Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Budweiser team finishes 11th at Bristol Dale Jr. Leads 91 Laps, Falls Victim to Loose Lug Nuts BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 28, 2004) -- Kurt Busch led a two-lap sprint to the finish to beat Rusty Wallace Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor ...

Budweiser team finishes 11th at Bristol
Dale Jr. Leads 91 Laps, Falls Victim to Loose Lug Nuts

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 28, 2004) -- Kurt Busch led a two-lap sprint to the finish to beat Rusty Wallace Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was Busch's third consecutive win at Bristol. Busch took the lead at lap 382 of 500 and stayed in front the rest of the afternoon despite a late-race caution and red-flag period that set up the finale. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team led 91 laps and ran among the top five for more than 300 laps, but a loose left-rear wheel on lap 430 and a consequential spin dashed any hopes of victory. Dale Jr. remained on lead lap to finish 11th. Busch jumped to second place in the Nextel Cup championship point standings, knocking Dale Jr. to third, 41 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

The Key Moments:

Starting 18th, it took only 40 laps for Dale Jr. to climb into the top 10 and a quick pit stop on lap 61 during the first caution to move into eighth place. The No. 8 Bud car passed the top seven cars to take the lead on lap 282, as Dale Jr. held the lead for 91 laps and gave it up only for a green-flag pit stop on lap 373. Dale Jr. was in eighth place after the stop, climbed back to third, but on lap 419 a loose left-rear wheel caused the Bud car to fall off pace. Dale Jr. dropped to 17th position in the next six laps, but his spin on lap 431 brought out the eighth caution and saved him from going a lap down. It left 60 laps for Dale Jr. to work through traffic to salvage an 11th-place finish.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We had a pretty good car today, and it's unfortunate we didn't walk out of here with a win or at least a top-five finish. We had a good car on short runs, and then it would start to tighten up. We got it freed up a little bit, and it seemed to be pretty good. When the wheel came loose, it was all I could do to keep it off the wall. I had to do something. We were able to stay on the lead lap, and after that it was get all you can get in the short time you got. At the end there I was really, really wanting a top 10, but ended up short. Pretty frustrating, but we'll move on. This is one the Budweiser team won't forget ... we let it slip away."

Best Radio Conversation:

Under yellow flag, starting lap 168:

Dale Jr: (referring to very tight pit lane) "I'm going to short pit just a hair here. You guys will have to come to me. I'll probably stop with the nose pointed out, so it watch it Two-Beer (jackman Kevin Pennell). It won't be a normal stop."

After losing several positions during the pit stop:

Dale Jr.: "Let's pump each other up in the pits now. Let's get back to those good stops we've been having."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "10-4. We're gonna win this race."
Dale Jr. (pondering): "It seems like you could run wide-open around the top here... it's real tempting...."

During the yellow flag period on lap 201:

Dale Jr: "The car's really good at the start, which I like. It might come in handy. I'll try to be a little easier here. I might have run it too hard at the start of that last run, but I was pissed. I wanted to make up those spots."
Stevie Reeves (spotter): "The 97 (Kurt Busch) spotter came to me and said give 'em a break on the restart. He's having engine problems and can only get up to 8,000 (rpms) on the straights. He said give him a few laps and then things will spread out."
Dale Jr.: "Ohhhhhhh... I'll try, but I'm not sure I can wait that long..."

After pondering the situation for a few yellow-flag laps:

Dale Jr: "OK, I'll take it easy on him, but you'd better alert that dog pound behind me here..."

Under the yellow flag period starting on lap 381:

Dale Jr: "I didn't have a chance to talk before that (green flag) stop. I didn't like how the car was handling. (Tony) Junior, just go back a half of what you did last time. Go back to where we were. Just work your magic - just a tweak. It just gets into the middle of the corner and BEEP! - it slides out. I'm good in, good off..."
Tony Jr: "You had 180 laps on those tires. They look good..."
Dale Jr: "Yeah, I can't believe we led all those laps."

Worrying about the lap 395 restart with lapped cars on the inside lane:

Dale Jr: (talking to Reeves) "Go find the (insert car number here. We'll leave the driver's name out of it to protect the wild). He has been craaaaaazy wild out here. Just tell him I'll be on his outside for the restart so tell him just don't wreck me or take me out..."

Lap 423: after falling six spots in three laps:

Dale Jr. : " Flat tire! Right front I think!"

Under yellow flag caused when Dale Jr. spun:

Tony Jr: "Great job - get ahold on it - you'll still be on the lead lap."
Dale Jr: "I swear I have a flat tire!"

After the pit stop:

Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "The left rear wheel was loose - all five lugs were loose."

On the following yellow flag/ lap 467:

Dale Jr: "Get me some spots here on pit lane. I want you guys to remember this afternoon for a long time."
Tony Jr: "10-4. We're gonna get ya what you can - not where we should be, but we'll get all we can."
Dale Jr. (as the jet blowers slowly crawled all around the track): "We need to be racing! This is a huge mistake to blow the track now. This is (messed) up. The time for blowin' off the track was about an hour and a half ago. We need to be racing. Why don't they just open the gate and let the traffic out..."

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Stevie Reeves , Tony Eury Jr.