Mark Martin Wins at Kansas, Dale Jr. 34th
No. 8 Budweiser Team Struggles Through Rough Afternoon
Mark Martin captured a fan-pleasing first victory of the season Sunday, taking the checkered flag in the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway. Martin dominated the race, leading 139 of the 267 laps to best his teammates Greg Biffle in second and Carl Edwards, who finished third. (Martin won this year's non-points All-Star race, but had not won a points race since Dover in June of last season.) Tony Stewart lengthened his lead in the Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship with a fourth-place finish in the fourth of the ten-race countdown to the championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled through a rough afternoon after Dale Jr. was caught in a multi-car accident on lap 15. The team made some repairs during multiple pit stops following the crash, but the bruised, battered and bent Bud machine finished 34th, two laps behind the leaders. Dale Jr. remains 18th in Nextel Cup points following 29 (of 36) races.
Key Moments: Starting near the back after qualifying 38th, Dale Jr. moved up five positions in the first 10 laps, then came upon the slower car of Brandon Ash. As Dale Jr. moved underneath Ash to pass, the two cars made light contact, sending the Ash car spinning. Dale Jr. was hit by Dale Jarrett in grinding, side-to-side contact as they both slowed to miss the careening car. The incident severely wrinkled or sheared much of the left-side of the No. 8 Bud car, causing a series of pit stops to attempt to repair some of the carnage. Though able to continue, Dale Jr. was unable to remain on the lead lap, eventually finishing 34th, two laps behind the lead lap cars.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
(audible sigh) "That was long damn day. These guys (the Bud crew) work so hard and we come out here every week to win the race, so it's agonizing to get caught up in something so early and then ride around the rest of the day. Look at that car (pointing the left-side damage, which went from the front corner, to the "A" pillar in front of the window, to the door, then into a mess of duct tape and obtuse angles of bent metal ahead of the rear tire)... it's junk. That's no fun. No fun. None. They worked to fix it as best as they could, but I was just trying to stay the hell out of everyone else's way. I had no idea how bad it was bent-up, and after you have a crash like that, you start to feel and hear all kinds of weird things in the car. It seemed like it got worse and weirder as the day went on... Just one of those days you try to forget."
"Good for Mark (Martin) though. Good for him. (Then noticing a football-sized blob of debris and tire rubber that had collected in the wrinkled patchwork just ahead of the left rear wheel.) Wow... look at that rubber! (unwedging the large chunk from the side of the car) We'll take that back to the shop..."
Best Radio Chatter:
The day took a bad turn early on, as Dale Jr. made contact with the car of Brandon Ash on lap 15.
Jimmy Kitchens (spotter): "Watch out a couple of cars ahead of you... the 02 (Ash) car is slow up in the high line... (followed shortly by Ash moving down into the Bud car, setting off the multiple car crash.) You OK?"
Dale Jr.: " Yeah. (pause) I banged my car up."
After a pit stop on lap 102.
Dale Jr: "Have I got a hole in the car?"
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief) "Yeah. The nose isn't too bad, but the left rear is the worst."
Dale Jr: "What's the rear quarter panel look like?"
Tony Jr: "Above the tire is gone. There's no "Bud" -- all that's left is "weiser."
Dale Jr: "How's the quarter panel behind the tire?"
Tony Jr: 'What's left isn't too bad..."
The day didn't improve from there.
Dale Jr.: "This thing's weird. It sounded like something flew out of the front of the car and it turned sideways on me."
Tony Jr; "Is it still pushing pretty bad in the center of the corners?"
Dale Jr.: "Yeah, but it's drivin' weird. When I go down into the corner, it steers really fast. Even on the front stretch, it does that. It pushed through the corner then it slides all four tires up off (the corner)."
The team attempted to make repairs and changes during each pit stop, including one on lap 216. As several crew members were underneath the left rear of the car changing a spring rubber, Dale Jr. revved the engine impatiently.
Tony Jr: "Hold on... hold on..."
Dale Jr. (after letting off the gas, then stalling the car as he left the pit box...) (with sarcasm) "Heh.. heh ... heh... Typical."
Tony Jr: "Yeah, you were a little loud on your rear tire guys."
Dale Jr." Yeah, I'm really sorry. I forgot about the spring rubber. Y'all can hold me down at the shop and do the same thing to me, OK? I was just trying to have a fast stop. I wanted to get outta there and give us something to smile about."