All-Star: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Mark Martin Wins Nextel All-Star Challenge at Charlotte Dale Jr. caught up in wreck early, finishes 10th Racing in his final full Nextel Cup season, Mark Martin scored a popular victory Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, taking the ...

Mark Martin Wins Nextel All-Star Challenge at Charlotte
Dale Jr. caught up in wreck early, finishes 10th

Racing in his final full Nextel Cup season, Mark Martin scored a popular victory Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, taking the checkers in the Nextel All-Star Challenge. Martin outran Elliott Sadler in the final 20-lap segment and became the fifth multiple winner of this non-points all-star event. Sadler finished second and Brian Vickers third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team showed promise early but was caught up in the biggest crash of the night -- a nine-car accident in the closing laps of the first segment. Major repair work kept the Bud Chevy in the show, but it could salvage no more than a 10th-place finish. It was the fifth top-10 in six Nextel All-Star Challenge events for Dale Jr.

Key Moments:

Starting 20th out of 22, Dale Jr. climbed as high as 12th in the opening laps, using a pair of pit stops to fix a tight condition. But the night took a turn for the worse when Tony Stewart made contact with Joe Nemechek one lap after a double-file restart, causing a chain reaction pile-up on lap 35 that included Dale Jr. and DEI teammates Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. All told, nine cars were involved in the accident, eight were immediately retired, and one was left rolling but with major front-end damage -- that being the #8 Bud car. Pete Rondeau's crew needed all of a 10-minute red-flag period, plus the 10-minute intermission between segments one and two to repair the nose, valance, and alignment of the car. Dale Jr. restarted the 30-lap second segment in 15th, the 20-lap third segment in 13th, and fought his way into the top-10 by race's end.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"What do ya do? It's an all-star race, and in all-star races there are usually pretty big wrecks, and tonight we got caught up in one. I did my best to avoid it. I saw them crashing up there in front of me, but I got hit, and then I plowed Carl Edwards, and I was just along for the ride after that. In a weird way, it was kind of fun. If you wreck, you might as well have fun doing it, right?"

"With this being an all-star event, really, if you don't win it, then it really doesn't matter where you finish. I'm just as happy with a 10th place as I would be with a second place. I was proud of our effort. My team gave a good effort. I was real disappointed with the car after practice yesterday, but Pete made all the right changes, and it was fast tonight before the wreck. I hate that DEI wrecked a lot of stuff tonight."

Best Radio Chatter:

The big wreck on lap 35 left the Bud team with damage, although nobody was sure how much. Dale Jarrett, sitting in the car next to the #8 Chevy during a red flag period, helped out by giving a damage report. Pete Rondeau (crew chief): Other than possible damage here, how'd the car feel right there?

Dale Jr.: "It was really, really good. That was the change I needed. That got it turning better."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Dale Jarrett says the right-front fender is tore up, and he can't guarantee it won't rub, can't guarantee it will rub. If it was his decision, he'd pit."

Rondeau: "Come on in."

Dale Jr.: "I know you probably don't give a (crap), but that was pretty fun. Heh heh!"

Rondeau: "That's cool. Gotta have fun man. We'll put some tires on it, look at this front."

The first and second segments were divided by a 10-minute intermission, in which the driver of the Bud Chevy was able to climb out of the car and survey the damage himself.

Dale Jr.: "Is this the 10-minute break, or just a pit stop?"

Rondeau: "It's a 10-minute break."

Dale Jr.: "Alright, I'm going to come on out and get a good look at it... maybe work on it a little bit."

The conclusion of the second segment left more opportunity to discuss the car and the wreck, as Dale Jr. sped away after a four-tire pit stop:

Dale Jr.: Something in the front on both sides has allowed the car to travel more... and I'm speeding like hell on pit road but I don't care. It seems like they travel more in the left-front... Maybe that jump (hopping the pavement of the infield short track during the wreck) did hurt my front a little bit. Maybe it blew the shocks out a little bit, or messed the springs up."

Rondeau: "Yeah, OK. You were quite a ways up in the air. Front end was probably a couple feet off the ground."

Dale Jr.: "I killed two rear springs in the same spot in a legends car one time popping the guy's wheel. Maybe it's just a cursed little area for me.

Rondeau: "Yeah, could be... You're P13 right now. P13."

Dale Jr.: "That pays more than P14!"

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin