Earnhardt Jr sails to victory at Richmond

Earnhardt Jr sails to victory at Richmond

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sailed to a 3.1-second lead over the field to secure his 12th career win. It was Earnhardt's third win of the 2004 season, and second career Cup win at Richmond International Raceway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes into ...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sailed to a 3.1-second lead over the field to secure his 12th career win. It was Earnhardt's third win of the 2004 season, and second career Cup win at Richmond International Raceway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes into victory lane.
Photo by Greg Gage.
Track position was the key strategy of the race: Earnhardt elected to stay out during a series of pit stops at lap 345. The call enabled Earnhardt to get to the front of the pack, where he then maneuvered around the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy of Jimmie Johnson to earn the ticket to victory lane.

"It was a good racecar," Earnhardt commented. "It had a great long run setup on it. I was real loose on new tires, so pitting really wasn't an option (on the last set of stops). Staying out was the thing to do. Man, what a great racetrack. We won a few races here. This is win number three for us; we're having a great season."

Earnhardt led the last 55 laps almost uncontested, "I passed the No. 48 on the outside. I don't know where that came from. I felt like my Daddy for five minutes. It was awesome. We did what we had to do. I don't know if we had the best car tonight. Being in front at the end was where you needed to be. So, that's what we did."

Jimmie Johnson tried to challenge the lightning quick No. 8 Chevy, but just could not close the gap.

Jimmie Johnson finished second.
Photo by Greg Gage.
"I thought we were going to have something for the No. 8," said Johnson, who grabs his eighth top ten of the season. "But he just took off. Once we went under caution and went back out, Earnhardt just checked out."

Johnson scored his best career finish at Richmond. Second place gave the team a good closing to what was two-days of hassles. Brake problems Friday bit into their practice time; set-up issues Saturday plagued the team; a mid-race spin at lap 203 where the 48 narrowly escaped serious damage, were the hurdles that the No. 48 Chevy had to overcome.

"We spun out and crashed and came back from that," Johnson said. "Had some problems yesterday in happy hour. We really didn't get in any practice on the track and rallied back to finish second."

Bobby Labonte was third. The top-five result helps move Labonte to seventh in series standings. "We didn't start off very good," said Labonte. "We got a lap down.but we were able to get back on the lead lap. We adjusted on our car all night, and got it better and better. Good night for us."

Tony Stewart appeared poised to win, until the No. 20 Gibbs Racing Chevrolet pitted for tires on lap 345, while other lead lap cars stayed out. The trip to the pits, shoved Stewart back in the pack, and allowed Earnhardt and Johnson to take their cars to the front of the field.

Stewart led twice for 59 laps, and finished fourth. "I just didn't have enough for the 8, 48 and 18," lamented Stewart. "Obviously, Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were the best cars all night. I was so proud of our guys.

"They did such a good job of getting this car in happy hour, driving it a different way than we ever did before at the end of practice. We just went from there and made it better."

Reigning Cup series champion Matt Kenseth completed the top five.

"We couldn't get our car to run very well on restarts," said Kenseth. "I was always just a little too far behind to contend for the lead. We're pretty happy finishing fifth."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. does a smoky doughnut.
Photo by Greg Gage.
The win for Earnhardt allowed him to maintain the championship point lead, 40 points over second-place Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon (-62), Matt Kenseth (-126) and Tony Stewart (-126) complete the top five.

There were nine cautions in the race for a total of 66 laps, and 19 lead changes among 12 drivers.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson