Daytona Duel: Earnhardt Jr race notes

Tony Stewart Wins, Dale Jr. Second in Qualifier Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Bud Team Continue Amazing Streak Tony Stewart won the first of the two 150-mile qualifying races Thursday afternoon, giving him a second victory in five days at ...

Tony Stewart Wins, Dale Jr. Second in Qualifier
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Bud Team Continue Amazing Streak

Tony Stewart won the first of the two 150-mile qualifying races Thursday afternoon, giving him a second victory in five days at Daytona International Speedway after also winning the Budweiser Shootout last Saturday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet followed Stewart across the finish line while David Gilliland was third. The second-place finish continues a streak for Dale Jr., as he's finished no worse than fourth place in eight years of Daytona qualifying races. He has finished first or second in six of the eight races. The finish means Dale Jr. will start Sunday's 49th annual Daytona 500 in fifth position, on the inside of the third row.

Today's finish was by no means the usual, as Dale Jr. was spun out by a former teammate while taking the lead on lap 17, spinning the No. 8 car through the infield along the backstretch. Other than some minor cosmetic and mechanical damage, the Bud car was able to creep slowly around the track with several flat tires. Despite dropping one lap behind, the team was able to make repairs, add fresh tires and send Dale Jr. back onto the track. After regaining a spot on the lead lap, Dale Jr. recovered from 31st place to slice his way back to the front of the field with the less-than-perfect race car.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 11th, took advantage of a quick two-tire pit stop on lap 11 to jump into second place on the lap 13 restart. He followed former teammate Michael Waltrip for several laps before making a dramatic pass into the lead on the outside in turn two. However, Waltrip's car slid up the track and hit the Budweiser machine, sending the No. 8 car sliding and spinning down the track. Dale Jr. managed to stop the car before hitting the wall, and despite several flat tires, was able to creep slowly back to the pit lane. The team lost a lap and fell to last place for the restart, but regained their lap because of the "lucky dog" rule with the next yellow flag on lap 23. Once he was back on the lead lap, Dale Jr. worked his way through traffic, and after making multiple pit stops, was back into the top-15 by lap 41. After another swift pit stop, Dale Jr. climbed into the top-10 by lap 44, and then the top-five on lap 49. Once Junior reached the second position behind Stewart on lap 55, he remained in that position until the lap 63 finish. (The 60 lap scheduled distance was extended by a Green-White-Checkered Flag finish.)

Dale Jr. Quotes: "I am really happy. I hope my guys are happy, we worked really hard. We overcame some adversity Hope that pleases them because I am pretty pleased. My crew did a great job today. They made a lot of pit stops to make sure everything was straight. When you spin around, the pressure changes inside the car and the crush panels blow out. You won't see damage to the car, but you can still cut down a tire. The car drove pretty good, even after the spin. We probably have some suspension components that are bent that we have to change because the steering wheel was a little off and the steering was a little darty.

"Tony (Stewart) is fast. You saw the cream of the crop there at the front of the field. We have a pretty good car and I was really proud of my team today. That 38 car (David Gilliand) was really fast too, and he drove well. Made some wise decisions. It's a (Robert) Yates Rocket. On Sunday, if the 20 (Stewart) or the 38 gets into the lead, I don't know if we can pass 'em.

About being spun by Waltrip: "I was surprised. Michael was a sitting duck, and I was past him into the lead. I didn't even look in the mirror. I was going straight, and then I was sliding toward the fence. Sometimes people get real tight coming up off that corner. It is a bad place to lose a nose and it happens a lot. I am suspect that is the case. I don't think Michael would do anything like that intentionally to anybody, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt, mainly because we didn't hit the wall."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. made an aggressive and clean pass into the lead on lap 17, but was hit by the car of Michael Waltrip.

Dale Jr.: (after bringing the car to a stop without hitting the wall -- and with an equal dose of bemusement and irritation ): "He turned me-- (long pause.) Huh-- (pause) That's weird."

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "You're OK. There's no damage. Just c'mon around."

Dale Jr: "We may lose a lap. I don't wanna tear the body off this thing. I think we lost all four tires. I gotta go slow."

Eury Jr: "You're OK. Just get it down here and we'll look at it. It doesn't look like a lot of damage from here. (to the crew) OK guys, we'll lift the car and get four new tires on it first, then if we have time, we'll some back in and check the tow (alignment)."

Dale Jr: "When ya get this thing back in the garage later, really check everything out. I think it shoved the rear end over real bad. Just check everything real close."

Tony Jr: "We will. We're already making a list here. Get a good feel if the car is OK and if it's funky, we'll really check the tow on the next caution. We'll fix it."

Dale Jr.: "There are no real bad vibrations. It pulls a little to the left, but it's not bad--"

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , David Gilliland , Tony Eury Jr.