Early Exit as Engine Expires For Budweiser Team=20 Jeff Gordon Dominates Again, Dale Jr. Leads Laps but Finishes 39th Jeff Gordon continued to display the form that won him three NASCAR Winston Cup titles in the late 1990s by leading the most...
Early Exit as Engine Expires For Budweiser Team=20
Jeff Gordon Dominates Again, Dale Jr. Leads Laps but Finishes 39th
Jeff Gordon continued to display the form that won him three NASCAR Winston Cup titles in the late 1990s by leading the most laps and winning the KMart 400 at Michigan International Speedway, his second consecutive win. Gordon also took over the points lead from Dale Jarrett. Ricky Rudd finished second, followed by Sterling Marlin in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team seemed to be one of the few cars in the race that could keep up with Gordon, but the day ended early for the red Bud car when a burnt piston knocked them out of the race on lap 172 (of 200).
The Key Moment: The tone was set early, when Dale Jr. went to the inside of three other cars, making it four-wide on lap one, and sending the Bud car from its 7th starting position into 4th place in less than a lap. It took Dale Jr. 22 more circuits to take the lead, passing Gordon on a lap 23 re-start. From that point, Dale Jr. was content to ride in close proximity to Gordon, waiting until the late stages of the race to charge hard. Unfortunately, the day turned sour on lap 127, when the red No. 8 car ran out of fuel. Dale Jr. was able to continue from there until the engine went up in a cloud of smoke, fire and debris.
Dale Jr's Quotes:
"On track, it was great. We were really fast and had a car that was handling like a champ. Even when it wasn't perfect, I could get the car to stick around the bottom of the corners and I could keep up with the leaders. We led the race and were strong, but then we ran out of gas and burnt a piston. We had the same (piston) problem yesterday in practice, so we'll go home and get it figured out."
"39th?! This hurts us in the points race, but overall, I still feel like the team is really doing well. I mean, we have been up front every week for several months now, and it just seems like everyone is really maturing and working well together as a team. We had a bad day, but we ran up front until we had problems."
"On one of the re-starts, Gordon went to the outside of me, and it made the car really loose. It feels like sitting here (in a passenger car) and someone comes up and lifts the back of the car and then sets it down over there."
Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day
In a maneuver unofficially known as "follow the leader," the team chose not to make pit stops under the yellow flags that flew in laps 11 and 17 to maintain their track position when leader Jeff Gordon did not pit. Dale Jr. "That's cool. I didn't want to come in anyway. I didn't want to stop, but I had a minute there so I was just talking to you guys. The car is good. I like it. Don't change it at all.
The tables are turned on lap 25, when the yellow flies again after Dale Jr. has taken the lead. Dale Jr: "Alright there Tony (Eury, crew chief), now it's YOUR decision." Tony Eury: "We're coming in for four tires." Dale Jr: "Alright! The car is good. Don't be changing it on me! - damn, that was cool as hell to take the lead like that!" Ty Norris (team spotter): "Yeah, I thought the fans were gonna tear the seats out when you passed him (Gordon)."
Dale Jr. appreciates at least some sort of response when he is explaining the car's condition either during the race action or during yellow flag periods. When he gets no response, he can get impatient. Dale Jr: "Did y'all hear that? Am I talking to myself? Can you hear me?" Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "10-4." Dale Jr: "Then tell me what I just sai - Are those headsets working? Y'all aren't talking to me here. Are ya all nervous or something?!"