Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kyle Busch Wins Car of Tomorrow Debut, Dale Jr. Seventh Bud Team Grabs first Top-10, Climbs Nine Spots in Points Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway today, marking the 600th NASCAR victory for Chevrolet, the 200th for ...

Kyle Busch Wins Car of Tomorrow Debut, Dale Jr. Seventh
Bud Team Grabs first Top-10, Climbs Nine Spots in Points

Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway today, marking the 600th NASCAR victory for Chevrolet, the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports and the first for the brand new NASCAR Car of Tomorrow in its inaugural race. Busch crossed the finish line ahead of Jeff Burton by a small margin while Jeff Gordon was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team scored their best finish of the young season, coming home seventh after starting 31st and also being involved in a multi-car spin on lap 137. The first top-10 of the season brings Dale Jr. nine positions higher in the standings, jumping to 17th place, only 63 points behind the 12th-place position.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 31st, found it tough to pass on the rough, high-banked Bristol short track. Despite having a Chevrolet Impala SS that was fast, Dale Jr. seemingly moved forward in the field an inch at a time - concentrating on survival and avoiding trouble. Dale Jr. had clawed to 18th position when a lapped car spun ahead of him on track and David Stremme punted the No. 8 Bud machine from behind. Dale Jr. spun down the backstretch, but managed to avoid hitting the wall or another machine. With a quick pit stop for fresh tires, Dale Jr. remained on the lead lap, but dropped to 27th position and began his climb forward once again. He eventually reached the top-10 on lap 281, and stayed among the lead pack for the remaining laps, making several aggressive passes in the final laps to finish seventh.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I'm tired... I can't say it was fun because I drove my butt off to just make it through the day. We spun out and just kept at it. I'm really happy to get a top-10. The whole team earned that one because a lot of people put a lot of effort into every bit of that car today. It was hot and slick and we were loose and hangin' on most of the day.

"The focus of the whole race was just to get home - get it in the bag. You're so conscious of getting wrecked that it wears you out. I'm glad they're repaving this place because it's hard to pass... hard to race. The car (of tomorrow) doesn't have the same handling characteristics as the old cars, so we really have to learn as we go along. It's weird: they drive the same when you're going straight, but I was so loose sometimes that I'd get disoriented. I mean, they are only a few inches bigger than the old cars, but I couldn't get my bearings when I was sideways. It was like 'hey - just a second ago I was following a car with a wing on the back, and now it's gone...' I guess we'll all keep learning together."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. was hit from behind on lap 137 in a multi-car crash, but twirled down the backstretch without hitting anything before righting his car and continuing...

Dale Jr. (after being hit, frustrated): "I just got hit. I dunno... (then following the pit stop, and proud of himself) How about letting off the brake and sliding up the track?!"

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "Yeah man. You were working it!"

Dale Jr: "Hell yeah! That's lucky. I was hoping we wouldn't hit the fence. That'd be a (bad) way to go out..."

***

Dale Jr. was always conscious of which drivers he raced hard with...

Dale Jr. (under caution, looking behind him): "I love it when Kyle (Petty) stays out. He's pretty safe back there on the restarts. Let me know if they (NASCAR) say anything on these restarts. I'm going high."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "They haven't said anything..."

Dale Jr: "Alright. It's good to run up top there and have the car turn. That's like Russian Roulette though. If it doesn't turn you get up there an lose a few spots."

***

Despite his cautious approach, Dale Jr. was involved in contact - even on pit lane during a caution flag on lap 378.

Dale Jr: "Whoever can - please keep an eye on my right front (tire). I may have a flat. Make sure it ain't goin' flat." Hmiel: "I think we're OK, June."

Dale Jr.: "Alright. The 07 (C. Bowyer) beat the door in around turn three and four like he was trying to put me in the grave. So, I had to bang him back."

Hmiel: "With binoculars, it looks good."

Dale Jr: "Alright then. It was cutting through the corners so I wasn't sure."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , David Stremme , Tony Eury Jr. , Kyle Busch