Indianapolis: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Hometown Hero Stewart Wins at Indy, Fortunes Reversed for Bud Team Early accident drops Dale Jr. to 43rd-place finish SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Tony Stewart, an Indiana native, captured the prize that has long eluded him by winning the Brickyard 400 at...

Hometown Hero Stewart Wins at Indy, Fortunes Reversed for Bud Team
Early accident drops Dale Jr. to 43rd-place finish

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Tony Stewart, an Indiana native, captured the prize that has long eluded him by winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Stewart led 44 laps, including the final 11, and stretched his lead to .794 seconds over runner-up Kasey Kahne. Brian Vickers finished third. Chase for the Championship aspirations for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team took a major blow, as a wreck on lap 61 of 160 knocked Dale Jr. out of the race. He finished 43rd. Junior's wreck happened just as the field of 43 accelerated on a restart. The Bud Chevy was clipped from behind and sent barreling into the inside wall. The car bounced back into traffic, where it was hit again. It marks Dale Jr.'s second DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season, but worse, it drops him to 16th in the point standings. With five races to go before the Chase for the Championship begins, Junior is now 191 points out of the top-10.

Key Moments:

Starting 27th, the Budweiser Chevrolet wasn't much better in one piece, especially on restarts when it took 10 to 15 laps for the tires' air pressures to set in with the race track. During those times, the car was a handful to control, and Junior lost positions rapidly. The Brew Crew made major wedge and air pressure adjustments over the course of four pit stops, even though faulty radio transmissions hindered communication between driver and crew. Shortly after reporting small gains for the first time all afternoon, Dale Jr. took the green-flag on a lap-62 restart in 31st place, but as he climbed through the gearbox, he was nailed in the left-rear quarter-panel by Mike Skinner's #23 car, turning him directly into the wall. The Bud Chevy ricocheted back into traffic, where it was hit again by the out-of-control cars of Martin Truex Jr. and Robby Gordon. Dale Jr. was checked out in the infield care center and released with no injuries.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU SAW IN THE ACCIDENT?
"Everybody took off and then everybody stopped and when I stopped I got ran into. It's hard to see when you're way back in the back, you know, what the leaders are doing. But, they called the green flag and I was waiting for Bill (Elliott) to go and when Bill took off, I took off and we stopped again. I don't think (Mike) Skinner knew what was going on, or whoever took off behind me. I think it was Skinner. I got hooked in the right rear, and got sent into the inside wall. I don't know. My spotter said the leader checked on the restart, but I don't know. I didn't see anything."

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT YOU IN THE POINTS CHASE?
"Well, we lost a lot of points. I ain't a fortune teller, but it ain't looking good... I mean, it's obvious, we're way behind and there's not many races left. I had a terrible race car today. I hope I don't have to get back in that car."

YOU SEEMED TO HAVE HAD A LOT OF CONFIDENCE EARLIER IN THE WEEK AND ON THURSDAY ABOUT YOUR CHANCES HERE...
"Yeah, well we tested real good here, and we thought we'd come here with something. But from the moment we got here, we've been junk. It was real frustrating that the car wouldn't drive right. I was in the back and trying to work on it every pit stop to get it better. It's all we could do."

HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE NEXT FIVE RACES:
"Well, it's wide open. For us, we can't bring cars like this to the race track. I knew when the race started that it would be a miracle to get a top-10 with that car, so as long as we're bringing cars like that to the track, that's the way we're going to finish."

IS IT GOING TO TAKE A MIRACLE TO MAKE THE CHASE?
"It will take something extraordinary to make the Chase for us at this point. We're so far behind now."J

Best Radio Chatter:

Because of faulty radio transmission, there was some confusion on whether to take two or four tires on a lap-48 pit stop. Crew chief Steve Hmiel called for a four-tire stop, but Junior -- not hearing the call -- drove off after only the right-side tires were changed.

Dale Jr.: "Can y'all hear me?"

Steve Hmiel: "We can you fine, Junior."

Dale Jr.: "What?"

Jimmy Kitchens (spotter): "He says he hears you fine."

Dale Jr.: "Alright. I was talking to him in the pit stall but he didn't say nothing back."

Hmiel: "I heard you in the pit stall. I was just telling them to go ahead and get four tires because you said you wanted to see what the changes did. We don't have any laps on our lefts anyways, June. We'll be OK."

Dale Jr.: "Are the lug nuts good on the left?"

Hmiel: "There are no loose lug nuts. Everything is fine."

Dale Jr.: "I didn't hear nothing about four tires. That's why I drove off. We're having bad radio communication today, I can tell, so I don't wanna (tick) ya off, because I'm not doing nothing I ain't been told to do, know what I mean?"

Hmiel: "It's all good. Everything's good."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, but I can't hear some of the stuff y'all are saying, and y'all damn sure don't answer me back. I've been talking like hell!"

Hmiel: "Can you hear everything Jimmy? Am I just not returning back to him? That's very possible."

Kitchens: "Yeah, Steve, I can hear everything, and if you don't answer back, I'll repeat everything he says."

For the first time all day, Dale Jr. reported the first inkling of progress while turning pace laps under the fourth caution. Regretfully, those laps were his last of the afternoon, as it was the ensuing restart that doomed the Bud team's chances at Indy:

Hmiel: "We're getting pretty far up on right rear air. We'll take a little air out there, and probably take a little more wedge out too, June. Would that be OK?"

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I was wondering if you maybe you were doing both, because one is too much and one is not enough. But I think you got the combo right."

Hmiel: "OK."

Dale Jr.: "It took me awhile to get (the car) underneath me, but I think I was getting ready to make some progress there."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr. , Jimmy Kitchens