Hendrick Cars Dominate Again, Dale Jr. 13th Johnson Wins at Richmond, Bud Team Has Wild Afternoon Jimmie Johnson won the rain-delayed Richmond 400 Sunday at Richmond International Raceway, continuing a streak as Hendrick Motorsports has now won...
Hendrick Cars Dominate Again, Dale Jr. 13th
Johnson Wins at Richmond, Bud Team Has Wild Afternoon
Jimmie Johnson won the rain-delayed Richmond 400 Sunday at Richmond International Raceway, continuing a streak as Hendrick Motorsports has now won each of the four Car of Tomorrow races this year in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Johnson's teammate Kyle Busch was second, with Denny Hamlin third and another Hendrick car with driver Jeff Gordon finishing fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team spent much of the day in the top-10 until the lapped car of Jeff Green slammed into Dale Jr. on lap 285 (of 400), sending the Bud car spinning. Dale Jr. managed to avoid hitting the wall and somehow remained on the lead lap. The contact knocked the number 8 car back to 19th spot, and Dale Jr. used some three-wide maneuvers late in the race to move his way back to 13th place at the finish. The finish moves Dale Jr. into 12th place in the Nextel Cup standings after 10 races.
Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 7th, looked like a world-beater early in the running as he sliced into second place by lap 37, consistently turning the quickest lap times of any car in the field. He remained among the top-five positions until a sluggish pit stop on lap 105 dropped the Bud car to the ninth position. Dale Jr. methodically moved back into the top-five by lap 125, only to begin struggling with the handling of the Bud Chevy. Through a series of yellow flags (14 caution periods total through the afternoon), Dale Jr. remained in the top-10 until a restart on lap 285 when he was slammed from behind by the lapped car of Jeff Green. Dale Jr. spun but did not make contact with the wall, and after several pit stops to replace the tires and hammer-out some of the mangled sheet metal, he restarted in 19th place with slightly more than 100 laps remaining. The final laps were a struggle, as Dale Jr. often used his car like a pinball - bouncing off the wall and other cars in an attempt to move forward, finishing the day in 13th position.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"It was frustrating for me today. We had a car that just wouldn't handle. It was rough because I couldn't get it to go where I needed it to pass cars. These cars handle terrible - but they're like tanks- you can beat and bang and run 'em into anything: other cars, the wall, anything. I hit 'em all today, got bounced around and it just keeps going. We started the race with a pretty fast car and then we seemed to get worse the rest of the afternoon. The brakes were shaking like crazy, we had some bad pit stops and got dumped by a lapped car - and yet here we are with a finish on the lead lap and we moved up a spot in the points. I guess it can't be all that bad then. I actually had fun out there slamming and beating around. I like to drive race cars no matter how bad they handle."
Best Radio Chatter:
The Bud car moved forward at the drop of the green flag, primarily using the traditional inside groove to pass cars. However, as he approached eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, he made a bold and dramatic move into the high, outside lane to make a pass on lap 55.
Dale Jr.: "HELLLLL YEAH! I think my top groove may be up there for me!" (He would make the majority of his passes in the high groove the remainder of the afternoon.)
Dale Jr. remained calm (at least outwardly) after being spun by a belligerent lapped car on lap 285.
Dale Jr: "We're OK. Let's go. We can rebound."
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "The car looks OK. The left rear quarter-panel is a little flat."
Dale Jr. : "Who was it?"
Tony Jr.: "The 66."
Dale Jr. : "OK. The 66.... OK, let's get it fixed and get back in this thing."
Dale Jr. used a brave, three-wide move to the outside to gain several positions on a lap 342 restart.
Dale Jr: "That's pretty decent! I'm raisin' hell in here. Racin' like a mother! Gimme somethin' I can race with! Wow- we can really beat the (expletive) outta these things! All the way around - all sides. I hit the wall a couple of times there."
Eury Jr. : "Yeah, I saw ya paint the turn four wall there."
Dale Jr: "Ha - yeah. I was into the backstretch wall before that too. Ha. Probably didn't help the car."
After his three-wide maneuver, several cars behind him crashed in turns three and four...
Dale Jr. : "Wow. I wasn't the cause of that was I?!" Steve Hmiel (spotter): "No, it was behind ya, June."
Dale Jr.: "Alright then, never mind. I'm upsettin' those guys when I pass 'em like that on the restarts, but I need the positions. I have to go high like that because with these Cars of Tomorrow, the lappers are really hard to pass."