Charlotte: Dale Earnhadrt Jr race report

Jimmie Johnson Avoids Carnage, Wins at Charlotte Dale Jr. limps wrecked Bud Chevy home in 33rd Jimmie Johnson was the top survivor of the Nextel Cup crash-fest Sunday night, as he overcame a NASCAR-record 22 cautions to earn victory in ...

Jimmie Johnson Avoids Carnage, Wins at Charlotte
Dale Jr. limps wrecked Bud Chevy home in 33rd

Jimmie Johnson was the top survivor of the Nextel Cup crash-fest Sunday night, as he overcame a NASCAR-record 22 cautions to earn victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson's winning pass came on the very last turn, as he moved high on Bobby Labonte and won the drag race to the finish line by .027 seconds. It is Johnson's third consecutive victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Already the longest race of the year, the plethora of cautions made for over a quarter of the race to be run under yellow (103 of 400 laps). One of those yellow flags was the result of an accident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team. As a result, Dale Jr. was relegated to a 33rd-place finish, 27 laps down to the leaders. He dropped four spots in the point standings to 15th, and is now 350 points behind leader Johnson.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr. felt the extremes of a 600-mile race merely 300 miles into the event, as he slipped from 15th to 32nd with an ill-handling car, fell a lap down on the 79th circuit, caught up with a "free pass" on lap 149, and climbed into the top-10 for the first time all evening -- all this before the halfway point of the race. Benefiting from adjustments made by interim crew chief Steve Hmiel, Dale Jr.'s Chevy was in eighth place and turning lap times as fast as it had all night when a wreck on lap 245 doomed any chances of a good finish. Junior made contact with DEI teammate Michael Waltrip entering turn 1, causing both cars to spin wildly into the wall. Three other drivers -- Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, and Terry Labonte -- were also wrapped up in the wreck. The Bud team needed 25 minutes in the garage to repair the damage. Dale Jr. returned to the track 27 laps down.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We were real tight with the race car. We got to working on it, and it was real fast before we got into Michael (Waltrip), and I was pretty happy with it at that point. It still needed a little more work, but you saw how it turned out. It was anybody's race tonight. I felt like we were in real good shape right up until the accident.

"I'm feeling really confident right now, real good about my team. We had a tough night tonight, but the car was real fast before the crash. As long as the cars are fast, I've got to do the rest, and tonight I slipped up a little bit."

Best Radio Chatter:

After struggling with an extremely tight car early in the race, Dale Jr. began seeing improvements after a lap-117 pit stop.

Dale Jr.: "I had a better car right there than I had all day. So keep positive."

Steve Hmiel (crew chief): "Absolutely. We'll be fine.JYou're laps times are showing that."

After earning the free pass on lap 149 as a result of being the first car one lap down:

Dale Jr.: "WHOOOOOOHOOOOOO! Hell yeah! I'm tighter now than I was before, but the track's getting colder, too. So keep working on it, buddy! YEAH!

Jimmy Kitchens (spotter): "Looks good from up here guys."

Between laps 199 and 238, there were a total of six caution flags, allowing the Bud driver to make this short quip under the 14th yellow:

Dale Jr.: "Man, I bet they're wearing all them Dale Jr. commercials out with all these cautions!"

After watching a big crash in front of him on lap 379:

Dale Jr.: "Second verse, same as the first."

During a red-flag period, which came out to help clean up a wreck just shy from the end:

Dale Jr.: "Man, we could've won the hell out of this race."

Hmiel: "Yeah, depending on how it played out. That's all right. We learned an awful lot."

Dale Jr.: "You're car got good enough to finish in the top five, even without all this craziness, ya know."

Hmiel: "Well that's good news. These guys do a nice job."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jimmy Kitchens