Bobby Labonte won an uneventful Brickyard 400 Saturday afternoon, extending his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the Budweiser Chevrolet to a 13th place finish. It is the second consecutive race he has...
Bobby Labonte won an uneventful Brickyard 400 Saturday afternoon, extending his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the Budweiser Chevrolet to a 13th place finish. It is the second consecutive race he has finished 13th, and it also moved him to 13th in the Winston Cup point standings following his first Winston Cup race at the historical 2.5-mile rectangular oval. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, built in 1909, has always been known as a track that is greatly impacted by slight changes in the weather. Starting the race under sunny skies, Dale Jr. and the Budweiser Chevrolet jumped into the fray at the front, running as high as second place and staying among the top ten for the first 84 (of 160 laps). As the race progressed, the cloud cover thickened, the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped dramatically, which had dire consequences for the handling of the No. 8 Monte Carlo. The final half of the race saw him drop back gradually, position by position, until falling to 13th in the final corner of the final lap.
"When it was hot and sunny, we were as quick as anyone. We never got the lead, but we were as fast as the boys in front of us. Then, the clouds came in and the track was cooled off so much that the car just got tighter and tighter (a condition where the front tires don't turn into the corner as effectively). It felt like we were rolling all of the weight onto the right front tire in every corner. I drove it as hard as I could, but you can only do so much when ya just don't have the car. We tried to make changes on the pit stops, but the track seemed to change as fast as we could make our adjustments."
"I wanna say that we had a pretty damn good motor in this thing - as usual. It really hauled down the straights - but we couldn't stay with 'em in the corners."
"I was ecstatic to qualify sixth - it's a spot we haven't seen in awhile. We kinda lost our focus for awhile as a team and we haven't been up front for a few weeks. We had been great on the banked tracks earlier this season, but we just haven't found the set-up on the flat tracks these last few weeks. It was important to me and to the team to come here to Indy for the first time and qualify and race well."
Dale Jr. moved up to 13th in Winston Cup points due to misfortune of Terry Labonte, who failed to start a Winston Cup race for the first time in 655 races. (Labonte is recovering from injuries suffered in crashes at Daytona and Loudon, NH.). Dale Jr. also gained valuable points on Matt Kenseth in the rookie-of-the-year race. Dale Jr. was the second-best rookie (behind Scott Pruett, who scored his first career top-ten in NASCAR competition) while Kenseth struggled to a 26th place finish.
While his father clinched his fourth championship in the International Race of Champions (IROC), Dale Jr. struggled to a ninth place finish in Friday's IROC race. Dale Jr's purple Pontiac looked good but performed miserably, the engine sounding more like a snap-crackel-and-popcorn popper than a racing powerplant. Dale Jr. finished tenth in points in this year's four-race IROC series.
Dale Jr. started sixth -- his 12th top-ten start of the year -- and his first top-ten since the race at Michigan six weeks ago.