Newman wins, Dale Jr. second at Texas Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team grab third place in points. Ryan Newman won Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but for the final two laps, all eyes were on the battle between the Budweiser No. 8...
Newman wins, Dale Jr. second at Texas
Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team grab third place in points.
Ryan Newman won Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but for the final two laps, all eyes were on the battle between the Budweiser No. 8 car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon as they dueled side-by-side for second place. Earnhardt Jr. edged Gordon at the finish line by a few feet, as he recorded his third top-three finish in the last five races. The tally also moved Dale Jr. to third place in Winston Cup points, only 11 points behind second place. Dale Jr. led 35 laps, and gained bonus points for the fifth time in seven races so far in 2003. It is the fourth top-10 finish in the last five races for the Budweiser team.
The Key Moments: Starting in the 11th position, Dale Jr. struggled for much of the race with a car that was tight (front tires wouldn't turn well into the corners), but the Budweiser team made many adjustments during their six pit stops, and were good when it counted as Dale Jr. took the lead on lap 289. He held the lead for 35 circuits until Newman got past him on lap 324.`The day had looked sour after a lengthy pit stop on lap 157 (due to the right rear tire rolling outside of the pit box), which dropped the No. 8 car from seventh place to 15th place. However, great fuel mileage allowed the team to stay on the race track while many other cars were forced to make pit stops. When the yellow flag flew on lap 226, Dale Jr. was in third place, and was able to stay in the top three spots for the remainder of the afternoon.
Dale Jr's Quotes:
"Man, I'm pretty surprised and happy to finish second. I mean, I won't be happy until we win a championship, but we weren't one of the best cars out there today. We were maybe a top-10 car, and we struggled with the handling for much of the race, but track position was so critical today that once we were able to get up near the front, we were able to stay there. Several times this season we were easily the best car and we didn't finish where we should, but today we got one when we probably shouldn't have."
About trying to hold of Ryan Newman for the final 50 laps: "I tried to save the car and the right-front tire so we'd have something left at the end, but the car was junk after about 25 laps, so once we got down to about 10 laps to go, I just couldn't hold him off. I tried to do what I could to run in his tracks and keep him behind me, but he was faster and I just couldn't hold him off at all."
About the race with Jeff Gordon for second in the final laps: "Wow... that was almost calamity corner on that last lap. He bumped me just a little bit, but I knew when he went below me in turn three, I could keep him pinched down off of turn four, and I just made sure he couldn't get back on the gas. Jeff is a pro at knowing just how much he can bump you without crashing you, I felt him touch me, but I never let off the throttle. I mean, some guys just rear-back and it doesn't matter where you land. But he can do it perfectly and not crash somebody."
Best Radio Conversations
For much of the race on NASCAR's fastest track, Dale Jr. was rather quiet on the radio. But, as he became more and more frustrated with an ill-handling car, he encouraged his cousin and car chief, Tony Eury Jr.
Dale Jr. : "OK Tony Jr., I want you to get into a 'flat-track' state of mind. You need to think hard about this and figure it out. We're really having trouble where the track flattens-out offa the corners. That last change was better though -- keep goin' that way."
Tony Eury Jr: "10-4..."
Dale Jr. (after a slight pause and after rolling past several jet-powered track sweepers) "Man! I am flat bored out here. How long does it take them to sweep the track? It's just gonna get dirty again."
Tony Jr: "Maybe they're trying to blow-in a second groove..."
Dale Jr. "Heh. Oh yeah. I went up there (in the high groove) and I thought I'd hit the wall it was so tight and so dirty up there...But it's still tight Junior, so work on it, reaalllllly work on it..."
After a poor stop dropped them back in the pack, pit strategy re-established their position near the front of the field. The key pit stop of the day came on lap 285, when the Bud team sent Dale Jr. back on the track in second place, behind Newman, who had chosen to only take two tires.
Ty Norris (spotter): "Alright you guys, get loose down there (in the pits). This one will decide it. It's up to you guys."
Dale Jr: "Now that we have track position, let's not lose this in the pits. I mean, I may lose this on the track, but let's not lose it here."
Tony Jr: (referring to a clear path into the Bud pit stall) "OK Dale Jr., there are no cars pitting on both sides of us, so you have a clear shot in and a clear path out. You just get in here nice and good..."
Dale Jr.: "You got it..."