Charlotte: Dale Earnhardt Jr. race report

Bad brakes equal bad break for Dale Jr. No. 8 Budweiser Team ends rainy night in garage Jimmie Johnson won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 Sunday evening at Lowe's Motor Speedway, as the race was stopped on lap 276 of a scheduled 400 laps,...

Bad brakes equal bad break for Dale Jr.
No. 8 Budweiser Team ends rainy night in garage

Jimmie Johnson won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 Sunday evening at Lowe's Motor Speedway, as the race was stopped on lap 276 of a scheduled 400 laps, while a year-long streak ended for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team. They had been running at the finish of 36 consecutive Winston Cup races until a problem with the brake system on the car sent the team to the garage after completing only 241 laps. The rear brakes had locked up, causing Dale Jr. to spin wildly at the exit of turn four on lap 223. Multiple pit stops proved ineffective at repairing the problem, and the car was taken to the garage. The team finished in the 41st position, but remained in second place in the Winston Cup point standings. Had the race resumed for the final 124 laps, the Budweiser car could have returned to the track after the crew replaced the entire brake assembly on both rear wheels in approximately 25 minutes. Points leader Matt Kenseth finished second and Bobby Labonte finished third.J The Key Moments: Starting 24th, Dale Jr. was able to move forward when the green flag fell on what was scheduled to be the longest race of the Winston Cup season. Dale Jr. moved easily into the top-10 in 30 laps, and continued to gain positions for the first 100 laps. Loose lug nuts on both left-side tires during a pit stop on lap 104 caused the team to make an extra pit stop to tighten the wheels, dropping them back to the 24th position. The race was stopped for rain on lap 107. When the race resumed, Dale Jr. again began climbing toward the front. The team made a strategic move on lap 132, making an extra pit stop for fuel during a yellow-flag period, which allowed the Bud car to stay on the track while all but two other cars were forced to make pit stops. When a yellow flag came out on lap 200, Dale Jr. was able to pit while in third place. Dale Jr. moved into second place on lap 212, and was closing on leader Bobby Labonte when the rear brakes locked, sending the No. 8 car into a spin off of turn four. The brake rotors on the rear wheels became so heated that both rear wheels began shooting flames as the team made multiple pit stops to try and repair the problem.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"We were almost ready to go back out there when they called the race. It's a shame that our streak of finishing every race for a full year (this event in 2002 was the team's last DNF) had to end because of rain. We had a good car, but not a great car tonight. The car had been loose for a big chunk of the race, but as I came off of turn four onto the flat part of the straight, the rear wheels locked up and I was spinning. It was wild. We kind of brushed the wall -- bent the rear bumper a bit, but not too bad. We thought we had it fixed after a few pit stops -- and we were still on the lead lap -- but the rotors kept locking up. The rotor and the whole assembly on the left rear wheel finally failed and we had to take it to the garage."

"I told the guys that we can't expect to be a championship contender if we keep making mistakes on pit stops. But, it happened early in the race, and we had a strong car, so I felt like we were going to be OK. We had a lot of time left to get back up to the front. Then, (car chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. decided we should make an extra stop to top off on fuel, and that strategy worked perfectly. The yellow came out on the lap we had planned to stop again, so all of a sudden we're in third place and looking good. It's kind of frustrating because right now we don't know what failed or what caused the problem, but I guess we're still in second place in points."

Best Radio Conversations

When the race was slowed by rain on lap 104, Dale Jr. used the break to describe his car to the crew.

Dale Jr: "The car was really good during the first run, but I didn't like the second set of tires. I think we were OK -- because it looked like nobody else was really happy out there at that point. I felt like I couldn't drive hard or abuse the tires. I was trying not to wreck, just takin' it easy. Man, a few times I thought I had lost it -- thought I was wreckin,' but somehow I saved it. I was strong off of turn four, which is good. If we lose that, it could be a problem if I can't get back on the throttle there."

After the spin and brake issues, the team made a series of pit stops to try and solve the problem. The rear brakes were so hot that flames were shooting from inside of both rear wheels on several stops. As Dale Jr. returned to the track, spotter Ty Norris would try to keep him updated on the status of the brake rotors -- which could be seen glowing red hot on the race track.

Norris: (on lap 225) "OK -- it looks good, they're not glowing right now."
Dale Jr. (on lap 227) "They're locked again! I can't get down the straightway!"
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "Dale Jr., turn the valve beside your seat to see if something is wrong with the brake bias. Give it about six turns to see if something's stuck."
Dale Jr: "Can we just adjust the (brake) bias so the rear brakes are off? I'm telling you, if one of these rotors fall off, we're in trouble..."
Norris: (on lap 232) "OK. Looks good. No glow. No glow."
Dale Jr. (on lap 237- in a frantic tone) "They're locked! I just lost a rotor... Tell NASCAR there's a brake rotor on the back stretch..."

The Numbers
The 41st-place finish ends a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes for the Bud team... Their streak of running at the finish of 36 consecutive races had been the best of any Winston Cup team...

The Troops
Dale Jr's No. 8 car raced this evening with special decals honoring the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion, currently located in Iraq. Dale Earnhardt Inc. shipped four banners to the battalion, three signed by race fans in attendance at Dale Earnhardt Day (April 29 at DEI), and the fourth signed by each employee of Dale Earnhardt, Inc.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jimmie Johnson