Earnhardt Jr., Budweiser Homestead race report

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Bill Elliott Returns to Victory Circle Dale Jr. 15th For Second Week in a Row, Team Rebounds From Early Woes The last time Bill Elliott drove into a Winston Cup victory lane, it was behind the wheel of a Budweiser-sponsored car in September of...

Bill Elliott Returns to Victory Circle
Dale Jr. 15th For Second Week in a Row, Team Rebounds From Early Woes

The last time Bill Elliott drove into a Winston Cup victory lane, it was behind the wheel of a Budweiser-sponsored car in September of 1994. Since then, Elliott had started 227 races without a win, but he returned to the winner's circle with flair Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, passing his young teammate Casey Atwood with five laps remaining to win the Pennzoil 400. It is the first win for Evernham Motorsports, a new team this season led by Ray Evernham. Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver Michael Waltrip also slipped by Atwood late in the race to grab second place. It is the second consecutive week a DEI team has finished second and it is also the second straight week the No. 8 Budweiser team, with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., has finished 15th.

The Key Moment: Starting 17th, Dale Jr. did not exhibit his usual mad dash toward the front, remaining in the top 20 for the first 25 laps until the handling on the Bud car became so evil he made an unscheduled pit stop so the crew could replace four tires and make chassis adjustments. The stop dropped the team to last place, one lap behind the entire field. The remaining 238 laps were a game of catch-up for the Bud bunch, as they made their lap back during a yellow-flag period on lap 82. From there, the team climbed from 26th place into the top 15, where they stayed for the final 50 laps.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"Good for Michael (Waltrip)! That team has struggled, but after a few personnel changes, they've really been good lately. During one of the yellow flags, I was right behind Michael and I wished I could have talked with him on the radio, I could tell he was really running good, and I'll bet he was having fun and must have been in a really good mood."

"We never found the right set-up on our car. It was like the front end of the car wouldn't hook-up at all. Even when we got the car going into the corners better, it would slide and plow through the middle of the corner and I couldn't get on the gas soon enough to get past many cars. We HAD to stop early (lap 29 unscheduled pit stop) because I just couldn't hang on. It got so bad it was like I had a flat tire."

"I know a lot of teams were just taking two (tires) to get track position, and I suppose we should have done that. But, when you can't get the car to turn, we felt like we were better off to take four each time. I just didn't think we could keep up with just two new tires."

Radio Chatter (the best moments of radio conversation during the race)

A serious accident on pit lane injured two members of the No. 28 Havoline team. Dale Jr's brother-in-law, Ray Holm (also known as Ray-Ray) is a rear-tire changer for the team, so Dale Jr. became very concerned when he passed the pit lane and saw the emergency crews rushing to the scene.

Dale Jr: "Hey - what happened with the (number) 28 and the (number) 22 cars?

Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Somebody ran into the 22 (Ward Burton) and he hit a couple of crew members on the 28."

Dale Jr: "Are they OK? How bad? Was Ray-Ray involved? Tony Jr - can you see him from there?

Tony Jr: "I can't see him, but we believe he's OK. It looks like it was the jackman and the front-tire guys."

Dale Jr: "You let me know how those boys are, and tell me if you see Ray-Ray!"

After falling one lap behind, Dale Jr. had to drive aggressively to keep from falling a second lap behind the leader. The team caught a big break when a yellow flag flew on lap 82, allowing them to get back in pit stop sequence.

Tony Jr: "Alright man, good job. We are on the lead lap - we're back in this game!"

Ty Norris (spotter): "Great job Junior, that was some great driving. A good job in traffic - that was all you there man. You hung onto it beautifully."

Points Points Points
Dale Jr. remained in seventh position in Winston Cup points with two races remaining in 2001. Earnhardt Jr. is 32 points behind Rusty Wallace in sixth place, and is two points ahead of defending Cup champion Bobby Labonte.

Today's Stats
Started: 17th
Finished: 15th
Money Won: $77,373
Points Position: 7th
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 29 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.04 seconds

-DEI/Budweiser-

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Series NASCAR-CUP