Fontana II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kyle Busch Becomes Youngest Victor at California No. 8 Budweiser Team Out of Race and Chase with Blown Engine Kyle Busch became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, taking the victory in Sunday night's Sony HDTV 500 ...

Kyle Busch Becomes Youngest Victor at California
No. 8 Budweiser Team Out of Race and Chase with Blown Engine

Kyle Busch became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, taking the victory in Sunday night's Sony HDTV 500 at California Speedway at the age of 20 years, four months and two days (besting the previous youngest winner by only four days). Greg Biffle was second while Brian Vickers was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No 8 Budweiser team saw their race and their chance to compete in the Nextel Chase for the Cup go up in a spectacular plume of smoke as the engine failed on lap 211. Dale Jr. finished 38th, and is now 18th in Nextel Cup points, mathematically eliminated from being among the top-10 drivers that will compete for the championship in the final 10 races of the season.

Key Moments: Starting 41st, the Budweiser Chevy started the evening on a strong note, moving into the top-20 on lap 55, and running laps consistently on-pace with the race leaders. Almost as soon as he reached the top-20, Dale Jr. began complaining about the lack of power in his racecar. The car was still fast in the corners, which allowed Junior to move up a few additional spots before beginning to drop through the field after lap 100. The car's handling and power slowly deteriorated, and Dale Jr. ran 30th or worse following lap 150, until the team decided to remain on-track during a yellow-flag period that began on lap 200. As the rest of the field pitted, the No. 8 machine actually took the lead for two laps before making a pit stop on lap 203. The late stop was an attempt to stretch the fuel mileage to the end of the race, but fuel economy became a moot issue on lap 211 when the engine disintegrated in a dramatic and smoky end to the evening.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "Oh yeah, it blew up big time. It had really run like hell most of the night and it finally broke. It's a real disappointment to have a car that handled real well in the corners early in the race, but we were getting killed on the straights. I couldn't keep up with anyone unless I had an advantage off the corner."

About being eliminated from the Chase: "It had been over for about 80 laps the way we were running. Nothing you can do about it now but go on to Richmond and try to win there. I'm really disappointed running like this. I'm surprised it's been this way most of the year, but now we have to go out and try to win races. We quit worrying about points a long time ago."

Best Radio Chatter: Dale Jr. seemed to have an ominous sense of the eventual outcome of the evening for the No. 8 car, beginning on lap 70.

Dale Jr.: "Man, this motor's horrible."

Steve Hmiel (crew chief): "Yeah, I saw that. Maybe it won't burn a lot of fuel...(jokingly referring to the possibility of the race becoming a fuel-mileage event...)

The late-afternoon starting time presented visibility problems for the drivers, who were forced to look directly into the setting sun along the backstretch and into turn three. Dale Jr. spoke up about the problem during a yellow-flag period on lap 94.

Dale Jr. (speaking to spotter Jimmie Kitchens): "I can't see a (damn) thing on the backstretch, Spotter -- I'm really concerned about going into (turn) three with someone on my right rear corner. I'm concerned about that because I would drive right into them. So just stay on the radio all the way through the corner if someone's out there. It's not going to bother me if you just keep talking all the way through the corners. Just stay on the radio."

As the engine issue worsened, Dale Jr. became rather colorful on the radio before and during a yellow flag on lap 113.

Steve Hmiel: "I know you're drivin' the hell out of it, but that was a great lap."

Dale Jr: "Don't (expletive) talk to me right now. I'm pretty (expletive) pissed right now. Not at you -- I'm just pissed." During the yellow flag:

Dale Jr: "Do you think I hurt the engine when it ran hot during qualifying? That was so much fun racing like that, but I hate my motor so much... not my motor man -- just my motor. I want it to blow up -- a big blow up. Fire and smoke and a big mess. I wanna race so bad. I thought we were going to be alright, but I was just losing spot after spot. I was trying to hang onto those spots for you guys."

Hmiel: "10-4, June. We'll do what we can."

Dale Jr: "Jeff Gordon pushed me down the straightaway one time, and I thought it was gonna blow up then. I suppose you can't blow this one up. It's running like a tank. A Sherman tank. A big diesel."

Hmiel: "Yeah, those are the kind that'll run all day."

Despite the troubles, the team and driver tried to keep a positive outlook.

Dale Jr. (after pulling out of the pits on lap 145) "Man, I wanna get out of the pits faster. I need some Joie Chitwood-style skills to do the burnout comin' outta there..."

-www.fingerprintonline.com

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Greg Biffle , Brian Vickers , Kyle Busch