Budweiser Watkins Glen Race report

Jeff Gordon extended his Winston Cup points lead Sunday at Watkins Glen, NY, winning the Global Crossing at the Glen. Gordon is now the all-time leader in road course wins in Winston Cup history with seven victories. Running as high as fourth with...

Jeff Gordon extended his Winston Cup points lead Sunday at Watkins Glen, NY, winning the Global Crossing at the Glen. Gordon is now the all-time leader in road course wins in Winston Cup history with seven victories. Running as high as fourth with seven laps to go, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser No. 8 team had a great run, despite dropping to twelfth in the final laps. Dale Jr. was bottled up on a slow restart on lap 83 (of 90), which allowed six cars to pass him before turn one, while an off-course excursion while racing Boris Said a lap later dropped the red car to its final position. The near-crash could have been worse had Dale Jr. not saved the car from sliding into the gravel trap. With 29 cars finishing on the lead lap, a crash could have cost Jr. an additional 17 positions. The strong run continues the team's rocket-like launch upward in the point standings, pulling them into sixth place. The 12th place is a career-best Winston Cup road course finish for Dale Jr. and the team, yet it is the worst finish for them in the last six races.

The Key Moment: Starting 27th, the key decision was made by Tony Eury and the Bud crew to make a pit stop during a caution period on lap 19. This allowed Dale Jr. to run as high as second place when the leaders made their pit stops 10-15 laps later. The red Bud car was able to run up front for much of the rest of the day, even challenging late in the race for a top-three position before the restart woes dropped them out of the top 10. Restarting fourth with seven laps to go, Dale Jr. was forced to let off of the accelerator to avoid passing Ricky Rudd too soon on the restart. The loss of momentum dropped Dale Jr. quite a few positions as he managed to keep the car straight despite several close calls. He lost three more positions when the Bud car slid off the track in turn one while trying to make a pass for eighth position.

Dale Jr's: "That (lap 83) restart was way too slow. I don't know what Jeff (Gordon) was thinking. Everyone was bottled up, and so when I let off the gas to keep from hitting or passing the 28 car (Rudd), I lost momentum and everybody was all over us three and four-wide Then, the driver almost lost it there a few laps later. I was lucky to save it.

"To have run so bad here in practice and qualifying and then to run so well in the race feels good, but it's still frustrating because I feel like we should have had a top five there at the finish. It was good day for points though seems like we gain on 'em every week.

Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day

Often, the driver is concentrating so hard on racing corner-to-corner and lap-to-lap, it's hard for him to keep track of the overall pit strategy. The team pitted during a caution period on lap 19, which meant they didn't have to pit again until late in the race. Dale Jr: "Are we gonna pit here?" (lap 38) Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief) "We're staying out." Dale Jr: "Are you serious?" Eury Sr.: "We're staying out." Dale Jr: "I'm just hangin' on!"

At lap 70, nearly the same exchange takes place Tony Eury Sr: "We're going the rest of the way (without a pit stop)." Dale Jr. "We're not pitting at all?" Eury Sr.: "Not at all!"

Dale Jr. and Ricky Rudd had a fierce battle that included some spirited contact and Dale Jr. launching his Bud car up and over the curb to keep the car straight at the chicane along the backstretch. Despite the heated competition, Dale Jr. managed to give the team a play-by-play account in his best race announcer voice. Dale Jr: "We're going metal to metal and wheel to wheel!"

Sixth place is the best points position for the team since they left the first race of the season in second. Since dropping to 26th following a rough race at Bristol in April, they have gained 20 positions. They have also continued to close in on fourth position in the standings, now standing 73 markers behind Sterling Marlin. It is the seventh consecutive race that the Bud car has finished on the lead lap. It is the 13th time in 22 races that the team has finished 12th or better, compared to only seven times all of last season.

Thursday was busy day for Dale Jr. as he left North Carolina to travel to Baldwinsville, NY to visit the employees of an Anheuser-Busch plant. Dale Jr. also got a VIP tour of the plant where more than 25 brands of A-B products are brewed and packaged. The plant contains 144 tanks that each hold more than one million servings of Budweiser beer.

Following the plant visit, he was whisked to Chicago, where he was recognized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the PUSH/Rainbow Coalition Sports Banquet. Earnhardt Jr. also presented a special award to African-American driver Morty Buckles, who recently won his first major NASCAR late model race. Following the banquet, Dale Jr. returned to upstate New York Thursday evening for the Watkins Glen race weekend.

Saturday Night Racin' Last night, Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced to an 18-lap victory over car chief

Tony Eury, Jr. in a combination Late Model and Super Stock event at Tioga Motorsports Park (30 minutes west of Binghamton). Earnhardt Jr. overcame early race setbacks, including a nudge from Eury Jr. that caused Dale Jr. to lose his left rear tire on lap three, to take the checkered flag in an event that also featured NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers Kyle Petty and Stacy Compton. The charity match race raised nearly $35,000 for the Spalding Foundation.

Today's Stats

Started: 27th Finished: 12th Current Points Position: 6th Money Won: $69,788 Laps Led: --

-BR

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Kyle Petty , Boris Said , Stacy Compton