Budweiser Fontana race report

Third Place for Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team Wallace Wins, Bud Team Overcomes Adversity for Strong Finish Rusty Wallace scored his first victory of the season Sunday, winning the NAPA 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. Wallace was ...

Third Place for Dale Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team
Wallace Wins, Bud Team Overcomes Adversity for Strong Finish

Rusty Wallace scored his first victory of the season Sunday, winning the NAPA 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. Wallace was followed across the finish line by Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 8 Budweiser car. It was Earnhardt's fourth top-10 finish of the season, his third in the last four races and his best result since finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500. The strong run pulls Dale Jr. into 10th place in Winston Cup points. The team has improved 16 points positions since the race at Bristolin March, and comes after a long weekend of adversity and problems for the Bud bunch. Their primary car was destroyed in a hard practice crash Friday, and they were forced to take a provisional starting position with their backup machine. The backup car had suffered a blown engine only four laps into Saturday morning's practice session.

The Key Moment: Despite having one of the fastest cars on the track, the third-place run was anything but easy for the team. Starting 38th, it took Dale Jr. only 87 laps to slice his way into the top 10, pulling as high as eighth place before running out of fuel on the back straight on lap 107. Thecar was able to coast to the pits before being push-started after a lengthy pit stop, leaving them one lap behind the field in 33rd place. Using sheer speed, Dale Jr. was able to un-lap himself by speeding past the leaders until a yellow flag on lap 146 allowed him to circle around and get back on the lead lap. The final 100 laps were filled with daring passes, fast pit stops and a charge to the top three finish by the second-year team.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "I'm real happy with that. We had a race-wining car, but we ran out of gas and had to fight back the rest of the day. I wheeled 'er hard all day. We had the worst luck all weekend, and we have been waiting for something like this to have a reason to celebrate a little bit. We had a good car and a great motor."

"Seeing Hank (Parker Jr., one of Dale Jr's best friends) win yesterday (in the Busch Series race) really gave me an incentive -- it inspired me to try and do something really good - Today would have been my dad's 50th birthday. I didn't think about it much until I heard it on the PA system right before the race, so it's kinda cool. It's made me feel even better to run so good. I want to celebrate with a couple of beers back home, and I think we'll pour one out on the ground like they do in all the rap videos (in honor of his late father)."

Dale Jr's description of Friday's vicious practice crash: "I was really deep into turn two. You run along the bottom, right on the yellow line there. Something broke in the right front and the car nosed over. I knew I was gonna hit hard. This track is so wide and the car started sliding toward the wall.It happens in such slow motion - Sliding along - slow motion - slow motion. Slow motion - slow motion. Then, the very instant it touches the wall, it's like FAST FORWARD!! FAST FORWARD!! FAST FORWARD!! It hurts BAD! That was about as hard of a hit as I've taken. You just have to go limp when you hit the wall. Your rib cage is strapped in tight, but your internal organs slosh around when you hit that bad. That's what tears at the muscles inside ya. That's what is sore -- all my insides."

Quote from Tony Eury Jr. (Bud team car chief) "It would have been a miracle if we would have won this race. You wanna talk about overcoming adversity? We crashed one, we blew up a motor and then we ran it outta gas about halfway through the race. We worked hard for that one."

Points Points Points
The Bud team gained positions for the fourth race in a row, jumping two spots into tenth place. Dale Jr. is exactly 100 points out of sixth position in the standings. They gained five bonus points for leading lap 200 during today's250-lap race. <pre> Today's Stats Started: 38th Finished: 3rd Current Points Position: 10th Money Won: $136,873 Laps Led: 1 lap Best Pit Stop: Lap 146 / 13.79 seconds / 4 tires and fuel *Quickest stop of 2001 for Bud team </pre> Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day Dale Jr. (Complaining about a "loose" race car, and then seeing last year's Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte spin out): "Whoooooo! (Sigh of relief) Thank god for that yellow flag! I need some help here. Ya see -- he's loose too and that's the champion spinning out! He's the champ and he spun out. It feels like the spoiler's been taken offa my car. We need to take care of that right now before I spin it too."

Dale Jr. (frustrated and dripping with sarcasm after losing a lap when the car ran out of fuel on lap 107): "Excellent. Excellent. This is JUST where I wanted to be. How could you guys let the car run outta gas? Tony Eury Jr: "Both computers figured we could go at least two more laps on fuel. Maybe it was because you were going so much faster."

Dale Jr: "I've just been driving so hard, working so damn hard and now we're at the back." Tony Jr: "This whole damn weekend has been hard for all of us. We're just gonna get it back. Let's go get 'em and not let it end this way. You just gotta have that same attitude as last week, ya gotta WANT to get back up front."

Dale Jr (angry after complaining for many, many laps about oil on the track.NASCAR waited more than 20 laps before throwing a caution flag.) "This is a very dangerous situation at these speeds! They're gonna get somebody hurt! (pause) I guess NASCAR is a lot like my daddy on this deal. It ain't a good idea unless it's THEIR idea."

Tony Jr (after getting back on the lead lap with 100 laps to go, but still in 29th position) "Alright now. We can win this one from here."

Dale Jr: "Yeah. I got my cake and I wanna eat it too. (long pause) Hey, but let's not get messed up trying to win this deal though. I'm not gonna crash or do something stupid trying something the car can't do. We need toconcentrate on getting as many points as we can. We need to get up there at least to 12th place."

Ty Norris (DEI general manager and Bud team spotter, thirty laps later) "Uh, Dale Jr. I think I'm gonna raise that bar now, babe. That's 12th place there right in front of you."

Dale Jr (easily sailing past Sterling Marlin into 12th with a daring pass onthe outside) "Hell YEAH! Look at me goin' by. We got us the high-side working. We're versatile!"


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Tony Eury Jr.