Michigan: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Edwards Wins Michigan, Top-Five for Dale Jr. Bud Team Leads Race, Climbs Back into Top-12 in Points Carl Edwards won Sunday's Citizen's Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway, grabbing his first Nextel Cup win in 52 starts. Martin Truex Jr.

Edwards Wins Michigan, Top-Five for Dale Jr.
Bud Team Leads Race, Climbs Back into Top-12 in Points

Carl Edwards won Sunday's Citizen's Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway, grabbing his first Nextel Cup win in 52 starts. Martin Truex Jr. finished second while Tony Stewart was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team overcame a flat tire to finish fifth. It is the second top-five finish of the season for the Bud team, and their third consecutive top-six tally at the two-mile Michigan oval. The day was not as easy for Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates Truex and Earnhardt as the results may indicate, as they were both faced with trouble on a lap 74 restart. Dale Jr. dropped back at the restart as he fell victim to a flat right rear tire, while Truex was caught in a multi-car accident in turn two only moments later. Both DEI teams were able to make repairs and despite restarting as far back as 27th place with slightly more than 100 laps remaining, both cars moved through the field rapidly, regaining their top-five positions. The finish moves Dale Jr. up to 12th place in the Nextel Cup standings after 15 races. The third DEI entry, driven by Paul Menard, finished 12th.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr., starting 23rd, wasted little time gaining positions at the start of the 200-lap event, reaching the top-10 in only 34 laps. The Bud team and their DEI teammates with Truex both opted to make a two-tire pit stop on lap 53, which meant the two restarted in first and second place when the green flag flew again on lap 56. Another yellow flag brought the field to the pits on lap 69. The Bud team took four fresh tires, but while exiting the pits, Dale Jr. ran over a piece of debris on the apron. The impact of the debris was not felt until the race restarted on lap 74, and the right rear tire went flat. The team was able to take advantage of the ensuing yellow flag to change tires, make repairs and fuel the car. Restarting 27th place, the final car on the lead lap, Dale Jr. again made a spirited run through the field, gaining ten positions by lap 98 and then passing his way into the top-10 by lap 110. Despite struggling for a segment thereafter with a loose car, Dale Jr. stayed among the top-10 in the final 100 miles of the race, climbing to fifth when others had to make an extra stop for fuel.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"Hell yeah! A great day for my team - and DEI as a whole. I'm thrilled to death with a top-five finish and I really thought Martin had a car that could have won the race if he hadn't been caught in that wreck. Actually, that flat tire saved us because we would have been right there among the cars that got wrecked. How many times has bad fortune followed us this year - and now something strange like a flat tire turns out to be good fortune.

"I want all the credit to go to (interim crew chief) Tony Gibson and the entire team. They are the reason we're up here at the front. They made some adjustments about halfway through the race and the car was just too loose - I couldn't drive it - and we dropped back a few spots. But, they worked on making several adjustments and at the end of the race, we were the fastest thing out there. Man - that's the kind of race when you want it to go on 50 more laps because I could see the 25 (Casey Mears) and the 20 (Tony Stewart) ahead of us, and we were really catching them fast. A few more laps and we'd have been right there with Martin."

About finally making the decision to sign with Hendrick Motorsports for 2008: "I've been in such a better mood. I'm really enjoying being in a better mood, and I'm sure the people around me feel the same way too. There were a lot of decisions on my shoulders the past few months, and it's emotionally exhausting. Now, I'm looking forward to the future, but I'm especially looking forward to the rest of this season with this team. They are all working their butts off, and I'm going to give them 110%. It means a lot to all of us to go out of this thing a winner - a top team every week. A run like today is all I ask for - a fast car and two teammates with great finishes. Two top-fives and a 12th-place for DEI. That's what makes this so much fun."

On the support following his announcement: "It was overwhelming, just coming from everywhere especially the fans and in the garage amongst my peers. It really makes you feel more solid in what you believe as far as your decision."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. restarted in 10th place on lap 74 - but soon fell off the pace as soon as the green came out.

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Guys - get ready! Looks like a flat tire! Pit this lap! A big crash in front of you June... the yellow flag is out and you can pit this lap!"

Tony Gibson (interim crew chief): "OK guys, four tires and check all the fenders. We have time. Take your time."

Dale Jr: "I ran over a big piece of (debris) on the apron as I was coming out of the pits after that last stop. I didn't think I had a flat. We can come in again, right?"

Hmiel: "10-4, June. Pit this lap, we have to start at the back of the longest line, so come in and we'll check it out and get more fuel."

Dale Jr: "Man, we were lucky there with that flat because we would have been right up in that wreck. I saw Matt (Kenseth) all torn up.

Gibson (after the crew had made repairs): "OK Junior. It looks good. Let it eat. We'll be OK - the race isn't even half over."

***

Dale Jr. quickly recovered from restarting 27th, taking the lead on lap 116 before pitting again. However, a slight adjustment negatively impacted the handling of the Bud car and Junior dropped as far back as 12th place.

Dale Jr: (angry): "I'm (expletive deleted) loose! Gibson! You're killin' me here!"

Gibson: "I hear ya. You're really loose."

Dale Jr: "No! You're not hearing me."

***

The driver eventually began to calm down as the car regain its speed 25 laps later...

Dale Jr: "OK, it's just now starting to come back to neutral. But it's still slick as own snot out here!"

Gibson: "Roger that!"

Dale Jr.: (sliding sideways through the corners) "(Freakin') dirt track! It's better, but.... WHOOOOOOOOOO!"

***

With less than ten laps remaining, Dale Jr. continued to gain positions, but couldn't find a scoreboard around the circuit to tell him where he was running - or where teammate Truex raced.

Dale Jr: "Martin's gonna win?"

Hmiel: "He's three car lengths behind the leader Edwards, but he's made up four seconds on him."

Dale Jr. (referring to Truex) "That sum' bitch is GOOD today! Dang!... Am I gonna have to pit?!"

Hmiel: "No!"

Gibson: "No sir!" Hmiel: "Eight laps to go."

Dale Jr: "What place are we in?" Hmiel: "You're P5."

Dale Jr.: "10-4.. (as he crossed the finish line with a sputtering engine).. HA! It run outta gas right there!"

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , Martin Truex Jr. , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards
Teams Hendrick Motorsports