing down amidst very heavy smoke) "Am I OK? Where do I go?"

Hmiel: "You're OK. Go ahead."

Dale Jr.: (after a long pause to catch his breath): "Alrighty-- it's pretty much anybody's race now-- The car is good, but it's tight off the corners a bit. We can undo the changes we made."

Tony Eury Jr.: "10-4."

Dale Jr: (watching replays on the large NextelVision screens in the infield): "He wrecked him, huh?"

Hmiel: "Yeah. But Tony got loose and it looked like (Kurt) Busch got into his rear quarter-panel."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah- Tony was really loose earlier in the race when we were running together. But not as loose as me -- cuz I'm THE MAN!" (loud laughs in Bud pit area--) Did Tony get out alright?"

Hmiel: "Yes sir."

***

This was the first race of a new DirecTV "Hot Pass" program that devotes an entire channel to cover the entire race focusing on the No. 8 Budweiser car. Several times during caution-flag periods, announcer Rick Allen asked Dale Jr. questions via the team radio.

Rick Allen: "Junior, you guys just made a pit stop, do you think Tony Jr. made the right changes to get that car to the front?"

Dale Jr: (teasing) "I hope so. He usually doesn't tell me what changes he makes. It's probably better that I don't know most o' the time. That's the mark of a good crew chief: he can lie to ya and make you believe it. Our car feels like it has a lot of drag -- we're one of the best handling cars on the long runs, but we really don't have the speed on the straights like we need--. I hate to be Captain Obvious, but we're not very good."

***

As the race neared an end, there was a major crash behind Dale Jr. on lap 185.

Hmiel: "That was wild. The 22 car (Dave Blaney) came down pit lane at full speed, then came back out on the track and took out a couple of cars."

Tony Jr: "He scared me because he came through my pit at full speed."

Dale Jr: "Damn. He must be playing a lot of video games. That kind of thing happens! (to Tony Jr. and the crew) "I'm tryin' buddy. I couldn't get anything going. Three-wide behind me doesn't help me. I just can't figure out what to do with my car. But, I'm going up high because I can't win hangin' on the bottom."

Hmiel: "Damn, that 99 (Carl Edwards) about took you out, huh?"

Dale Jr: "Yeah, he was makin' it tough. It was like a karate-chop block."

Hmiel: "That was some ninja stiff there!"

Dale Jr: "Tony Jr., you're doin' a good job with changes and the handling-- Dang, there's not many laps left. I'll push (teammate) Martin (Truex Jr.) if I can. But, he'll need another partner to try to win. I just don't have the speed to push him, so tell him he needs to find the strongest partner to win. I'm gonna do the same thing -- we ain't done trying! I'm gonna do what I've gotta do."

Tony Jr: "I know you've got it in ya."

Dale Jr: "I don't give a damn if I bring it back in one piece -- I have to do what I gotta do to win."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards , Dave Blaney , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin