All-Star: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Harvick Takes All-Star Cash, Dale Jr. NinthBud Team Brings Home a Quiet Top-10 in All-Star Challenge Kevin Harvick took home more than a million dollars after a race win for the second time this season, as he won the Nextel All-Star Challenge ...

Harvick Takes All-Star Cash, Dale Jr. NinthBud Team Brings Home a Quiet Top-10 in All-Star Challenge

Kevin Harvick took home more than a million dollars after a race win for the second time this season, as he won the Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway Saturday night. It is Harvick's first All-Star win, and he adds the big payday to his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500. Jimmie Johnson was second while Mark Martin finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled for much of the 80-lap all-star tilt, but still managed to come home with a top-10 finish at the end of the fourth 20-lap segment of the special race where cash is the key - and no points are given. Earnhardt Jr. finished one spot ahead of his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Martin Truex Jr., who gave DEI their first Cup win of the season in the night's opening act, the Nextel Open. Truex earned a spot in the main event with his victory.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 10th, was aggressive early, going three-wide to climb into seventh place on the sixth lap. However, a troubling trend began to develop which plagued the red Bud machine for much of the evening. The car was very fast for several laps on restarts or following pit stops, but would then begin to suffer deteriorating handling characteristics, shuddering and shaking in the right front tire entering each corner. Dale Jr. ended the first of the four 20-lap segments in eighth place. The team pitted at that stage, but were assessed a speeding penalty on pit lane, and were relegated to the back of the field, restarting the second segment in 19th place. The car was less-than-cooperative after that, and Junior finished the second portion in 18th. A ten-minute break between segments two and three allowed the Bud crew to make major adjustments, with little impact - and Junior finished the third quarter in the same spot he started. The team made more changes before the final segment, and improved the handling of the car enough that Dale Jr. was able to improve five positions in one lap and then avoided several crashes ahead of him to come home ninth.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"It's tough to come into a race with a car you believe can win and then struggle for the night. We got the car better for the last segment, but it's such a short race, it was too late to make a big difference in the finish. We were great for about five laps on every restart - I mean the fastest car out there - and then it would just go away on me. The car would just roll over onto the right front tire and chatter away."

"I don't know about the speeding penalty (on pit lane). I was right at the RPMs we thought was the correct speed, but NASCAR said otherwise. I felt bad for my crew. They built a nice car for me - a car they should all be proud of - and their hard work deserved a better result than that. I was also happy that we worked on the car and made it better for the final segment of the night, and we learned a lot we can apply for next week's race (the 600-miler next Sunday evening here at Lowe's Motor Speedway)."

Best Radio Chatter:

There was an uncharacteristic lack of chatter throughout the very short sprint format event.

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "NASCAR says we were speeding coming into pit lane. Let's stop again. Be sure you're at 4200 (RPM)."

Dale Jr.: "I WAS at 4200..."

Eury Jr: "OK, well let's make it 4100 then."

Dale Jr.: "10-4. 4100."

***

After the third segment...

Dale Jr.: "It feels like the right-front is really coil-binding worse and worse. We were goin' real good there for about three laps. We were the fastest car here, but then it just takes off. It's fast as hell and I can drive right up on people for a few laps, then I'm done."

***

The yellow-flag laps do not count in the final segment, and Driver #8 seemed bored and listless as the caution laps added up...

Dale Jr. (sounding bored, impatient and very much looking toward the end of a race to have a cold Budweiser): "Alright. Let's get goin' here...."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin