Kurt Busch Wins Richmond, Dale Jr. 20th No. 8 Budweiser Team Hangs On to Lead Lap After Late Crash Kurt Busch won the Chevy Rock-and-Roll 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, finishing ahead of his teammates Matt Kenseth...
Kurt Busch Wins Richmond, Dale Jr. 20th
No. 8 Budweiser Team Hangs On to Lead Lap After Late Crash
Kurt Busch won the Chevy Rock-and-Roll 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, finishing ahead of his teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, who were second and third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished 20th after being involved in a lap 355 multi-car crash. The team was able to make repairs and finish on the lead lap. The race is the final event of the 26-race Race for the Chase, and the top-10 drivers are now locked-into the field for the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup. The No. 8 Budweiser team improved one points position to 17th, but did not make the chase.
Starting 29th, Dale Jr. quickly climbed into the top-20 with the benefit of several scalding-fast pit stops, but he remained at or near the 20th spot for the majority of the 400-lap race. Despite making adjustments during each stop, the driver of the No. 8 Bud car continued to struggle with a tight condition -- making it a struggle to steer the car through the middle of each corner without the front of the car sliding up the track. After some mid-race drama caused by dislodged earpieces (see explanation below) resulting in 50 laps of radio-free, nail-chewing anxiety on the short track where racing was two- and three-wide for much of the night, the race was primarily uneventful for the Bud bunch until Dale Jr. was swept into a multi-car crash on lap 355. The car suffered mostly sheet-metal damage, and the team was able to make repairs and keep Dale Jr. on the lead lap, finishing the night in the 20th position.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"My car was like it was possessed after that crash. It had a mind of its own and it was drivin' where it wanted. I'm not happy with that finish -- but I like how we worked hard and we tried. Everybody on this team worked hard, and that's what it takes. It's been that type of year: I raced my butt off, passed a lot of people and got passed a lot, but we just never made it to the front. Short-track racing, ya know, slam-bam-crash-'em-up... but we were never better than where we ran. I though we could keep improving the car and move up, but the car never seemed to respond to the changes we made. No matter what, it handled the same, until the crash."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. was happy with his pit crew, who consistently gained three to five positions on each pit stop...
Dale Jr.: (after lap 115 stop): "Another good stop guys."
Steve Hmiel: (crew chief): "Yeah, these boys are on it tonight."
Dale Jr.: "They deserve to hear that. I know you're tellin' 'em, but they need to hear it from their driver."
Dale Jr. ran for nearly 50 laps without being able to hear his spotter or crew on the radio.
Dale Jr: (lap 225- to his spotter) "You're radio's messed up! I can't hear ya! Somebody spot from the pits!"
Hmiel: "I gotcha... he's inside by a fender..."
Dale Jr: "Can't hear ya!"
Dale Jr: "Anybody got a copy? Can't hear ya!"
Lap 276- yellow flag.
Dale Jr: "If you can hear me at all, the car is still tight... real tight."
Lap 280, after the pit stop:
Dale Jr. (kind of sheepish, problem solved): "Uh, OK... I like this new helmet, but we need to work on how I can get a drink. When I pulled out the drink tube, it also pulled out my earpieces. I can hear y'all now..."
As the race neared a close, Dale Jr.'s mind began to wander to college football during multiple yellow flag periods.
Dale Jr: (lap 315, yellow flag) "Anybody know if the Gamecocks beat Georgia tonight?"
Hmiel: "No, but we can find out... (several laps later): Georgia 17, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, 15..."
Dale Jr: "Damn. I thought they were gonna win that game. They missed a field goal and an extra point so that hurts. But it's pretty good against Georgia. They're a good team..."
During a lap 247 yellow flag:
Dale Jr: "I think the throttle spring is gone on this thing. No tension at all: just looking at it makes it go down. A good, hard stare will get me 50 mph."
Hmiel: "Take care of it. You'll need this car next week."
Dale Jr.: "Where are we next week?"
Hmiel (with thick New England accent) "New Hampshire..."
Dale Jr.: "Damn. Weren't we just there?"
Hmiel: "Yeah. Short summer."
Dale Jr. was involved in the biggest crash of the race on lap 355, a multi-car affair that claimed a number of cars.
Dale Jr: "We're in it. I think the front is OK, but check the backend, The right-rear quarter panel. We got hit."
Hmiel: "Alright guys, be ready to pull stuff off -- pull off the back bumper if we need to."
Dale Jr: "Nah, leave it on! Let's do four tires and pull the sheet metal. I wanna get back out there! If it's gonna fall off, do what ya need to do, but this is short-track racin' baybeeee! I actually kinda wanted to get in one of those. It was wild. But do whatcha gotta do..."