Chicagoland: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Tony Stewart led 160 of 267 laps and held off Jimmie Johnson to win Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Dale Jarrett finished third and Jeff Gordon fourth. Stewart's victory was his first of the season, but it didn't come without ...

Tony Stewart led 160 of 267 laps and held off Jimmie Johnson to win Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Dale Jarrett finished third and Jeff Gordon fourth. Stewart's victory was his first of the season, but it didn't come without incident, as contact with Kasey Kahne midway through the race caused a multi-car crash and sparked an altercation between the two teams in the pit area. Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team was collected in the accident, but used a series of pit stops to repair the damage and finish the race in 22nd position on the lead lap. Dale Jr. remains in second place in the NEXTEL Cup championship standings, now 105 points behind leader Johnson.

Key Moments:
Starting 25th, it took only 17 laps to climb into the top 15, but the day soured when a series of pit-road mishaps (missing pit road and then speeding down pit road on the ensuing lap to warrant a pass-through penalty) buried the Budweiser car deep in the pack. The day turned decisively worse when contact between Stewart and Kahne on the lap-127 restart started an accident that damaged eight cars, the No. 8 Chevy being one of them. The Bud crew used four pit stops under that fifth caution to fix the front-end alignment and repair damage to the nose and right rear-quarter panel. When the race resumed, Dale Jr. was turning laps as quick as he had all day. The "beneficiary" award on lap 244 put him back on the lead lap in 23rd position, and he was able to clip off one spot in the final 15 circuits.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I can honestly say I'm wore out! I drove my butt off today. It was a good race, the car was pretty good, but I missed pit road and then sped down pit road, and it seemed like it all went downhill from there. I was involved in a crash a little bit. It knocked the tow out, but it really didn't drive that bad after we fixed the damage. I wasn't real confident coming into this race, because we were so bad yesterday in practice. But the car was pretty good at the start. I think we moved from 25th to 14th in just a handful of laps. That was pretty good I thought. We didn't get outrun here like we used to (the Bud team's best finish at Chicagoland Speedway is 10th in 2002), so it at least makes me feel optimistic that we made a little bit of a gain.

On the incident between Stewart and Kahne that caused the fifth caution:
"I didn't see what happened. I was pretty upset that I got hit from behind, but for all I know, the guy that hit me might've been punted himself. I'm a competitor, and Tony and I are real good buddies. I'm not going to criticize or critique the way a guy drives unless he gets into me. It's that simple."

Best Radio Chatter:

A two-tire pit stop on lap 40 was lightning quick... so quick the driver wasn't ready to go:
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Go, go, go, go, go. What are you waiting on?"
Dale Jr. (after pulling away): "Sorry. I don't like those two-tire deals. I wasn't ready to go."
Tony Jr. (laughing): "The boys said they're gonna have a talk with you after the race. You're killing their average."

During the fourth caution on lap 117:
Dale Jr.: "Am I one lap down or two?"
Tony Jr.: "Just one right now."
Dale Jr.: "I don't know how I sped (down pit road on the previous stop). I was trying to make sure I didn't miss (pit road) again. It's like they're kicking a man while he's down. (Long pause) Go easy on these changes. Our car is competitive. We're behind, and we gotta catch back up."

Still under the fourth caution:
Dale Jr.: "I've never missed pit road like that in my life. I'm soooo sorry y'all. And when we take two tires, you gotta keep reminding me that we're taking two tires."
Tony Jr.: "Yeah, I wasn't sure if you wanted me to hand you a sandwich or what."

Dale Jr. was the beneficiary of the "lap-down" rule when the eighth caution came out on lap 243:
Dale Jr.: "Am I the lucky dog?"
Tony Jr.: "Yeah, you lucked up!"
Dale Jr.: "What?! I'm not in this by myself. I'm in here driving my (butt) off."
Tony Jr.: "Well whatever you just did, you need to open another can of it."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Tony Eury Jr.