Tony Stewart won the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser race team grabbed their fifth consecutive finish of 11th or better with a seventh-place finish. Dale...
Tony Stewart won the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser race team grabbed their fifth consecutive finish of 11th or better with a seventh-place finish. Dale Jr., who won this race last year, also led a lap to gain five bonus points. The team has led four out of the last five races. The strong finish allowed Dale Jr. to maintain his 10th place position in Winston Cup points. (He is now less than 260 points out of first place in the standings).
Jeff Gordon was second, followed by Rusty Wallace and the DEI team of Steve Park.
The Key Moment: Starting 14th, Dale Jr. was able to make significant strides toward the front of the field early in the race, but found that his car suffered on long green-flag runs. A yellow flag on lap 122 allowed Dale Jr. to narrowly avoid being lapped by leader Rusty Wallace. The Bud team was able to make a pit stop under the yellow to adjust the car, and they were able to move up steadily the remainder of the evening, getting as high as fifth place late in the race.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "That was a great race. We ALMOST had a fast enough car to win the thing, but we weren't as good on long runs. We were tight (car would not turn efficiently) most of the night, and then with a little over 100 laps to go, they made some changes and then the car was really loose. But, I like a loose car because it's fast. But, if you're not careful, it'll try to spin out every lap."
About the final two-lap dash to the finish after the race was stopped to allow a green-flag finish: "I really hung back on that restart, because I thought my car would be junk after we sat there awhile and the tires cooled off. I wanted to just have some space to hold onto my position. But, the car was actually pretty good so I suppose if I had been more aggressive we might have been able to catch the 10 car (Johnny Benson). With two to go, though, the only way you're gonna get around somebody is to really hit 'em, and I had already run into Johnny earlier, so we took seventh. That's a good finish so we can enjoy a weekend off before the Winston."
Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day:
These conversations took place during a long yellow-flag period following a crash on lap 197.
Dale Jr. (who frequently complained about the tires last season) "I'll tell ya what, I love these tires this year. They're like the tires they used to have a long time ago. We can RACE with 'em!"
Danny Earnhardt (Dale Jr's uncle, and front tire carrier) "If ya love 'em so much, drive 'em up there into the lead."
Jeff Clark (engine tuner for the Bud team, asking about the oil and water temperatures under the long caution period) "How do the gauges look?"
Dale Jr: "Nice. They're silver and they all have nice little red needles!"
Dale Jr. (getting impatient after the caution period seems to go on forever) "... and six hours later, the winner is Ricky Rudd ... under caution for the last 200 laps!"
Ty Norris (DEI general manager and Bud team spotter) "It's the slowest and closest race ever at Richmond! No one could get away from anyone else at 50 mph!"
Dale Jr. (complaining about the track crew using too much of the powdery oil-dry to clean up the accident) "Sandstorm! Turn Two! Sandstorm!"
After narrowly avoiding a multi-car accident on the front straightway by closely following the Dodge of Bill Elliott through the smoke and debris. (The sponsor decals on the back of Elliot's car read "Your Friendly Dodge Dealers").
Dale Jr: "If Bill was gonna hit something, I was damn sure gonna hit something! My Dodge dealer is one friendly S.O.B. to help me through there!"
After narrowly avoiding yet another multi-car crash a few laps later. This time, Junior makes a dramatic move to the inside of the track, pointing the nose of the Bud car nearly straight at the pit lane.
Dale Jr.: "That was like a bomb went off in front of me. I saw the roof of Elliot's car. We were just racing along nicely and he ran into the back of Michael (Waltrip)."
Tony Eury (crew chief): "Helluva job."
Dale Jr.: "I about spun into the inside wall there!"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "I thought you were coming to see me!"
Dale Jr.: "Me too!"