Sterling Marlin and Tony Stewart dominated today's UAW-GM 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, but Marlin pulled away at the end of the race to take his second victory of the 2001 season. Stewart was second, followed by Ward Burton and the...
Sterling Marlin and Tony Stewart dominated today's UAW-GM 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, but Marlin pulled away at the end of the race to take his second victory of the 2001 season. Stewart was second, followed by Ward Burton and the No. 8 Budweiser team with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth. Dale Jr. passed Jeff Burton on the final lap to match his career-best finish at Charlotte. It is the eighth time this year that the team has finished in the top five, and the 13th time the Bud team has finished in the top-10. The team and Dale Jr. were notified moments before the start of the race of the military strike against Afghanistan.
The Key Moment: Starting in ninth position, Dale Jr. sliced his way easily into second place and was closing fast on the leader when a yellow flag flew on lap 46. The team made a four-tire pit stop on lap 47, but was forced to return to the pits on lap 52 to tighten lug nuts that were loose. The unscheduled stop dropped the team to 36th position. A methodical climb back into the top-10 took less than 100 laps, and then three consecutive pit stops of less than 14 seconds each helped vault them back into the top five through much of the remaining laps. After passing Rusty Wallace with less than 25 circuits left, Dale Jr. gained his final position with a dramatic last-lap pass of Jeff Burton.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "My fingers are numbThis track is tough, and I was gripping the wheel hard all day. My hands feel raw from wheelin' the daylights outta that car. My team builds great cars. The car we crashed at Kansas last week was the one we wanted to race here, and yet we rolled this brand-new car out here and were pretty competitive. Let me tell you right now this group is going to be a championship contending team next year. My guys get better all the time. We're comin' to get 'em next season!
"I was pretty wound up when I got in the car. I was ticked off at the crew because we had an awful practice session yesterday. The car really sucked and we blew an engine, so when we started the race, we didn't have a good idea what we would have. I was not optimistic, and really worried. Tony (Eury, crew chief) and Tony Jr. (Eury, car chief) put a set-up in there that we used during a recent test, and the car was really good. We lost all those positions early on, but we were able to work our way up to the front. I felt like we were a top-three car most of the day, but Ward (Burton) got his car going late in the race and grabbed it from us. We were able to run with anyone except the 20 (Stewart) and the 40 (Marlin) cars."
Radio Chatter (the best moments of radio conversation during the race)
An unscheduled pit stop dropped the team from third place to 36th on lap
52. A disappointed Dale Jr. asked for help before the restart.
Dale Jr. "OK guys. There's gotta be a way to get back up to the
front. We have a kick-butt car here, but if we're going to get back
up there to race these boys, I need your help. Whatever it takes, pit
strategy or something, we're gonna do it"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief) "10-4. We will. I promise you. We will."
A crash in front of Dale Jr. on lap 112 provided the scariest moment of
Dale Jr: "I just had something come through the front of the car! It came through the right side, so we need to check the nose (of the car) and see what it was."
Tony Jr (to the crew) "Let's go. Let's make a patch for that right now."
Ty Norris (spotter): "Dale Jr., it looks like the nose is intact."
Dale Jr. "Well, I don't know where it came from, but a big piece of lead half a foot long came flying through here."
(The team discovered during the next pit stop that the debris had entered through a panel in the cockpit of the car, and created a baseball-sized hole as it exited the car through the right-side door. The damage did not hurt the car aerodynamically or structurally.)
The strong finish allowed Dale Jr. to close in on Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett, who are immediately in front of him in the points chase, but he remained in seventh place. Dale Jr.also lengthened his margin over the next eight drivers behind him in the Winston Cup point standings.
Happy Happy Joy Joy Dale Jr. will celebrate his 27th birthday this Wednesday, October 10.