Atlanta Budweiser Race Report: Harvick wins, Dale Jr. 15th

Kevin Harvick won the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, grabbing his first Winston Cup victory in only his third start. The win was full of emotion, as the rookie Harvick won the race with the Richard Childress Racing team that came to...

Kevin Harvick won the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, grabbing his first Winston Cup victory in only his third start. The win was full of emotion, as the rookie Harvick won the race with the Richard Childress Racing team that came to prominence with the late Dale Earnhardt driving. Harvick stepped into the car several weeks ago following the tragic death of Earnhardt at Daytona in February. Harvick nipped Jeff Gordon at the finish line by the margin of .006 (six thousandth of a second.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser No. 8 team finished 15th after challenging for the victory. With five laps to go, Dale Jr. was in third place when debris hit the front of the Bud car, causing a flat right front tire. The team made a quick pit stop to replace the damaged tire, but fell one lap behind the leaders.

The Key Moment: Starting 17th, Dale Jr. streaked into the top 10 in only 17 laps, and remained one of the fastest cars on the track for nearly the entire 500-mile distance. The team recovered from a mid-race penalty when confusion caused them and five other cars to make a pit stop while the pitlane was closed. Dale Jr. dropped to 16th place after the penalty,but returned to the top 10 in less than 10 laps. Dale Jr. was challenging for the victory with five laps to go when debris caused the flat right front tire.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "That may be the hardest I've ever driven. We were great for about 10 or 15 laps with new tires almost Texas-like." (Dale Jr. won the race last year at Texas with a dominating performance) "I could do anything. For those few laps, we could drive past people. Anyone. But then it would become harder to pass cars after the tires went away. We had a pretty damn fast car out there today." (Dale Jr. recorded the second-fastest lap of the race on lap 29.)

About Harvick's win for R. Childress Racing: "I know Kevin (Harvick) pretty well and he's doing a great job. The competitor in me is a little jealous, but I'm really happy for Richard and especially that team because I know how much my father meant to those guys. And it really makes me feel good to go home tonight knowing those guys have something to celebrate."

About the debris that caused the flat tire: "You know, I don't complain a lot, but I have to today. This isn't Martinsville (the shortest and slowest track on the circuit), this is a track where we're going 200 miles per hour and there are guys out there cruising around at 50 miles per hour. The debris from the 20 car (Tony Stewart) came off right in front of me. He was just ridin' around out there and I don't know what all was fallin' offa that thing. I had nowhere to go. It slammed into my car and the tire went flat. We've got a big hole in the front of the car. It's a shame because my guys have worked so hard to come out here to try to get a win or a top five finish and then something like this really hurts for them."

Race Notes / Cracker Barrel 500

Crew Member Injured

Steve Wolfe, the rear tire changer on the Budweiser No. 8 team, suffered a cut on his left ring finger during the team's pit stop on lap 83. Wolfe, better known to his teammates as "Wolfie," was taken to the infield medical center, where he received three stitches in the finger and was released. His status for next week's race at Darlington is still uncertain.

With the injury to Wolfe, the Budweiser crew turned to two members of the Dale Earnhardt Inc.(DEI) Pennzoil team. Steve Park had dropped out early with a blown engine,so tire changer Mike Atwell and tire carrier Chad Walter came over to help the No. 8 team for the remainder of the afternoon.

Today's Stats

Started: 17th
Finished: 15th
CurrentPoints Position: 16th
Money Won: $73,723
Laps Led: 0
Best Pit Stop: Lap 276
Four tires/Fuel in 14.63 seconds

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Steve Park , Kevin Harvick