Phoenix II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Johnson Wins 4th in a Row, Dale Jr. 43rd After Crash Bud Team Has Ninth DNF of Season Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth race in a row, taking the Checkers Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and taking further command of the Nextel...

Johnson Wins 4th in a Row, Dale Jr. 43rd After Crash
Bud Team Has Ninth DNF of Season

Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth race in a row, taking the Checkers Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and taking further command of the Nextel Cup point standings. With one race remaining, Johnson now leads his teammate Jeff Gordon by 86 points. Greg Biffle finished second while Matt Kenseth was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team initially improved dramatically from their 35th starting position, gaining 22 spots until Dale Jr. spun out coming off of turn two, making hard contact with the inside wall along the backstretch. The damage was severe to the Bud car, and the team was unable to make repairs, relegating them to a 43rd place finish. Going into the season finale, Dale Jr. is 14th in points, dropping one spot behind Ryan Newman, who finished fifth. Dale Jr., who had held the 13th place position for 12 consecutive races, trails Newman by 58 points.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr., starting 35th, moved up with metronomic efficiency early in the running, climbing 14 positions before the first caution flag of the day on lap 25. His progress forward slowed and he ran among the top-20 until an adjustment on the next pit stop on lap 87. The improved handling allowed Dale Jr. to climb as high as 13th position - and gaining - until lap 119 when the red No. 8 car snapped loose coming off of turn two, slid sideways into the infield grass and made heavy impact with the inside wall on the backstretch. The damage was too severe to continue, and the team was saddled with a last place finish, adding insult to an already frustrating season.

Dale Jr. Quotes:
"I just lost it. I don't know what happened. We were actually gaining on the handling thing, and the last set of changes were good. The car was fast and we were gaining on the leaders. I don't know, it just spun around. We were fast..."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. didn't have much to say through the short stint on the one-mile oval. He was very angry at another driver who smashed into the back of the Bud car around lap 50. The contact hurt the handling of the car and upset the driver.

Tony Gibson (crew chief): "A real good lap there. Good lap time."

Dale Jr: "Yeah. I just got lucky... I can't get up off the corner."

Gibson: "I'm sure it's air pressure."

Dale Jr.: "Nah. It's the motor. I have no torque up off the corner."

Dale Jr. is know to occasionally make editorial comments at random moments of any given race...

Dale Jr. (on lap 66, with no prompting or other chatter): "The C.O.T. (Car o' Tomorrow) sucks."

***

In a bit of foreshadowing, the 6 car of David Regan slid through the grass along the backstretch - less than 20 laps before the 8 car would do the same.

TJ Majors (spotter): "It looks rough in the grass! I wish you could have seen the 6 in the grass."

Dale Jr: "I was watching it in my mirror."

Majors: "He was bouncin'!"

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , David Ragan