Dover: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Truex Wins First Cup Race Near Home, Dale Jr. 22nd Bud Team Troubled by Tires Martin Truex Jr., a New Jersey native who grew up about an hour away from Dover International Speedway, won his first career Nextel Cup race Monday afternoon at Dover...

Truex Wins First Cup Race Near Home, Dale Jr. 22nd
Bud Team Troubled by Tires

Martin Truex Jr., a New Jersey native who grew up about an hour away from Dover International Speedway, won his first career Nextel Cup race Monday afternoon at Dover in dominating fashion in the Autism Speaks 400. Truex led 216 laps and won by a margin of more than seven seconds over Ryan Newman in second while Carl Edwards finished third. It is the first points victory this season for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among the fastest cars all afternoon, but two shredded right rear tires sent the team to the pits twice for unscheduled service, falling several laps behind the leaders then fought back for a 22nd-place finish. The finish drops the team two positions in Nextel Cup points to 15th place after 13 races - the halfway point of the 26-race 'regular season' prior to the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr., starting a season-best 2nd place (matching his best starting position since March, 2004 at Darlington), seemed to only get stronger 20 laps after each of the first several pit stops. Running no worse than fourth place, Dale Jr. would gain ground the longer each run continued, and had easily moved into second place when suddenly the right rear tire began to shred on lap 108, and he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 112 to change all four tires. Relegated to 39th place, two laps behind the leaders, Dale Jr. was able to climb back up the standings almost ten positions before a second right rear tire shredded on lap 202, and the Bud team was forced to again make an unscheduled pit stop for four fresh skins. Now 40th and four laps behind, Dale Jr. spent the entire second half of the race clawing back toward the front, getting as high as 19th place with less than 20 laps remaining before an electrical or fuel pressure issue with the engine caused him to slow his pace in the final laps, dropping several spots to 22nd while his teammate Truex cruised to the victory.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

About the passing this afternoon of Bill France Jr., former NASCAR CEO and son of NASCAR founder Bill France: "It's a profound loss for the sport. His dad started NASCAR, but he's the one probably most responsible for the state of our sport today. He was one of those giants - very intimidating to me. I didn't know him well, but my dad was close with him and I know that made my dad very, very proud to get close to someone that not a lot of others did. He and my dad were a lot alike, and it's a loss for the entire sport when you lose someone that has such vision of what direction NASCAR has gone and will go in the future."

About the first career win of teammate Truex: "Hell yeah! That's a great deal for Martin and the whole team. Actually, it's a great day for everyone at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Martin's a helluva driver and a good guy. With his talent and the way he and Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) have been working together, it was only a matter of when they were going to get their first win. He told me after practice Saturday they had a great car, so I think they knew they were going to be one of the cars to beat. They have been having a season a lot like ours: fast every week but just falling victim to bad luck. I'm really happy for him and his family and the Bass Pro team, and I'm sure it's even more special for him to win in front of a lot of friends and family. You can't underestimate what that means."

About a frustrating day of his own: "We had a great car. It's that simple. My guys built a bad-fast racecar. We started up front and as each run went along, we seemed to slow down a lot less than the rest of the field. But, with the heavy rains the last couple of days, it washed all of the rubber off the concrete, and that meant the high-line I was running was really, really abrasive. It just abused the right rear tires and we ended up with two that shredded down to the cords. We didn't puncture them or run over anything: we just flat wore 'em slam-out. That's a shame and it's frustrating to have a day that started so well turn out so frustrating.

"After we had trouble with the first tire shredding, I tried to run in the low groove to not abuse the tires, but that's soooo hard to do. I know it's faster up in the high groove, so I would lose patience and go back up there. It got better as the day went along and more and more rubber was laid down, but I still had to remind myself to stay in the low groove. I'd get lazy and go back up top and haul butt. I mean, which would you choose: arm wrestling in the low groove or running up high like you're in a La-Z-Boy recliner? That's the difference in the feel between the two. It's a shame because I really believe if we didn't have the rain and the track still had a lot of rubber on it, it may have come down to me and Martin battling it out for the win. How cool would that have been?"

Best Radio Chatter:

Starting second, Dale Jr. was no lower than fourth place for the first 100 miles of the race, and was consistently the fastest car on the track as each segment following pit stops continued. That changed on lap 108.

Dale Jr: "It feels like the tires have blown up. They've become bouncy and slick!

(one lap later he reported back...) I have a flat!"

Tony Gibson (interim crew chief): "Alright, bring it in. Four tires."

Dale Jr: "It feels like it just wore out..."

(after the pit stop and finding the right rear tire had worn through the cords.)

Gibson: "You're right, It's just worn out. We didn't see any signs of that (on the first two pit stops). It was a surprise to us too."

***

After a second tire problem, the team dropped to 40th place past the halfway point of the 400-mile race. Gibson tried to keep his driver focused and calm.

Gibson: "Doin' good. Lap times are good and we're trying to help you with the set-up and air pressures."

Dale Jr: (agitated) "What am I supposed to do? I can't run the top. I can't run the bottom. This thing ain't gonna get help from anything. We're killing the handling of the car by trying to protect the right rear. It's making it tight. Let's forget about the wear on the right rear and try to make it handle good."

Gibson: "Just hang in. You're doin' fine."

Dale Jr: (resigned to his fate) "I'm fine. What can you do? I'm just tryin' to get it to the house..."

Gibson: "Well, I'd rather run last than do anything that could hurt ya."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards