Dale Jr. finishes third at Martinsville, regains points lead Fifth top-five of season helps Dale Jr. regain points lead Rusty Wallace led the final 45 laps and beat Bobby Labonte to win Sunday's Advanced Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway....
Dale Jr. finishes third at Martinsville, regains points lead Fifth top-five of season helps Dale Jr. regain points lead
Rusty Wallace led the final 45 laps and beat Bobby Labonte to win Sunday's Advanced Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway. It is Wallace's 55th career NEXTEL Cup victory, and his first in nearly three years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser tied a career-best at Martinsville by finishing third, leading twice for 154 laps. It was Dale Jr.'s series-best fifth top-five of the season and fifth consecutive top-five at Martinsville. As a result, Dale Jr. regains the Nextel Cup championship point lead, holding a slim five-point edge over second place Kurt Busch and 12-point advantage over Matt Kenseth.
The Key Moments: Starting fourth, Dale Jr. used a timely caution to help alleviate a loose condition that dropped him from the lead to 16th place. Quick pit stops by the Bud crew helped the cause, eclipsing two positions on a lap-163 stop, two more on lap 217, and three on lap 272 that put the No. 8 Chevy in the lead. Dale Jr. held the point for 127 laps (which was prolonged for a surreal one hour, sixteen minute red flag period needed to repair the track surface) before Jimmie Johnson grabbed away the lead on lap 411 of 500. Dale Jr. fell to fifth, losing several additional positions following a restart on lap 423, but managed to bounce and battle back into the top-three by the finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"There's a lot of disappointment down inside me. I was sitting right where Rusty ended up. I had the lead, and I was just thinking, 'Man, if I can just hold them off, I'll finally get the win here.' Then I went down in the corner and it wouldn't turn. Rusty got under me, then the 18 (Bobby Labonte) got under me, and I was like, "Golly, I'm going backwards here.' Yeah, it's frustrating. Two times for sure, maybe three, we've been in the catbird seat, and it just gets away from us somehow."
"We started the race good, but I just wore the rear tires off of it. It was so bad I thought I had a flat, and we lost a lot of positions there, and we had to adjust on it to get the car to where it wouldn't do that again. I think the biggest difference for us was the pit stops. I know one time I came in sixth and went out fourth, and another time I came in fourth and went out first. The guys really did a great job on pit road. The last set of tires didn't really agree with the car, but we were definitely not the best car on the track today. I'm really happy with the finish. It's our fifth top-five in a row, and we leave with a slim lead in the points."
On whether the red-flag period affected the car:
"Not at all. I just wanted to get the day done and head to the house."
Best Radio Conversations:
Lap 118, after falling gradually from the lead to 15th place:
Dale Jr: "We've got a flat tire or we broke a ratchet in the rear end... I can't get on the gas at all on the straightaway..."
After catching a lucky break one lap later when a yellow flag came out:
Dale Jr: "Thank god. I spun the tires all the way down the straight. I couldn't get on the gas at all. It's like something is broke. I can't touch the gas. If I could roll in on the gas pedal, I would, but I couldn't. It spun the tires all the way down the straight."
After the pit stop:
Dale Jr: "How'd the tires look?"
Tony Eury (crew chief): "Bad..."
Dale Jr.: "OK, that's good news. Did we have a flat?"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Nah, both rears are just worn out. There are big holes in both rears."
Dale Jr: "OK. Maybe I ran it too hard at the start. I need to take it easier early in a run."
Tony Jr: "Yeah, you were pushing hard, but that was 123 laps on those tires. You really started hollerin' about something broken on lap 108. That was a long run."
After pit stop on lap 218, where the team moved from eighth to fourth
Dale Jr: "Good work! Great work guys, high five."
After pit stop on lap 272, when the Bud crew did another remarkable job,
bringing Junior from fourth place into the lead:
Dale Jr: "Another good job on pit lane there guys. But, keep it goin... don't use it all up now... heh..."
During the red flag on lap 291 with the No. 8 car in the lead:
Tony Eury: (joking, maybe) "I think they oughta just call it off now, don'tchy'all?... Hey Rick (Hodges, transport driver), get Dale Jr. a cold drink, and then run down there and get us some of those hot dogs..." Rick Hodges: "How many do you want? I got good credit at the hot dog stand."
Tony Eury: "Don't ya think they should just call this race?"
Hodges: "They told us they were going to put epoxy on it..."
Tony Eury: "That'll take 24 hours to dry. They aren't gonna make us come back tomorrow. They should just call it..."
Chatter during the caution period with less than 50 laps to go: Dale Jr. (to spotter): "Don't act like I'm worried, but go tell the 42 (McMurray) he can beat and bang on me, but I don't wanna him to spin me out and go to the back. Tell him when he's banging on the guy in front of him, the guy in front of that is getting away. Tell him we need to work together here. If the 18 (B. Labonte) can get by the 12 (Newman), then we'll get on through there and decide it between us..."
After the race:
Dale Jr.: (dejected) "I'm sorry about losing those spots (to the 2 and 18 cars)... I knew that was for the win but it got so tight..."
Started: 4th (Seventh straight top-10 starting position at Martinsville.)
Finished: 3rd (ties career-best at Martinsville)
Points: 1st place (improved two spots, five-point lead over Kurt Busch)
Laps Led: 2 times for 154 laps (Dale Jr. has now led laps in each of the last five races.)
Best Pit Stop: Stop 4 of 7 / lap 272 / four tires & fuel / 13.33 seconds