Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser team suffer fuel woes. For the second year in a row, Kurt Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth was second, while Bobby Labonte finished third. Dale Earnhardt...

Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser team suffer fuel woes.

For the second year in a row, Kurt Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth was second, while Bobby Labonte finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished 16th, two laps down. The Budweiser team ran among the top five for the first two-thirds of the race, but ran out of fuel on lap 366. The problem dropped the team from a top-10 position to 28th with less than 135 laps remaining. The team was able to make up one of the laps and gained 12 positions, but finished two laps behind the leaders. The finish dropped them from fourth to fifth place in Winston Cup points after six of 36 races, but they remain less than 50 points out of second place.J

The Key Moments: Starting in the eighth position, Dale Jr. muscled his way into the top five by lap 13 on the high-banked half-mile oval. The first half of the race saw a remarkable number of yellow flag periods (there were a total of 17 cautions for 120 laps of the race), while Dale Jr. tried to avoid trouble and run a conservative pace, keeping his car intact for a run to the finish. He ran as high as second place in the first 100 laps. A long green flag run proved to be the team's downfall as Dale Jr. reported a dry fuel tank on lap 366, 185 laps after his previous pit stop. Coasting to the pits and falling three laps behind, the remainder of the race was spent frantically trying to make up positions. They were able to get one lap back, but finished two laps behind Busch and the lead-lap cars.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

About running out of fuel: "That felt like the longest green-flag run in the history of this track... We weren't really pushing hard -- I was just trying not to run into anything or anybody. It's hard enough getting around this track on your own, let alone with all those cars out there with you. There just wasn't enough race left to make up three laps. We just need to stop beatin' ourselves."

About avoiding a large number of multi-car crashes: "Whoa. It was making me nervous, I'll tell you that. I've never seen harder racing here than I did today. We missed a couple of them (crashes), but that was too close too many times The cars that crash here go to the pits, then they come out all beat up and then they line-up with the lapped cars (on restarts). Damn, that scared me. I raced a lot more against the lapped cars today, just trying to get around them on restarts than I raced against the other lead-lap cars."

Best Radio Conversations

For the first two-thirds of the race, Dale Jr. ran easily, usually among the top-five positions. During a series of yellow-flag periods through the mid-section of the race, he carried on a rather entertaining dialogue with his spotter and his crew.

Dale Jr. : "I've seen harder racing already today than I have in the last 1000 laps at this place."

Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "10-4."

Dale Jr: "That's a big 10-4 on the hard racing... I really feel like I'm getting beaten around today. How does the car look? Does it look OK -- or is it all beat-up?

Tony Jr: "No -- looks good. Pretty clean, other than a spot on the right front bumper."

Dale Jr: "They sure are wreckin' a lot, aren't they?! It's makin' me nervous."

Giving praise to Jeff Burton, who followed Dale Jr. for a considerable number of laps through many of the multi-car crashes.

Dale Jr: (to spotter Ty Norris) "Go tell the spotter for the 99 (Burton) that that Burton boy has done a masterful job of missing me and all my brake checks. I'll bet I've been on the brakes 15 times and he hasn't hit me yet..."

During a late yellow flag, three laps behind, but trying to remain positive, or, at the very least, change the subject.

Dale Jr: "How y'all getting' home?"

Tony Jr: "Uhh.. the Interstate I think, or we'll go back the way (crewmember) "B" Hoover goes, all the way back home on (Highway) 421.."

Dale Jr. "You don't like (Highway) 321?"

Tony Jr: "Nahhh, you don't wanna take that take that way back (through the mountains), unless you want to get some practice for Sears Point..."

Rolllllll Out... the Complex Cover: The latest edition of Complex Magazine (April/May 2003) hits newsstands later this week, featuring a cover photo of Dale Jr. alongside one of his favorite rappers, Ludacris. The interview with the two distinct stars took place during a late-January photo shoot in Charlotte, NC. Dale Jr. and Ludacris (who stars in the upcoming sequel to the blockbuster "The Fast and The Furious") discuss a variety of topics, such as the state of the world, Elvis, cars, ladies and growing up in the South. Ludacris attended the Daytona 500 as Dale Jr's guest in February.

In the Fast Lane: Dale Jr will make a cameo appearance on the Fox-TV action series Fastlane this Friday evening (March 28) at 8:00 pm (Eastern time).

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Kurt Busch , Tony Eury Jr.