Daytona Shootout: Earnhardt Jr race report

Budweiser Race Report: Junior finishes 2nd in Shootout DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2004) -- Dale Jarrett used a final-lap pass of Kevin Harvick and a hefty push from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win his third Budweiser Shootout Saturday night at ...

Budweiser Race Report: Junior finishes 2nd in Shootout

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2004) -- Dale Jarrett used a final-lap pass of Kevin Harvick and a hefty push from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win his third Budweiser Shootout Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. Jarrett's last-lap pass capped a thrilling six-lap sprint to the finish after a red-flag period stopped the action for approximately 15 minutes to repair a gate that had been damaged in a multi-car crash. Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished second, while Harvick was third. Jarrett has now won the Budweiser Shootout three times, more than any driver except the late Dale Earnhardt, who won the season-opening all-star race six times. Dale Jr., who earned $113,000 for the second-place finish, has now finished sixth, second, first and second in four Shootout starts.

KEY MOMENTS: Dale Jr. bolted from his 19th-place starting position into the top-five by the fifth lap. Junior finished the first 20-lap segment in fifth position, then climbed as high as second in the final 50-lap dash. A pit stop with 20 laps to go, and another with eight to go (during the red-flag period) helped free up the Budweiser Chevrolet enough to charge from fifth to second in the waning laps to secure a runner-up finish.


"I did all I could to push him (Jarrett) to the front. I pushed as hard as I could, and then once he was in the lead, it was his job to hold me off. He's been a good friend to me on and off the track, so if I can't win, I'm happy he could win it, and that I could help him win. You don't win these races alone, and at least I played a role, ya know?"

"The top line was where it's at. If you were on the inside lane, you were really crowded with no room for error, but the outside was good. You have a lotta room to work up there. I was in the outside line at the end, but I just wasn't leading. Maybe one more lap and we coulda had him.

"There was a lot of pushing and shoving and a lot of blocking and weaving around, so it was pretty exciting out there. Some of the guys ended up in the fence, and some of them crashed their cars up a little bit. Once you weed them guys out, you could get up there and have some pretty civilized racing.

On whether other drivers were leaving him hung out to dry in the draft:

"Yeah, I didn't want to use that as an excuse, but I'm good with that. I was pushing people up front, and as soon as they would get an opportunity it seems like, they would ditch me. At any time in the race, I never really had a strong car behind me. When Jamie (McMurray) was behind me, you could tell by the attitude of his driving that he wanted by me, and he was gonna take any hole I left open. When you're blocking, or seeing what they're doing behind you, you're not gaining on anybody.

"I'm one of the only guys in the top-15 that hasn't bought my own jet or helicopter, and I never will as long as I have friends like Dale to keep haulin' me to Martinsville. When I went to see him in victory lane, he told me I could count on a ride to Martinsville any time..."

"We ran that first run, and kinda came up on through there, and were just chillin' out. Jimmie Johnson went into the middle, and I followed him, and it was like flipping a lightswitch in the car. It couldn't go nowhere. I had to lift quite a bit in the corners just to keep the car underneath me. We made some changes, made the car a little to tight for the next run, and then that last run wasn't even long enough to wear the tires out. My car would push real good, but I couldn't seem to get anybody to close up behind me."


During the 10-minute break following the first 20-lap segment:

Dale Jr: "I'm outta control... this car is outta control. It's like there's no air on the car... I don't know what to tell ya- don't know what to expect with this car. It has no grip at all - sometimes I lose the front and sometimes the back. If somebody runs really tight on my right rear it's really bad. I don't like what we got here - I don't like the aero..."

Dale Jr. (as the entire field swerved to avoid safety trucks on the circuit during the slowdown lap): "Whoa. Is this where we do the 40-yard dash through the archery range?!"

Dale Jr. was unhappy with some of the maneuvers of his fellow drivers during the opening 20-lap segment:

"Damn, that's OK to drive that way goin' for the win, but I don't know about that during a 20-lap segment. Some (idiot) holds you down low with only a foot or so to the apron... I'm gonna start knockin' some doors off here if they don't give me some room. When a car is on me like that, it's like I'm driving a sprint car through the tri-oval... I'm loose and hangin' on."

The race was red-flagged with less than 10 laps remaining to repair damage to a gate along the backstretch after a multi-car accident. During the red flag, Dale Jr. and his new spotter, Stevie Reeves, discussed changes for the remainder of the race.

Dale Jr: "Stevie, I need you to pick up the pace when you're saying 'outside... outside... outside' and then someone comes up the middle and makes it three-wide. I'm not technically listening to you, if you know what I mean, so I need to hear the change in your voice if the situation changes like that."

Reeves: "I just don't want it to sound like I'm panicked if I pick it up too much..."

Dale Jr: "Nah, don't do that. Just be a touch quicker when the situation changes. Don't change the tone - just the pace of your voice so I know there's a change."

Also during the late-race red flag (a foreshadowing of Junior's push to send Jarrett to the win.)

Dale Jr: "This car can suck-up really good behind the other cars. I'm darn good at pushing anyone else. But, nobody will push me- they just sit there like they can't get up to me. Is that something we should work on, or do ya think nobody's helpin' me?

NOTES: This is the first time Dale Jr. has not led a lap during the Shootout ... Dale Jr., still made a trip to Victory Lane, only this time it was to congratulate Jarrett for his win. Once there, the entire No. 88 Robert Yates Racing crew simultaneously thanked the driver of the No. 8 Bud Chevy for the push that led to the win.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Robert Yates , Stevie Reeves
Teams Yates Racing