Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) Budweiser Chevrolet team finished 13th today in a rain-shortened K-Mart 400 at Michigan Speedway. Tony Stewart won his second straight Winston Cup race, followed by Dale Earnhardt in second...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) Budweiser Chevrolet team finished 13th today in a rain-shortened K-Mart 400 at Michigan Speedway. Tony Stewart won his second straight Winston Cup race, followed by Dale Earnhardt in second and Bobby Labonte in third. The event ended after 194 (of a scheduled 200 laps) when heavy rain hit the 2-mile oval track for the second time during the race. The race was initially halted for more than 90 minutes on lap 151 after a monsoon-like drenching. Starting from the sixth position, Dale Jr. dropped back quickly and dramatically, falling to 23rd by the fourth lap. A poor set of tires rendered the Bud Chevy helpless against the onslaught of faster cars. After a pit stop on lap 19 to change tires and adjust the chassis, Dale Jr. began a long, gradual climb up through the field from 27th position. Steadily passing cars the remainder of the race, Earnhardt Jr. finished first among a long list of cars one lap behind Stewart.
A weakened Dale Jr. was able to finish the race distance despite suffering all weekend with the flu. "I felt better today (Sunday). I have to thank the staff at the care center here at the track - they took good care of me. They gave me an I.V. Saturday and some more fluids this morning and it really helped me feel better."
About dropping back so quickly at the start: "The car was so loose that first set of tires, we were just hangin' on. We missed on the initial set-up. After that we were pretty good, although the car felt like it was skating in all four corners. It's not like the car was loose or tight, it would just skate."
Dale Jr. is the only Winston Cup driver to qualify in the first round (top 25 positions) in every race this season. His sixth-place effort in Friday's Bud Pole qualifying gave him his 11th top-ten in 14 races. Bill Elliott, who has ten top-10 starts, is second best in that category, followed by three drivers with eight top-ten starts.
Dale Jr. led three laps and finished seventh in Saturday's International Race of Champions (IROC) event. Suffering from a severe case of the flu, Earnhardt Jr. dropped back after contact with eventual winner Eddie Cheever on lap 32 (of 50) caused his car to slow.
Earnhardt Jr was the top-finishing rookie for the 6th race this year, but he remains second in rookie points to Matt Kenseth. Dale Jr. is now 15th in Winston Cup points, less than 100 points out of 11th position. Sunday's 13th place is the worst finish for the Bud crew in five races, a sign of the team's improving consistency.