Daytona II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Stewart Wins 400 for Second Straight Season Bud Team LNow Third in Points after leading 8 Laps, Finish 13th Tony Stewart led more than half of Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, winning the event for the second ...

Stewart Wins 400 for Second Straight Season
Bud Team LNow Third in Points after leading 8 Laps, Finish 13th

Tony Stewart led more than half of Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, winning the event for the second consecutive year. Kyle Busch was second while his brother Kurt Busch finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled all night with an ill-handling car, yet avoided major trouble to finish 13th. Using superb fuel mileage and pit strategy, the team led 8 laps, grabbing five bonus points that helped pull them forward two positions in the Nextel Cup point standings, climbing to third place with nine races remaining before the Chase for the Cup. This is the highest position in points for the team this season. Dale Jr. has now led in 10 of the 14 points-paying races he has started at Daytona, and his victory last night in the Busch Series race gives him ten victories in five years at Daytona International Speedway.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 35th, played a conservative, waiting game early in the race, planning to avoid trouble and maintain the car for a push at the end of the night. Moving forward methodically, the Bud car broke into the top-20 on lap 34, and then moved into the top-10 for several laps with superior fuel mileage. The fuel component played a key role in grabbing the lead for the first time on lap 83, holding the spot until pitting on lap 86. When the yellow flag flew on lap 88, the Bud team stayed on the track while the other leaders pitted, giving them the lead again. However, once the race went back to green, the red No. 8 simply was not fast enough to stay up front, and Dale Jr. dropped slowly out of the top-20 in less than twenty laps. However, two fortuitous caution flags in the final 12 laps allowed Dale Jr. to close in on the top-10. A yellow flag on the last lap ended Dale Jr's banzai charge for positions, and he ended the night in 13th place.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "We're pretty frustrated with the whole night. The car was tight all night - I couldn't turn and I couldn't move forward when I needed to. I mean, I couldn't go on the restarts... I couldn't go getting out of my pitbox... and we struggled with so many things. But - lemme tell ya - this crew has worked so hard and they have such a great work ethic, I knew I couldn't just throw my hands up and give up. All the guys in front of us kept piling into each other and we kept digging and picked up a big chunk of points. We would have had a few more spots but I let off after crossing the line on the last lap. I thought we were coming to the checkers instead of the white flag, so we probably would have been 10th or 11th. But, we're higher than we have been all year in points, so it's one of those nights where I'm happy it's done and we're gonna get outta here and go home."

Best Radio Chatter:
The radio chatter during the race was sparse, but there were several highlights, including one before the race started as the field tried to leave pit lane.

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "The 00 car (Hermie Sadler) can't get into gear, so it looks like everyone is going around him."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "What did you do Stiffy (Eury Jr.)? Loan them the transmission out of the car from last night? (referencing Dale Jr's victory burnout after Friday night's Busch Series race which broke the transmission and stranded him at the start/finish line.)

Dale Jr.: "OK, let's chill out for awhile."

Tony Jr: "10-4. That sounds like a smart plan. You know how it is and how crazy they can be. They'll spread out pretty quick, so drop to the back if you need to."

Dale Jr.: " I'm gonna save my tires and then I'll be able to get 'em easier after awhile."

After Jeff Burton spun out on lap 17, immediately behind Dale Jr.
Hmiel: "Junebug, the 31 (Burton) spun but no contact."

Dale Jr.: (correcting him) "There WAS contact."

Hmiel: "Oh yeah. I forgot you got mirrors in that thing."

During a yellow flag on lap 88, seeing his teammate Martin Truex Jr. still in the pit lane.
Dale Jr: "Martin got a penalty..."

Tony Jr: "No, he and the 16 (Biffle) got together. They hit on pit lane."

Dale Jr. (correcting him) "No. He pitted outside the box. (pause) It says so on the big screen."

Dale Jr. climbed forward after avoiding several crashes in front of him, proving the cliche sometimes it's better to be lucky than good...

Hmiel (on lap 155): "Crash! Low! Go low. Low. Now high. High if you can!"

Tony Jr: "Thank you! Good job there driver! Awesome job getting through there! Good job."

Dale Jr: "We're good. Not bad shape. Just a piece of debris or two under the car."

-dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Hermie Sadler , Martin Truex Jr. , Tony Eury Jr. , Kyle Busch