Dale Jr. second as rookie Ryan Newman wins Winston; no. 8 Budweiser Team strong all night, nearly pull off dramatic victory. Ryan Newman became the second rookie ever to win NASCAR's all-star race, The Winston, Saturday night as he defeated the...
Dale Jr. second as rookie Ryan Newman wins Winston; no. 8 Budweiser Team strong all night, nearly pull off dramatic victory.
Ryan Newman became the second rookie ever to win NASCAR's all-star race, The Winston, Saturday night as he defeated the only other driver to win the event in his inaugural season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr. made a dramatic charge to second place in the final five laps of the race, and then closed quickly on Newman. Going into turn two on the final lap, Dale Jr. bumped Newman from behind, but let off the throttle so Newman would not crash. Matt Kenseth was third in the unique non-points race that paid more than $750,000 to win. Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team earned $165,000 for their second place tally. Dale Jr. and the team have now finished first, seventh and second in three all-star races. The race was run in three segments, with a certain number of cars eliminated following the first two segments, leaving only ten cars to race the final 20 laps for the big money. After starting 24th in the 27-car field, Dale Jr. finished 10th in the first segment and then second in the final two segments.
The Key Moment: Dale Jr. started near the back of the 27-car field, and had to dodge several accidents that took place immediately in front of him in the first 15 laps. Once the field settled down somewhat, Dale Jr. inched his Bud car through the pack, gaining the 10th position on the final lap of the first segment. In the second race, Junior again avoided disaster as he barely dodged the car of Mark Martin, who blew an engine immediately in front of the Bud car. After finishing second in the second segment, Dale Jr. started ninth in the final 20-lap sprint to the big dollars. It took him only two laps to leap into sixth, where he stayed until the final yellow flag of the night on lap 85. With only five laps remaining, the team decided to gamble by pitting for four fresh tires. After the stop, Dale Jr. restarted seventh, climbing to fourth one lap later, then third on lap 87 and second on lap 88. Earnhardt Jr. closed quickly on the leader Newman, but despite the contact in turn two on the final lap, was unable to get past the young rookie for the victory.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "I'm proud of Ryan (Newman). He did a great job of driving and made a great save there on the last lap. Yeah, I did bump him a little bit there - I was really trying to make him loose - but I backed off the throttle because I didn't want to crash him. I guess I could have stayed in the throttle and tried to get underneath him, but once I let up, the race was over. I couldn't catch him. I guess I'll replay those last laps a hundred times to see if I could have done anything different to get past him.
"Yeah - I could have wrecked him and came around the last lap for the win. I mean, $750,000 (to win) is helluva lotta money. But, is it really worth it to win in a way that would be bittersweet? Is it worth it to piss off all the people that would be mad at me winning that way? We've had some bad luck and some crashes lately, so this feels pretty good. I'm happy with second place, we had a great car all night and we had a great stop to take the four tires at the end there. It makes me look like a hero when my guys give me car that is that good. I mean, it's easy to drive a car that's that good."
About the final 20-lap segment that was run with nine drivers younger than 35 years old, plus "veteran" Bill Elliott. "Before that last segment started, I was looking at who was out there, and it was pretty cool - all the young guys that are part of our fraternity ya know. We had all the young guns there. Me and Matt (Kenseth) aren't even that young anymore. Maybe we're the middle o' the road! Then, I saw Bill Elliott out there - and I didn't know how he was in there, and I didn't know if he even wanted to be there"
Best Radio Conversations
With no Winston Cup points on the line and a fireworks-spouting, pyrotechnic-blasting pre-race show that would make a 1970s heavy metal band proud, the rock-and-roll atmosphere fits perfectly with the young Earnhardt Jr. and the hard-charging Budweiser team. They seem to have more fun during this race than any other throughout the season. This results in a lot of animated radio chatter throughout the night.
On lap 15, Dale Jr. had to make the second crash-avoidance move of the night as he barely missed a multi-car accident in turn three. He discussed both near-misses during the caution period.
Dale Jr: "I was racing like hell there god-all-mighty this car is good up in the top groove. It's just like the old days. (Dale Jr. won the 2000 Winston with an outside-lane pass of Dale Jarret.t) That move (to avoid the multi-car crash) was pretty nifty. I was on the apron in the third turn at about 140 miles per hour I just want the race to go green again so I can get around these guys. The car is really good , but I swear I almost hit Steve (Park, DEI teammate who spun in front of Dale Jr. on lap six.) My grille had to be less than six inches from his left rear tire. I don't know how I missed him."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Yeah, you should see the replay"
Dale Jr: "Yeah - we'll need to get a tape of this one. There's been a lotta action so far"
After the first segment, the field took a mandatory 10-minute break to service the machines. Dale Jr. laughed about entering pit road at a rather fast rate of speed and sliding the car sideways as if it were a sprint car.
Dale Jr.: Y'all shoulda seen me getting' onto pit road that time. Whooo! That was Sammy Swindell all the way!"
Dale Jr. nearly crashed again as he managed to keep the car straight when Mark Martin's car blew an engine right in front of him on lap 49.
Ty Norris (spotter): "Right in front of ya! Right in front of ya! Helluva save man! Keep on comin'! Whew - you earned your paycheck tonight with that move. You ARE the man!"
Dale Jr. "'Cuz I've got the car to be the man After Richmond (where Dale Jr. spun out) and the test at Milwaukee, I felt like an idiot. I know the jury's still out on that one, but after that save, I feel a lot better about myself as a driver. I almost crashed there."
When the yellow flag flew with five laps to go, Dale Jr. (who had again avoided a crash in front of him) was in third place. The decision: stay out or pit for fresh tires?
Dale Jr.: "The car's pretty tight behind these guys. What do ya wanna do?"
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief) "We came here to win, didn't we?"
Dale Jr.: "You're damn right! I'm comin' in!"
Tony Sr: "Alright, four tires guys. Let's go win this thing"
Off to Los Angeles
Dale Jr. leaves early Sunday morning (this morning, actually, as it is currently after midnight eastern time) for Los Angeles, where he will co-star with Sheryl Crow in the music video of her song "Steve McQueen." We hope Dale Jr. acts as well as McQueen raced McQueen was an accomplished motorcycle rider and racecar driver. McQueen actually competed as a driver at LeMans before starring in the movie of the same name