Good Day Goes Bad For Bud Team, Dale Jr. Finishes 33rd Jimmie Johnson beats dominant Martin to win at Atlanta Mark Martin led 227 of 325 laps, but it was Jimmie Johnson who captured the win in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta ...
Good Day Goes Bad For Bud Team, Dale Jr. Finishes 33rd
Jimmie Johnson beats dominant Martin to win at Atlanta
Mark Martin led 227 of 325 laps, but it was Jimmie Johnson who captured the win in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was Johnson's third consecutive victory and seventh this season, putting somewhat of a happy touch to an emotional and difficult week for Hendrick Motorsports. Carl Edwards finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team appeared destined for a top-five finish, but a backstretch accident 15 laps from the finish resulted in a 33rd-place finish and fourth DNF of the year. It is the first time in 11 starts Dale Jr. has not completed a race at Atlanta, ending the longest streak without a DNF of any driver at AMS since 1960. Dale Jr. wasn't the only driver with misfortunes on Sunday. Point leader Kurt Busch went home 42nd with a blown engine, and Jeff Gordon finished 34th with mechanical woes from the start. That allowed Dale Jr. to cut into Busch's lead even though he dropped from third to fifth in the standings. He now trails Busch by 98 points, with Johnson, Gordon and Martin in between.
Key Moments: Starting sixth, Dale Jr. climbed to second in only 22 laps and continued running among the top-five all day. Realizing Busch's and Gordon's setbacks, Driver #8 kept it conservative on the race track through the first 300 laps, but any conservative ideas went out the door on a lap-305 restart with Dale Jr. in fifth place and determined to go for the "Atlanta sweep". Having easily taken fourth away from Nemechek, Junior was working on rookie Carl Edwards when the two made contact coming down the backstretch. The nose of Edwards' car nipped the right-rear quarter-panel of the Bud Chevy, sending the No. 8 car hard into the wall and spinning down the track. Dale Jr. was able to get the car re-fired and into the pits for repair work, but significant damage to the front-clip 0x2022 which included a busted radiator 0x2022 was too much to overcome to make it to the finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"I was racing for the win there, but I think I came up on Carl (Edwards) and turned myself into the inside fence and tore my car up. We had a good car today. It was kind of disappointing to lose all those points, but I don't think it was Carl's fault. I just came up on him and I think it went from there.
"I'm not worried about the points. We came here to win the race and that is what I was trying to do. We could have gained a lot of points and that would have been nice but it is hard to race like that for me. My car was really good there at the end. I had a car good enough to win the race, and that is what I was trying to do. If I can't win, I'm glad one of the Hendrick drivers did. It's been a difficult week for everybody."
Best Radio Chatter:
Kurt Busch's engine expired on lap 52 to bring out the first caution, prompting Dale Jr. to give somewhat of a pep talk to the Bud team before its first pit stop.
Dale Jr.: "I want to reassess our situation here. No mistakes. Just cruise. Make everything right. Don't try to beat everybody off pit road, just make sure everything is right. We need to gain as many points as we can today."
Trying to catch Martin on lap 188:
Dale Jr.: "I can't keep up with him.
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "That's OK, bud. Big picture. Big picture."
Dale Jr. (to car chief Tony Eury Jr.): "It's definitely loose,
Junior. I can't feel the right rear (tire). You're gonna have to save me."
Tony Jr.: "10-4, just hang in there. Don't do anything more than you have to do."
The fifth caution flew on lap 300, 25 laps from the finish, and the Bud team elected to pit.
Dale Jr.: "It's pushing like a truck now!"
Tony Jr.: "We're pitting for four tires."
Dale Jr.: "OK, pitting for four tires ... even if (the other cars) stay out?"
Tony Jr.: "For the most part, we'll lose three spots if they don't pit, so we'll be all right."
Dale Jr.: "That's cool. I'm for it. I'm so tired I'd probably lose those three spots anyway."