Jeff Gordon wins again; No. 8 Budweiser Team 16th in rain delayed Southern 500. Jeff Gordon, who ended the longest victory drought of his career last week at Bristol, made it two victories in a row Sunday at the Southern 500 at historic...
Jeff Gordon wins again; No. 8 Budweiser Team 16th in rain delayed Southern 500.
Jeff Gordon, who ended the longest victory drought of his career last week at Bristol, made it two victories in a row Sunday at the Southern 500 at historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Gordon dominated the second half of the marathon, rain-delayed race, and crossed the finish line ahead of rookie Ryan Newman and Bill Elliott. Gordon's victory pulled him into second place in Winston Cup points, as the chase for the championship continues to get closer and closer. Points leader Sterling Marlin is now less than 200 points ahead of four other drivers with 11 races remaining. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran among the top five early in the race, but faded to a 16th place finish on the lead lap.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting in 15th based upon points (Bud Pole qualifying was rained out Friday), wasted very little time in launching forward in the field. The race began under the yellow flag to help dry the damp track, and when the green flew for the first time on lap 19, it was only 21 more laps before Dale Jr. slotted into the top five. After that peak, Dale Jr. began struggling with a car that would change characteristics throughout the day. The Bud team made adjustments during each of the eight pit stops, but were never able to regain the balance and speed that the car possessed during the first segment of the race.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "How long has this race been around? (52 years) Well, this one felt like it lasted for about 52 years It was like 500 laps instead of 500 miles. This track is so tough that it challenges you to concentrate completely on every lap. It can really bite you - but I'm proud that my car is clean - no dents anywhere. Believe me, that's an accomplishment at this place. I feel like we didn't have a good finish, but I did all I could with the car that I had. That's the only way I can feel satisfied - that I did all I could do."
"The car was great at the start of the race, and we tried all day to get back to the way that the car felt in the beginning. I know we were the fastest car on the track at several points during the day, and it would run, run, run, but then all of a sudden one more lap and it was done. It was like the handling would just switch off. We'd get really loose coming off the corners, so the car was sliding and I wasn't able to get the throttle down to get a good run down the straightaways."
Best Radio Conversations The rain delay made a long day even longer, but Dale Jr. was able to see the silver lining in the afternoon during a late-race caution period.
Dale Jr. "The windshield looks like an oil painting after all of the rain and the (stuff) off the track."
Dale Jr. and the team's car chief, Tony Eury Jr. discussed the changes made to the car during the first half of the race.
Tony Jr: :"Whatever you did during that first run, you must have done the same during the third run. You had a good pace and the lap times were better."
Dale Jr.: I could run hard on that first run, but I've been real careful not to run too hard early on after the pit stops. I can't seem to run hard early. I want to save my tires, but I'm not able to make up the ground on those guys if I take it easy."
Tony Jr: "Well, you're doin' good, but we haven't helped you in the pits."
Dale Jr: "Naw man, that's OK. You made an educated guess. It sounded smart. I'm just moving around the track on every lap just like you guys are moving and changing (the set-ups) on each pit stop. I'm just doing things so we can stay on the lead lap and have a chance to do some stuff at the end."
Tony Jr: "I'll tell ya when you have a good lap time"
Dale Jr: "I can tell when I have a good lap, but I can't seem to be consistent lap-after-lap. I can't seem to get into turn three the same each time. It's not the car, it's me. I go in too easy. I want to go in harder, but I don't want to hit the wall like we did here a couple of years ago. In turns one and two, if the car is decent, I'm pretty good"
Started: 15th (based on points position. Bud Pole qualifying was rained out)
Points Position: 15th (no change)
Money Won: $67,185
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 107 / Stop #2 of 8 / 4 tires, Fuel / 14.3 seconds