Charlotte: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Earnhardt's evening ends early with engine woes. No. 8 Budweiser Team fast on track until engine failure. Mark Martin won Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, grabbing victory in NASCAR's longest race after a two-year drought...

Earnhardt's evening ends early with engine woes.
No. 8 Budweiser Team fast on track until engine failure.

Mark Martin won Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, grabbing victory in NASCAR's longest race after a two-year drought from victory lane. To add to the victory, Martin and a lucky race fan won an additional million-dollar bonus from series sponsor Winston as part of the "No Bull 5" bonus program. Martin led his teammate Matt Kenseth and Ricky Craven across the finish line. The race had been dominated by rookie Jimmy Johnson, who led 263 of the 400 laps, until he overshot his pit stall on his final pit stop of the night. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran among the top five for much of the first half of the race, but were hampered by damage caused when the red Bud car has hit by the lapped car of Ron Hornaday. After five pit stops to repair the damage caused from the incident, they fought their way back into the top 10 until engine problems knocked them from the race on lap 372, finishing 35th. It is the third consecutive Winston Cup race with a finish of 35th or worse for the Bud team.

The Key Moments:
Dale Jr., starting sixth, moved to the top three after five laps, and easily ran among the top 10 for the first half of the 600-mile race. On lap 199, Dale Jr. was cruising in second place, and was making his way around the lapped car of Ron Hornaday, when Hornaday's car suddenly lost traction and slammed the Bud car into the wall. The damage damaged the alignment and the aerodynamics of the No. 8, causing a dramatic drop down the standings. Dale Jr. managed to hang onto the car for more than 50 laps until a yellow flag period allowed the team to make five pit stops to make repairs to the car. After the stops, they restarted the race in 19th, the final car on the lead lap. From there, it was a steady climb back up the standings, including leading the race from lap 333 until making another pit stop on lap 337. Dale Jr. was running in ninth position and closing on the leaders when an engine failure ended the night early for the team.

Dale Jr's Quotes:
"I thought we were in really good shape the first half of the race. We were making some small adjustments and finding out how the car would respond. It looked like we were going to be in a great position to go for the win. Then, I was going around the outside of the 49 car (Hornaday) and he just lost it. The car broke loose and trapped me against the wall. Our car pushed like crazy after that, and we slowed down by more than a second per lap. Then, we came in under the yellow and Tony (Eury) Jr. (car chief) and the guys worked on the bodywork and the alignment, and then we were pretty damn fast again. I thought we could get back up there and make some noise, but then I felt the power steering go away and then all of the other belts on the engine blew apart. I heard 'em fly under the car on the back straight."

Best Radio Conversations

After hard contact with the car of Hornaday, Dale Jr. was forced to make several re-starts near the back of the back, where he had to deal with a variety of cars that were many laps behind. He expressed his concerns before a lap 277 restart.

Dale Jr: "I'm pretty decent here. The car was not too bad there at the end of the run, but it takes soooo long to get my confidence in the car after we stop. It's so loose for a long time Plus, these guys are crazy back here! I'm nervous about starting back here with all of this (stuff) in front of me. I couldn't run back here every week. Man, I dunno why these guys do a lot of the things they do. If I was that many laps down, I would just hang back and wait for some big crash so I could move up a lotta spots. But these guys are gouging at me on the restart and just doing crazy things."

Today's Stats
Started: 6th
Finished: 35th
Points Position: 12th
Laps Led: 1 time for 5 laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 132 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.96 seconds

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ricky Craven , Mark Martin