Busch Wins Bristol, Dale Jr. Ninth No. 8 Budweiser Team Earns 15th Top-10 of 2003 Kurt Busch won Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick was second while rookie Jamie McMurray was third. It is the fourth victory of...
Busch Wins Bristol, Dale Jr. Ninth
No. 8 Budweiser Team Earns 15th Top-10 of 2003
Kurt Busch won Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick was second while rookie Jamie McMurray was third. It is the fourth victory of the year for Busch. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished ninth after struggling at times during the long 500-lap grind, but avoided the trouble that caused a record 20 caution flags. The finish is the 15th time this season the Bud team has finished among the top-10 (plus two 11th place finishes) in 24 races. Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth finished fourth, extending his lead to 351 points. Dale Jr. remains in second place, 113 points ahead of Kevin Harvick.
The Key Moments:
Dale Jr. started 9th, and worked his way forward through the field, reaching second place on lap 213. A pit stop during a caution period on lap 224 dropped the No. 8 car to 20th, but Dale Jr. climbed to 11th in thirty laps before another caution flag slowed the field. The team made several pit stops in the final 150 laps to try and regain the speed they had shown early in the race. Dale Jr. was in 22nd position with 90 laps to go, but crawled back through traffic into the top-10 in the final 50 laps.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"It's a top-10, but we wanted to do a lot better than that. We were never really great tonight. I mean, there were times when we were pretty good, and there were some segments when we were awful. It was kind of back and forth on the handling. We got it better at the end, but for a large part of the night, it'd plow like a dump truck. I'm disappointed, because I really want to win here at Bristol. It would mean a lot, ya know? We were able to stay out of trouble, and go home with a car that's intact. I think the right front fender got bent a little late in the race, but otherwise, that car just needs a good wash, and it'll be ready to go again."
Best Radio Conversations
The Budweiser car was consistently among the top-10 in lap times throughout the race, but was never fast enough to satisfy Dale Jr. and the Bud team.
Dale Jr. (under the caution period beginning on lap 177) "We need to test here next year... like when it's not so hot and we can work on our nighttime race set-up. I wanna win here. We're good, but we could be better, ya know?"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "10-4. Maybe we can come out here in March when it's not hot-hot. We can test for the afternoon race too." Dale Jr.: "Yeah. We should be better. What I wanna do and what the car wants to do are not always the same. Neither is bad, but it's not the same, ya know what I mean? Tony Jr: "You two just need to spend some more time together..." Dale Jr.: "I know we tested here before, but I didn't know anything then. Unlike you guys of course... hah hah."
As the race neared completion, Tony Jr. encouraged his driver.
Tony Jr.: (on lap 444): "Good job, Junebug. You're doing good."
Dale Jr: "Where am I now?"
Tony Jr.: "You're in 11th place, but you look really good and you're faster than those guys in front of you. You can still win this thing."
Dale Jr. (teasing) "Awww man, you just jinxed us. It's your fault if we go backwards now. I told you guys not to tell me how good the car is."
Tony Jr: "OK, I'll take the hit on that. You're doing fine."
Started: 9th (12th Top-10 start in 24 races)
Finished: 9th (15th Top-10 finish)
Points: 2nd (no change)
Best Pit Stop: Stop two of seven/ Lap 161/ four tires and fuel/ 13.7 seconds
Cool Move of the Weekend:
Dale Jr. entered an un-sponsored Chance 2 Busch Series car that he co-owns for Friday night's race with a special orange and white paint scheme in honor of his late grandfather, Robert Gee. While less famous than Junior's other grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, Gee was one of the top mechanics and fabricators in NASCAR for several decades. Rookie driver Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth in the number 81 machine.