Tony Stewart won Saturday night's crash-filled Sharpie 500 at the Bristol (TN.) Motor Speedway, holding off Kevin Harvick at the finish. Points leader Jeff Gordon was third, stretching his ever-increasing lead in the Winston Cup standings. Dale ...
Tony Stewart won Saturday night's crash-filled Sharpie 500 at the Bristol (TN.) Motor Speedway, holding off Kevin Harvick at the finish. Points leader Jeff Gordon was third, stretching his ever-increasing lead in the Winston Cup standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team fell one lap behind the leaders on lap 320, but were able to regain the lap with slightly more than 100 circuits to go. Dale Jr. eventually climbed to a 14th place finish. It is a career-best Winston Cup finish at Bristol for Dale Jr. and the Bud team. By avoiding the seemingly endless number of crashes, it is the first time they have finished a race here on the lead lap. The short Bristol oval nearly always produces harrowing action, and tonight's race did nothing to change that trend, as 16 yellow flags slowed the 500-lap event.
The Key Moment: Starting 24th, the red Bud car slipped and slid backwards in the very early laps, causing the team to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 15, dropping to 39th position. For the remainder of the 500-lap race, they fought, clawed and scraped back into the top 15 at the finish. It was not a steady climb, however, as Dale Jr. avoided several multi-car accidents, and suffered several less-than-sparkling pit stops. After a stint of running lap times equal to the leaders, the car began showing some of the same evil handling characteristics as earlier, and Dale Jr.dropped one lap behind the leaders on lap 320. After trying to regain lead lap status through three different yellow flag periods, their work paid off on lap 395 when Dale Jr. was able to pass race leader Jeff Gordon as the yellow flag flew once again. In the final 100 circuits, Dale Jr. scraped his way into the top 20 and eventually into the 14th position.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "I'm beat. It's a rough track physically because of the concrete surface and the high banks. It's such a rough track; it just beats up your body every lap. You're always in traffic there's nowhere to relax or rest. At some points during the race, you're just trying to hang on and survive. You're really not racing anybody.
"We struggled with the car all night to get it to turn in the middle of the corners. The nose of the car would just slide up the track. You can't race anybody if you can't turn under them in the middle and then get past them on the straights. When we'd put on new tires, the car would stick like glue. But, after a few laps, it felt like I was driving on balloons or something.
"We had no choice but to pit early on. If we had stayed out, we would have gone right to the back or crashed trying to hang on. I was worried that we'd lose a lap right away. The car was just loose, loose, loose It was sliding and spinning sideways before I was even off of the corner. It was loose, OK?! The guys were able to make it a little better, and I was able to run the same lap times as the leaders. But, on the long runs, we'd still struggle a bit. The tires would start to skate and chatter and it felt like I was trying to hang onto an angry buckin'bronco.
"It's our best finish here still not great, but we'll hold our spot in the points (sixth). I guess it will be a lot of the same next week at Darlington: running in single file until someone ahead of you messes up and you can get by 'em. Every position is a fight."