Rookie sensations continue winning: Johnson sweeps dover. No. 8 Budweiser Team dominates early, falters late. For the second week in a row, a rookie has won a Winston Cup race, as Jimmie Johnson takes the victory at Dover Downs Speedway,...
Rookie sensations continue winning: Johnson sweeps dover.
No. 8 Budweiser Team dominates early, falters late.
For the second week in a row, a rookie has won a Winston Cup race, as Jimmie Johnson takes the victory at Dover Downs Speedway, winning the MBNA 400. The victory - his second of the year here at Dover and third overall -- pulls Johnson into second place in Winston Cup points, which continues to be a close, close dogfight among the top drivers. Point leader Mark Martin finished the race in second, followed by Dale Jarrett. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team started third and launched into the lead in the first three laps, leading a total of 116 laps in the first half of the race. The second half of the race turned into a bitter struggle for Earnhardt Jr. as he fought the track and an evil-handling car. Dale Jr. finished 24th, four laps behind Johnson at the finish. The car's handling became so poor after the halfway mark that Dale Jr. went in a free-fall from seventh place on lap 250 to two laps behind the leaders on lap 295. Dale Jr. remains in 14th place in Winston Cup points, while the top four contenders for the championship (Martin, Johnson, Tony Stewart and Sterling Marlin) are separated by only 81 points.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr. started third, the same position he used last year to win this race, and wasted little time jumping into the lead on lap three. With a fast car, and three brilliant pit stops, Dale Jr. seemed to take the lead at will during the first 145 laps. The momentum began to turn soon after, when a slow pit stop dropped the red car into 10th place. Dale Jr. was able to fight back into seventh place in the next 100 laps, but the handling on the car came completely unglued from that point forward. It took 23 laps for Dale Jr. to slide one lap behind the leaders and then only 22 more laps to fall another lap in arrears. To correct the evil racecar, the team made an unscheduled stop soon after, and dropped four laps down, where they remained in the final 100 laps.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "We had some awesome pit stops early on. We had a great pit stall and we were kickin' butt getting in and out. People like Tony (Stewart) were pitting in the middle of the pit lane, so even if their stop was quick, it was like bumper cars for a lotta guys leaving the pit lane. The car was really fast early on, but after awhile it would be bouncing and skating through every corner. Eventually it was just out of control. I feel like I'm still bouncing. My hands are numb, and I can't feel them. I didn't want to continue driving like that. Can't they make tires better than that? The second set of tires today wasn't half badthat's when we really took the lead and sailed off. I was just cruising. Just holding track position, but that set must have been made a couple of years back. Maybe they needed to get rid of some old ones that were sitting in the warehouse or something."
Best Radio Conversations
The race was a case of opposites, as the early stages belonged solely to the Bud bunch, with Dale Jr. emanating confidence on the radio. The second half was another story, as frustration marked the conversations.
After three brilliant stops that sent Dale Jr. back onto the track in the lead, the fourth was hampered by a stubborn lug nut. Dale Jr. returned to the track in 10th place.
Ty Norris (team spotter): "OK, we've got some work to do"
Dale Jr.: "Hey man, whaddya talkin' about? We're gonna be OK"
Norris: "Yeah, you're right. We're alright."
Sadly for the team, they would not be alright. As the car began to worsen, Dale Jr. began pleading for help.
Dale Jr: (only partially kidding) "Find me a safe place where I can spin out!"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Do the best you can. Just hang on and keep it off the wall."
Finally, having struggled long enough in silence, Dale Jr. radioed the crew.
Dale Jr.: "I'm comin' in. I can't do this anymore."
Tony Jr. "Alright, whatever you need. It's your call."
Dale Jr: "Something's gotta be broken on this car. It's just bouncing all over. I almost crashed a bunch of times. It's a real bad deal."
Points Position: 14th (no change)
Money Won: $66,240
Laps Led: 116 laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 118 / 14.18 sec./ 4 tires, Fuel