Earnhardt Jr. struggles, rookie wins again; No. 8 Budweiser Team fights bad handling car, finish four laps down. Jimmy Johnson continued his incredible run of rookie success Sunday, winning the MBNA Platinum 400 Sunday at the Dover International...
Earnhardt Jr. struggles, rookie wins again; No. 8 Budweiser Team fights bad handling car, finish four laps down.
Jimmy Johnson continued his incredible run of rookie success Sunday, winning the MBNA Platinum 400 Sunday at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. It is Johnson's second win in 16 Winston Cup starts, matching the previous record for quickest multiple victories held by Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Unfortunately for Earnhardt Jr., his day in the No. 8 Budweiser car was anything but a success. Despite running as high as fifth place midway through the race, the handling on the Bud car went away and the team slid back in the field, lap by agonizing lap, until finishing 30th, four laps behind the leaders at the conclusion of the 400-lap grind. It is the fourth consecutive finish of 30th or worse for the team since they won at Talladega in April. The struggle has dropped them from fifth to 14th in Winston Cup points.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 30th, had a day that proceeded in the following order:
-- bad (dropping to 42nd place in the first ten laps),
-- not so bad (regaining 12 spots in less than 10 laps),
-- getting a little better (after the second pit stop, charging from 32nd to the top-20 before the next stop),
-- pretty darn good (a great pit stop launches them to 12th place, then Dale Jr. drives it into 8th place),
-- really impressive (the next pit stop pushed them into fifth place at the lap 215 restart),
-- just plain awful (Dale Jr. finds the car to be evil, and he drops from 5th to 19th in 20 laps),
-- and, finally, a disaster (the car is so bad the team has to make an unscheduled stop to try and regain some sort of speed)
-- Oh, and the engine also overheated, filling the cockpit with smoke on lap 320
Dale Jr's Quotes: "It's agonizing frustrating embarrassing whatever you want to call it. We were awful at the start, the rear tires were bouncing and chattering all over the place, but then we got the car working pretty good. Everybody else seemed pretty slow compared to us, and when we got up to fifth place, I think we all believed we had a shot at it (a victory). But from that moment on, I had no grip. I was out there hangin' on just trying to stay out of the way and not crash the thing. That's not how I enjoy racing. It sucks being that slow"
Best Radio Conversations
The usually talkative and conversational Dale Jr. was not in attendance today. Despite some rather hilarious but not-suitable-for-release-here remarks about the abilities (or, ahem, lack of abilities) of a couple of his fellow drivers, he managed to catch his breath during a late-race yellow flag.
Dale Jr: "I'm tellin' ya, I just about wrecked this thing offa turn two. That's about as close as you can get without wreckin' it. I don't know how I didn't crash into the inside wall. I was surrounded by lapped cars - and it wasn't me that saved it. I don't know how we didn't wreck"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Cuz' you're the MAN, that's how! Now get up on that steerin' wheel and c'mon!"
After fighting with the car for nearly 100 laps, Dale Jr. struggled to describe the characteristics to the crew.
Dale Jr.: "It's really, really, really, bouncy, bouncy, and really really tight. It's just rough - all over the place. We have to do something to get it to turn. I have no grip - no traction at all. I did not like that... period."
Points Position: 14th
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 125 / 4 tires and Fuel / 14.00 seconds