Daytona 500: Earnhardt Jr. Budweiser race notes

Day of Drama for Dale Jr. at Daytona No. 8 Budweiser Team 29th after Tire Woes and a Crash Ward Burton took home his first Daytona 500 victory Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in a bizarre race that saw numerous crashes,a red flag delay...

Day of Drama for Dale Jr. at Daytona
No. 8 Budweiser Team 29th after Tire Woes and a Crash

Ward Burton took home his first Daytona 500 victory Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in a bizarre race that saw numerous crashes,a red flag delay and moments more suited to Keystone Kops than the biggest race in American auto racing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among the favorites coming into the race, and ran easily in second place early in the race, but fell victim to two blown tires and a multi-car accident. Despite the repeated difficulties, the Bud team soldiered on, repairing the car during multiple visits to pit lane and the garage, finishing the race in 29th position, 29 laps behind the leaders. Elliott Sadler and Geoffrey Bodine finished second and third respectively, following Burton across the finish line.

The Key Moment: Dale Jr. ran easily in second place for the first 22 laps of the 200-lap race until debris on the track cut the right front tire on the Bud car while barreling toward turn one at more than 180 mph. Dale Jr. was able to keep the car from crashing, but the damage from the tire was extensive. Somehow the team remained on the lead lap after making four pit stops to repair the damage, but dropped to 39th position.

Even with a damaged car and with duct tape flapping in the breeze like a tattered flag, it took Dale Jr. only 12 laps to pass 29 cars and move back into the top 10. Another 20 laps later, he climbed into second position before making another pit stop on lap 81. One lap later, the second yellow flag of the race flew, allowing the team to make more substantial repairs to the front of the car. The lengthy stop dropped the team back to 35th position until a blown right rear tire on lap 93 sent the car sliding wildly for the second time. Dale Jr. somehow managed to keep the car going forward while careening through the infield grass. The shredded rear tire cut a brake line and damaged the right rear brake caliper, which forced the team to pull into the garage for repairs. After 12 minutes of welding, taping, hammering and mending, they returned to the race, 12 laps behind and in 39th position.

As if that wasn't enough fun and excitement, Dale Jr. was caught up in the tail end of a multi-car crash in turn one on lap 150. This time, the car returned to the garage on the back of a wrecker while Dale Jr. made a mandatory trip to the infield medical center, where he was checked out and released. The team again made band-aid type repairs and returned to the track, where they managed to remain until the conclusion of the race.

Dale Jr's Quotes:
"I think this shows a lot about our team today. The results won't show it, but we had a lot of little victories today. This team showed a lot of heart and hard work when they repaired the car again and again. I hope I was able to show some of that spirit too. We never gave up, and it may not look like it, but a lot of good things happened today. We want to be championship contenders this year, and I think this showed our commitment today. It was like a bunch o' junkyard dogs or something - we were going to keep trying and trying. I'm disappointed that we lost our string of finishing first or second in the last six races here (at Daytona), but if this is as bad as it gets this year, that's pretty damn cool. I had a fun weekend and it's going to be a great year for us.

"The car was awesome early on. We were able to just chill out behind (teammate) Michael (Waltrip). I think we ran over something and it cut the right front tire and I was just trying to hang on and not crash. Even with the car all torn up, I was still able to run with anybody out there. It felt like we passed the whole field and then we had the second cut tire. That was wild. It blew coming off of turn four. I think Terry Labonte (who was behind the No. 8 car) must o' thought the world was coming to an end with all of the rubber and pieces flying off the car. Once it blew, I had no control over which way the car was going, and then all of a sudden, I was trying not to hit another race car or anything on pit road, so the best bet just seemed to be running through the grass. (Stuff) was flying up into the car - I mean, look inside the car and there's dirt and grass and god-knows-what all over in there."

Best Radio Conversations
Dale Jr. (to the team during the final pace lap before the start of the race) "All right y'all this is what it's all about. I'm gonna have a blast out here so you guys may as well enjoy it from where you're at there in the pits. Oh, and the next time I come back around, I'll be going a lot faster."

Dale Jr. (as he moved into second place behind his teammate Waltrip, sounding like a small child imitating race car noises):

Tony Eury Jr. (car chief) (to the crew before they began the process of replacing the damaged nose of the car after the first blown tire.) "OK guys take a deep breathe. We're gonna go real slow and it's going to fit together real easy. You all know what you need to do."
Dale Jr.: (asking about the repairs) "Do you think this'll help?"
Tony Jr: "Yeah! A lot!"
Dale Jr.: "10-4. OK then, we're gonna go!"

Tony Jr: (after Dale Jr. had sped through the infield grass with a flat rear tire at approximately 160 mph) "That was about the coolest damn thing I've seen. That red thing was coming right at me through the grass and then you went past lookin' right at me."
Dale Jr: "That was wild. It blew right out of the corner. I mashed the brake pedal and there was nothing there. Nothin That's something I can tell my grandkids about. (suddenly realizing he has passed the entrance to pit lane) Oh I was supposed to come in the pits? I'll come in next time if that's cool."
Tony Jr: "10-4 next time by..."

-budweiser racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Geoffrey Bodine , Elliott Sadler , Tony Eury Jr.