Fontana: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Jeff Gordon Wins at California, Budweiser team 19th Dale Jr. Struggles to a Top-20 Finish Jeff Gordon won for the second consecutive week, taking the checkered flag at the end of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Jimmie...

Jeff Gordon Wins at California, Budweiser team 19th
Dale Jr. Struggles to a Top-20 Finish

Jeff Gordon won for the second consecutive week, taking the checkered flag at the end of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Jimmie Johnson finished second with Ryan Newman third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team made their eighth top-10 start in the first 10 races of the season, but struggled with the race car once the green flag fell on a sweltering afternoon in the California desert. Despite the 19th place finish (only the second finish worse than 11th place this season), Dale Jr. maintained his position at the top of the NEXTEL Cup point standings, leading Johnson and Gordon. This is the fifth week Dale Jr. has led the point standings this year.

Key Moments:

Starting tenth, the No. 8 car dropped to 14th place by the second lap, and it was an all-day struggle from that moment on. Dale Jr. thrashed for the first 25 laps with a car that refused to turn through the middle of a corner, then suffered with the opposite handling characteristics after the pit crew made major changes during early pit stops. The car suffered damage to the left-front corner when Kurt Busch and Rusty Wallace crashed in front of Dale Jr. A fender brace from one of the crashed cars pierced the nose of the No. 8 car like an arrow, but did only minor damage that was repaired during a subsequent pit stop.

Dale Jr. Quotes: (Exhausted):

"I feel like I've been in a fight today. I fought the car every lap, and with the heat, it wore me out. It was like it was never the same from one corner to the next. It wasn't until the last 50 laps that we had a car that could pass anybody. It was like we were never able to get the handling right and the car was skating across the top of the track, in a four-wheel slide the whole time."

Best Radio Conversations:

As the field began to pull away from pit lane to start the pace laps (and while optimism still reigned.)

Dale Jr.: "Ohhh... it's nice and warm in here... I'm all warm... about ready to take a nap in here."

Lap 22, during the first caution, after falling from 10th to 25th in the opening green-flag run:

Dale Jr.: "I'm real tight in the middle, and the tires are chattering all through the center ... I think a lot of these guys got a lot more (suspension in the) right rear than we got. That's what we need. It plows all the way through the center and all the way off. As soon as they get up on my left rear quarter-panel, I gotta lift or else I'll end up in the fence."

Feeling the effects of a 98-degree day on lap 140:

Dale Jr.: "You got something to cool me down... bags of ice or anything?"

Tony Jr.: "Yeah, we'll get something in there. (To a crew member) Grab a cold water or something."

Dale Jr.: "I don't want any water. It gets in the bottom of the car and starts to boil. Just get me some rags so I can wipe my face. My face is burning up. Get me two wet towels. Something simple is all I need."

During two- and three-wide racing on lap 175:

Dale Jr. (to spotter Stevie Reeves): "Hey, if I'm clear, don't say anything. Talk when you need to talk ... don't talk to when you don't need to talk... (silence) Copy? It just scares me, ya know... makes me think someone's coming on my outside."

Stevie Reeves: "I was letting you know someone was way up in the high groove in your blind spot."

Dale Jr: "Well, I aint got time to worry about it if they're behind me. I'm not even looking for 'em."

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Yes, Dear / Yes, Dale: Dale Jr, will be featured in Monday night's episode of "Yes, Dear" on CBS-TV at 8:00 pm ET/PT. This is Dale Jr's first appearance on a prime-time network sitcom.

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Stevie Reeves