Jeff Gordon Wins Again, Dale Jr. 19th at Charlotte Long, Strange Night for the Bud Team Jeff Gordon won for the second week in a row and continues to lead the point standings in the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup after winning the Bank of...
Jeff Gordon Wins Again, Dale Jr. 19th at Charlotte
Long, Strange Night for the Bud Team
Jeff Gordon won for the second week in a row and continues to lead the point standings in the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup after winning the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte. Gordon won the race on a green-white-checkered flag finish despite almost running out of fuel after Ryan Newman crashed while leading on lap 331. Chase contender Clint Bowyer finished second while Kyle Busch finished third. It was a long and frustrating night for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No, 8 Budweiser team. They started the race after superb practice sessions Friday, and moved as high as fourth place approximately one-third of the way through the race distance, but soon began suffering with an ill-handling car. Using a total of 12 pit stops for the night to make many adjustments to the red Bud machine, the car never responded in a manner that solved its evil ways, and Dale Jr. finished in 19th place. Dale Jr. remains in 13th-place in the standings, 122 points ahead of Casey Mears with five races remaining in the 2007 season.
Dale Jr., starting 22nd and bursting with confidence about his racecar, found out early on in race conditions it would take at least 10 laps before the Budweiser car would really come alive. He passed his way into the top-10 on lap 32 and then climbed into seventh position by lap 65 on a long green-flag run. Several green flag segments and a couple of wicked-fast pit stops pulled him all the way into fourth position on lap 120, but that would prove to be his highest placement of the night as the handling became worse and worse. Making multiple pit stops during the many yellow flag periods, the car deteriorated until dropping as low as 27th place by lap 191. Several additional two-tire pit stops allowed the Bud team to regain some positions, but were never truly competitive in the final 100 laps of the 337-lap event.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"We had such a great car Friday, we finished early during both practice sessions. We didn't change a thing before the race, yet the car was different. We may get it back to the shop and find out something failed or broke. We started the race with a car that was so slow for the first 10 laps of a run, but it would come to life and we'd watch the rest of the field slow down while we were able to gain on them. If the whole race was run under green flag conditions, we might have had a chance, but with so many cautions (15 yellow flag periods, plus a long red flag period), there was no way we could stay up front. Even when we were as high as fourth place, the car was just never right. Going into the corners, the nose of the car would slide up the track. The right front corner was coil-binding, and that means it won't turn. I could hear the spring in the right front corner making all kinds of noises. It was like Morse code - tap tap tap... We tried all kinds of things, and I know the crew tried everything they could, but sometimes you have one of those races when you can't hit on the sweet spot. I hit the wall pretty hard sometime after lap 270 - so on top of all that we had a racecar that was completely flat on the right side for the last 60 laps or so. Once you hit that hard, it's almost impossible to get the car to handle again and we did good to hang onto the lead lap."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. - know for his appreciation of the past and also hosts the historical "Back in the Day" television show on Speed Channel - offered a unique driver's eye perspective of Bobby Labonte's No. 43 and its special pink and yellow paint scheme for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The car's color scheme harkened back to a special driver and unique car from the early/mid-1990s.
Dale Jr. (after a lap 68 pit stop under the yellow flag): "Every time I see that 43 car in my mirror, I think it's Neil Bonnett in the Country Time Lemonade car!"
Using the high lane that he has become known for, Dale Jr. climbed into seventh place on lap 89...
Tony Gibson (crew chief): "That lap was two-tenths (of a second) better."
Dale Jr: "I know. But it's real dangerous; I gotta run real close to the wall to do that and the car's pushing too bad to do it every lap.... The front end is just chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter push push push! The tires on the front feel like they're made of concrete. Man! I am all over the place. I can't get no rhythm!"
During the red flag period on lap 324, Dale Jr. seemed to be impatiently playing as he drove his car to the inside of the track and then inched it around to the outside of teammate Martin Truex Jr. - coming to a stop between Truex' racecar and the outer wall.
TJ Majors (spotter): "Martin wants to know what you're saying to him..."
Dale Jr: "I'm saying 'thumbs down on the red Bud car tonight...' I can hear the fans talking but I can't tell what they're saying."
Majors: "Oughta be good this time of the night!"
Dale Jr: "Yeah, I think they said 'Happy Birthday' to me." (Dale Jr. turned 33-years-old on October 10.)
After the final pit stop of the night, Dale Jr. commented on the psychedelic effects of the oil and other debris that had collected on his windshield. Or perhaps he had been subjected to too many fumes during the seemingly endless marathon of a race...
Dale Jr.: "Looking out this windshield - the track looks like a hologram! It's like 'where's the track?' 'Ah! There it is!' My windshield's SO dirty!... Did you see me? I was driving next to the 43 car (during the yellow) and I was touching his car!"