Atlanta: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Career Weekend Sends Edwards to Victory Lane at Atlanta Dale Jr. and Budweiser team finish 24th HAMPTON, Ga. (March. 20, 2005) -- Rookie Carl Edwards became the first driver to post both his career-first NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup...

Career Weekend Sends Edwards to Victory Lane at Atlanta
Dale Jr. and Budweiser team finish 24th

HAMPTON, Ga. (March. 20, 2005) -- Rookie Carl Edwards became the first driver to post both his career-first NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victories in the same weekend, as he capped an Atlanta Motor Speedway sweep by beating Jimmie Johnson by .028 seconds to win the Golden Corral 500 on Sunday. Johnson led 156 of the 325 laps, but Edwards led the final one as he got a strong run off of the final turn and won the drag race to the checkered flag. Greg Biffle finished third, Mark Martin fourth and Kasey Kahne fifth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled to a 24th-place finish, this after being plagued by two pit-road speeding penalties. The first came during a green-flag condition, causing the Brew Crew to lose two laps early, to which they were never able to recover. Despite the finish, Dale Jr. improved one position in the Nextel Cup championship point standings to 26th.

Key Moments:

Starting 35th, Dale Jr. avoided a 10-car crash on the very first lap and climbed to as high as 26th before being flagged by NASCAR for speeding down pit road on lap 61. It proved to be a daylong thorn, as the ensuing pass-through penalty (under the green flag) put the No. 8 car two laps down. Dale Jr. nearly earned one of his laps back by outracing leader Greg Biffle, but Biffle was able to regain the advantage on lap 82. Not two laps later the caution flew, pinning Junior two laps down. The Budweiser team continued adjusting on the car and in the final stages had it turning lap times as quick as the leaders. But the two-lap deficit, coupled with the second pit-road penalty of the day 30 laps shy of the finish, kept Junior mired mid-pack for most of the afternoon.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I'm proud of the effort my team gave today. We were really loose for most of the day, and at times it was hard to drive. But we had a car that could've finished a lot better than it did, and that's my fault. I was going too fast exiting pit road, and we fell two laps down and could never recover. I can't knock anybody but myself -- I knew it when it happened that I was probably going too fast. I feel pretty bad about that. Pete and the guys kept digging, which makes me feel good. I can sleep well at night knowing we gave it everything we had. I drove my heart out today. I'm about as tired as you can be after a 500-mile race, but I'm going to drive just as hard every time as long as my team's busting their ass like their doing right now."

Best Radio Chatter:

A six-car wreck on the backstretch on the very first lap had Bud team members holding their breath as they waited to see if Junior made it through:

Pete Rondeau (crew chief): "Is there anything torn up, Junior?"

Dale Jr.: "Wow, that was weird! Some tire we got, huh? Hell, I just stopped. There was no reason to try to go through anything. They were wrecking like heck. I didn't hit nothing, and I'm pretty sure I didn't run over anything either."

Pete: "Ten-four."

Already down a lap, Dale Jr. spent nearly three circuits trying to hold off leader Greg Biffle and prevent from going two laps down. After a nip-and-tuck battle, Biffle edged out in front, and then the caution came out.

Dale Jr.: "Son-of-a-b****! Man, I'm trying. That was a whole lot better right there."

Pete: "Ten-four. Good job man."

Dale Jr.: "We're two (laps) down, ain't we?"

Pete: "Yeah, ten-four. You were wheeling it though. We'll get it."

Dale Jr.: "Hey Greg -- I mean, uhh, Steve. Heh heh. Go over there and tell Biffle's spotter I was having a good time."

Steve: "Alright."

Pete: "Junior, NASCAR wanted me to tell you it was the very last box, the very last box is where the got you (on the speeding penalty)."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I totally did it ... totally knew I did it when I did it. I apologize getting us into a hole. I just forgot it was the cones. I thought it was the midline in between the box and the cone, and I took off.

During the fourth caution on lap 159, Dale Jr. began showing signs of frustration:

Pete: "We've got a long way to go. Hang in there."

Dale Jr.: "I'm in it... Bud."

Pete: "That's a good thing."

Dale Jr.: "Let me just say this... There's been a couple times I wanted to raise hell, so if I do any open-mic hell-raising, don't mind me."

Pete: "Hey, if you wanna vent, feel free to vent."

Dale Jr.: "Well, now that you said that, I probably won't. It's just frustrating."

The last pit stop came on lap 297:

Dale Jr.: "Alright guys, let's try to get us a good pit stop and get all we can get. Sometimes there's a rash of yellows at the end of these things. I'll try as hard as I can."

Following the pit stop:
Pete: "Junior, they're telling me too fast on exit. To the tail end of the longest line."

Dale Jr.: "Wow... OK. They sure do kick a man when he's down, don't they?"

-dei/bud-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Mark Martin