Daytona Twins: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Waltrip and Earnhardt finish 1-2 in Duel at Daytona Dale Jr. to start fifth in Sunday's Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start Sunday's Daytona 500 in the fifth position, this after finishing second in the first of two qualifying races...

Waltrip and Earnhardt finish 1-2 in Duel at Daytona
Dale Jr. to start fifth in Sunday's Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start Sunday's Daytona 500 in the fifth position, this after finishing second in the first of two qualifying races Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. Dale Jr. took the lead on the final lap and was within eye-shot of his second consecutive Duel at Daytona victory, but DEI teammate Michael Waltrip made a pass on the outside of the No. 8 car on the last turn and outstretched him to the finish. Waltrip beat Earnhardt by .030 seconds and will start third in Sunday's Great American Race. Tony Stewart, who won the second qualifying race Thursday, will start fourth, and Dale Jr. fifth. This will mark Dale Jr.'s fifth consecutive top-five start at Daytona.

Key Moments: A quick charge from 21st to fifth to start the race became an afterthought when a severe loose condition nearly resulted in a crash on lap 17. Dale Jr. dropped as far back as 14th and was content to stay there until a pit stop on lap 30. A four-tire stop in 12.8 seconds catapulted the Bud team to seventh, and a two-tire stop on lap 44 (16 laps from the finish) bumped Junior up to second. From there he jockeyed for position in a high-speed chess match and, with drafting help from Waltrip, took his first lead of the race on the final lap coming off of turn 2. But it was a lead he could not hold. Waltrip mustered a big surge off the final turn, forcing a side-by-side drag race to the checkered flag. Dale Jr. hugged the bottom line, but Waltrip edged the nose of his Chevy forward and won by half a car-length.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "We've got to work on this car for the 500. It still needs some work. Michael helped me a lot out there, and to finish second I was pretty lucky. He shoved me up to the front, and that's the only way we got up there. He did what he had to do to win the race. We were running hard there in the middle of the race, and the car got so loose I couldn't drive it. I had to back it off a couple times; just had to get back there and regroup. I'm proud of Michael and all those guys. I knew they were going to be tough to beat."

What did you learn today?

Nothing I didn't already know. We finished where I thought we would in this race -- up front. We were just real bad on the handling. I hadn't had a bad problem handling wise yet, and today it surfaced pretty big. Had a fast car, but a little loose in the corner. We'll have to work on it. Tires get real terrible after about 20 laps. Guys will probably be coming in for four tires any chance they get."

Take us through that last corner?

"We got a lot of help from Michael those last couple laps. He was right on me through the corner and everything. He pushed me to the lead, and I thought I might be able to hang on, but he got a run. It was the last corner on the last lap, so I wasn't even about to put a block on him in a qualifying race. He tapped a little on the side of me and did what he had to do. It was a lot of fun, lot of excitement. Glad we finished first-and-second, and I'm glad I got to race for the win."

Best Radio Chatter:

The search for drafting partners began almost immediately, as Dale Jr. worked his way through traffic from the 21st starting position:

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Greg Biffle in front of ya there, he said he'd move up to the front with you."

Dale Jr.: "Alright, just tell him to go. I'll push, we'll have the 12 behind us shortly. I think the top is working real good ... good deal."

A big wreck on the backstretch involving Kasey Kahne brought out the second caution and gave the Bud team an opportunity to fix a nagging handling problem:

Pete Rondeau (crew chief): Junior, how are you there? You were loose, and now you're tight off?"

Dale Jr.: "I'm still loose. You still need to fix the loose, I just push off now ... Don't feel like I got any air in it."

Steve Hmiel: "Pit road is open, you're coming for sure, right Pete?"

Pete Rondeau: "Come on."

Dale Jr.: "How many laps to go?"

Steve Hmiel: "You're coming to sixteen to go ... Everybody's coming, Pete."

Pete Rondeau: "Junior, we're taking two (tires)!"

Dale Jr.: "Alright, two."

Pete Rondeau: "Go on me, go on me ... three, two, one, wheel

straight, foot on the break. Two tires guys, wait on me Junior."

After the stop:
Dale Jr.: "I slid that left side pretty hard."

Pete Rondeau: "Ten-four, I think part of that was the tape here on pit road. I think we'll be OK, unless you feel something... Your left tires on that first stop were real good, real good."

During the third caution on lap 54, six laps from the finish:
Dale Jr.: "Does it look like brother Kerry's got a chance?"

Steve Hmiel: "I haven't been watching. Let's see here. He's 13th right now. He should be OK."

Today's Stats
Started: 21st (out of 28 cars competing in the first race)
Finished: 2nd
Led: --
Race Earnings: $38,188
Best Pit Stop: Stop 1 of 2 / Lap 30 / four tires and fuel / 12.80 seconds

-budweiser/dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Kasey Kahne