Early Crash Spoils Day For Bud Team at Las Vegas Dale Jr. finishes 42nd, Jimmie Johnson wins The Las Vegas woes for the No. 8 Budweiser team continued on Sunday, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in hard, four-car crash only 12 laps into the ...
Early Crash Spoils Day For Bud Team at Las Vegas
Dale Jr. finishes 42nd, Jimmie Johnson wins
The Las Vegas woes for the No. 8 Budweiser team continued on Sunday, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in hard, four-car crash only 12 laps into the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, ending the day before it ever really got started. Dale Jr. was taken to the infield care center and released with no injuries, but his car wasn't so lucky. Substantial damage on all sides of the Bud machine was enough for early retirement, as the team was handed its first DNF of the season and a 42nd-place finish. Jimmie Johnson won the race, beating Busch brothers Kyle and Kurt -- in that order -- to the checkers. Jeff Gordon finished fourth and Kevin Harvick fifth. Dale Jr. dropped 13 positions to 27th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship point standings. Next week the Nextel Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Dale Jr. is the defending race winner.
Starting 34th, Dale Jr. eclipsed nine positions in the first 10 laps and was turning lap times that rivaled the leaders. But disaster came on the 12th circuit when the nose of the Bud Chevy clipped the left-rear quarter-panel of Brian Vickers' No. 25 car, causing Vickers to spin wildly. Dale Jr. drove to the high side and nearly avoided further contact, but Vickers' car fish-hooked back up the race track and plowed into the driver's side of the Budweiser car, sending both barreling into the wall at maximum speed. Bobby Labonte and Ricky Rudd were also collected in the accident, although both were able to make repairs in the garage and return to the track. The Bud team wasn't so fortunate, as the damage was too extensive to return. This marks the first DNF for the Bud team since the Atlanta race last October.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"Big mistake on my part. I went into the corner like I thought I should, and he (Vickers) got in there a little easier than I expected. I got all over him, ran all over him. It's my fault, and I apologized to him. That's about all I know. I pride myself on being a smart, patient driver who doesn't cause many wrecks. I don't know what my track record is, but I don't make too many mistakes like that. Today I made one, and I feel real bad about it. I feel bad for my team, because we had a good car. It was a little loose, but good. We had passed a few cars right there at the start, and I felt like we could have definitely left here with a top-10. I'm pretty disappointed with myself."
Can you elaborate more on the initial contact between the two cars?
"Basically I was driving much deeper into the corners than he was. He'd been on my ass for about three laps, so I was going to let him go. Then we went into the turn, and I got into him. I was on the gas still, and he wasn't. Not his fault. I had in my mind when I was going to lift, and he had in his mind when he was going to lift. He just lifted a little sooner than I did. I could've gone another five car lengths on the throttle, but it's nobody's fault but my own."
How are you after the hard hit?
"Man, I hit the wall hard. It was a hell of a hit. But I'm OK. No problems."
This will drop you back into the points even more, but it's still very early in the season.
"Yeah, it's real early. I can tell you this, I feel better about my situation now than I did a year ago, and that's the truth. Everybody wants to keep asking me about it as if that's supposed to change. Pete (Rondeau) is real calm, cool, and collected, and that's what I need to become a better driver. He gave me a good car today, and I made a mistake, and I'm really upset about that. I'm even more upset for Pete (Rondeau) and the guys, because I know how hard they're working. It'll come to us. I've had harder times than this. I mean, we'll just try to turn it around. I've had a pretty good car the last couple of weeks -- just ain't made the best of it."
Best Radio Chatter:
Other than Junior saying the car was a little loose on lap seven, there was no radio chatter until after the accident on lap 12. Dale Jr. put his window net down, but said nothing on the radio.
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "You in there, June? Are you OK?" (No response)
Hmiel: Looks like he's getting out, fellas."
Pete Rondeau: "Thank you, Steve."
Hmiel: "It looked like we ran into the back of the 25."
Rondeau: "Yeah, 10-4, we are looking at it on the screen now. Everybody to the garage. Steve, if you could let us know when they take the car off, that would be great."
Hmiel: "Yessir, and Junior's already climbed into the ambulance."