Daytona Shootout: Earnhardt Jr race report

Johnson earns first Budweiser Shootout Victory Dale Jr. rallies to seventh-place finish Jimmie Johnson led 16 of 70 laps and beat Ryan Newman by .199 seconds to win the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in front of an estimated...

Johnson earns first Budweiser Shootout Victory
Dale Jr. rallies to seventh-place finish

Jimmie Johnson led 16 of 70 laps and beat Ryan Newman by .199 seconds to win the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in front of an estimated crowd of 85,000. It is Johnson's first Shootout victory and earns him an entry into all future Shootouts as an active driver. Johnson's teammate, Jeff Gordon, finished third in the caution-free event followed by Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished seventh, overcoming a severe electrical malfunction in the first segment. The Bud team made major changes to the electrical system during the mid-race intermission. The finish is Dale Jr.'s worst in five Shootout appearances. His average finish in five Shootout starts in 3.6.

Key Moments:
A transmission-change forced Dale Jr. to start the race in the rear of the field, and an electrical problem kept him there for most of the opening segment. Dale Jr. reported a "popping" sound in the engine almost immediately and guessed it to be a burnt plug wire. That led to an eventful 10-minute intermission for the Brew Crew, as they changed all the plug wiring and installed a new ignition box. It apparently fixed the problem, for Dale Jr. started the second segment in 18th, fought his way to 13th by lap 27, and became a contender for the lead when he passed Ryan Newman for fourth on lap 31. A loose condition eventually prevented the Bud car from making any further advances, but three-wide action mid-pack left Junior with plenty to fight for. With drafting help from Mark Martin, Junior battled among the top-10 and earned three spots on the final lap to finish seventh.

Dale Jr. Quotes:
"The car was fun to drive. It was a little bit loose, but it was fun. I was worried about hurting the right rear tire like yesterday (during the first practice session), but I was out there slidin' it around there, havin' a blast. We ran in the middle (line) a little bit and it was pretty cool. It's fun to really have to race and really work for it, ya know? It doesn't bother me at all. We needed more time. I got toward the front there and got shuffled back. The last couple laps, we were movin' back up there. The three-wide stuff kept ... well, I don't know. It's a chance game and I didn't play it very good tonight I guess.

On the problem during the first segment of the race:
"We had an electrical problem. We changed everything they'd let us change. I don't know what it was, but we fixed it. Maybe we could have had much better track position, but we moved right on up there the first seven laps."

"Look, this car was the worst car here at the test, and I think we came a long way. I know the 500 car is better, and I was pretty happy. I had a lot of fun. Me and Mark (Martin) tried to work up there, but it seemed like the bottom (line) was working. It seemed like the outside line - you could get to third, and then that was it. You just couldn't push any further. The inside line was just jumbled up. You had a choice: you could get down there and beat on each other's bumper or get on the top and struggle."

On the team hanging together:
"Yeah, I told ya they were laid back. We were going back out there and if we didn't fix it, or if we still had the problem, we were going to have to park it. But... it was fixed! That was good and we were able to get up and race a little. I'm tellin' ya, when we unloaded that car to test, it was the worst car out there."

Best Radio Chatter:

Almost immediately Dale Jr. reported a problem with the motor, causing him to drop to the rear of the 20-car field:

Dale Jr.: "I don't know what it's doing. It feels like it's blowing up or something. It's popping; do you hear it?"

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Yeah, can hear it from the spotters stand."

Dale Jr.: "It's gotta be a wire or something ... burnt plug. I can hear it sparking."

Lap 18
Pete Rondeau (crew chief): "Junior, you still hearing it now?"

Dale Jr.: "Ooooh yeah! (pause) I think a wire got burnt.JThat's what I'm hoping. How long's the break?"

Rondeau: "Ten minutes, Junior. Ten minutes."

As Junior rolled off pit road at the conclusion of the 10-minute intermission, his crew chief reported that no problem was found just in observation.

Rondeau: "We just tried everything. Just hope we got it.

Dale Jr.: "If it's still there, what do you want me to do?"

Rondeau: "See what it feels like, we don't need to tear this car up."

Richie Gilmore (VP of motorsports, DEI): "Yeah, we don't need to tear this up in a heat race."

With the problem obviously fixed with the series of changes, Dale Jr. battled among the top-10 for most of the final segment. After taking the checkered flag in seventh:

Rondeau: "Nice drive, Junior."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah, that's fun. That's fun. ... The Daytona 500 car is better. I know it is. This back-up is a pretty damn good car."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin