Watkins Glen: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kevin Harvick Wins at Watkins Glen, Dale Jr. 18th Bud Car Spins Late, Gains 14 Spots in Last 8 Laps Kevin Harvick passed Tony Stewart in the waning laps to win the AMD at the Glen Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen Raceway. Stewart was...

Kevin Harvick Wins at Watkins Glen, Dale Jr. 18th
Bud Car Spins Late, Gains 14 Spots in Last 8 Laps

Kevin Harvick passed Tony Stewart in the waning laps to win the AMD at the Glen Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen Raceway. Stewart was second while Jamie McMurray finished third. It was an eventful day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, as they used pit strategy to lead a lap (gaining five bonus points) early in the race, then dropping back to 29th place with a pit stop on lap 56. Pushing hard to gain ground, Dale Jr. suffered from wheel hop under heavy braking, causing the Bud car to spin off the track on lap 74. This dropped to Dale Jr. to 36th place, the last car on the lead lap, but after restarting in 34th place with eight laps remaining, the Bud car passed a long line of cars and then avoided a series of crashes and spins on the final lap to finish 20th. The late race recovery (including passing 10 cars in the final 5 laps) allowed Dale Jr. to retain the 10th place position in points with four races remaining before the Chase for the Nextel Cup. He is now 54 points ahead of 11th place driver Kasey Kahne.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 11th, ran among the top-15 for the first 20 laps, then began gaining positions as many cars pitted. The Bud team led lap 25, then pitted for fuel and tires. A similar strategy mid-race hurt the team as a yellow flag flew before they pitted again on lap 56. Fighting to regain positions, Dale Jr. suffered from wheel-hop under heavy braking (when the tires shake violently and make braking and turning much more difficult), and spun off the track in turn one on lap 74 (of 90). The spin dropped the red No. 8 car to 36th position. The team used a late-race yellow flag to make a final stop for fresh tires on lap 81, and then climbed from 34th place to 20th in the final eight laps of the race.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We're lucky to get a top-20, but that's what happens when you don't give up and you fight all the way to the checkered flag. I wasn't happy with the car - I don't know what it was because we were great yesterday in practice - but we fought all day with wheel hop whenever I got hard on the brakes. I wasn't happy with our pit strategy either - we got bit by the yellow flag. But, once we spun out, the whole field was in front of me so I had to get what I could every lap. We passed a lot of cars in the last 10 laps, and then when everybody started crashing on that last lap, I just stayed out of trouble.

"I'm happy we're in the top-10. There are a lot of guys that wish they were in our position right now. I saw Kasey (Kahne, now 11th place) go off on the last lap, and I feel bad for him, but we had our own problems that we were able to come back from. I think we're in good shape in the points right now, but anything can happen, so we have to stay up on the wheel each week."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr.'s hands were full during much of the day, traversing heavy traffic, shifting and steering on the twisting road course. After pitting under yellow, the Bud car was deep in heavy traffic when a multi-car crash took out a long list of cars on a lap 63 restart.

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "We OK there?"

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "We're in good shape. Junior just made an incredible move in the 'esses' and they all wrecked behind us."

***

On the ensuing restart, Dale Jr. gained several additional spots while the 24 car (J. Gordon) spun in turn one.

Hmiel: "Clear! Pretty move, June! Pretty move!"

Eury Jr: "Way to get up on the wheel there! Keep it going!"

***

After a spin on lap 74, Dale Jr. dropped to 36th place. Under a yellow flag with less than 10-laps to go, he asked for his status.

Dale Jr: "Where was I running when I spun out?"

Hmiel: "You were 26th or 27th." (actually 24th)

Dale Jr: "Where am I now?"

Hmiel: "30th."

Dale Jr.: (dejected) "Alright.

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Tony Eury Jr.