Mark Martin wins Dover, Dale Jr. fights back to finish third In one of the most bizarre races in recent NASCAR history, Mark Martin earned his first win in two years Sunday in the MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway. Tony Stewart,...
Mark Martin wins Dover, Dale Jr. fights back to finish third
In one of the most bizarre races in recent NASCAR history, Mark Martin earned his first win in two years Sunday in the MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway. Tony Stewart, who led 234 of the 400 laps, finished second. In one of their gutsiest and luckiest efforts of the season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team overcame a two-lap deficit with 55 laps remaining to finish third. It's the Bud team's sixth top-three of the season and 10th Top-10 finish in 13 races. Avoiding an 18-car pileup, a "lucky" dog award, and timely cautions (there were 11 total) aided the cause, but the Bud team aggressively took advantage of each break to earn the top-three finish. Dale Jr. maintains his leads in the Nextel Cup point standings for the eighth week, now 98 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson.
A brief spurt that propelled Dale Jr. from 26th to 12th early in the race faded quickly, as a "bouncy and rough" feel to the car caused driver #8 to fall a lap down to the leaders on lap 99. What seemed like an entirety of fighting for the "lucky dog" award, Dale Jr.'s breaks came on a series of odd cautions on laps 320 and 346 -- both of which jumbled the field almost beyond comprehension -- before earning his free pass on the 10th yellow at lap 374. From there Dale Jr. picked off three more positions and barely missed a runner-up finish after a thrilling battle with Stewart in the final 10 laps.
Dale Jr. quotes:
"That's one of the craziest races I've ever seen. We started off real loose, and Tony (Stewart) went on a tear there and lapped a bunch of people, including us. Every time we seemed to get ourselves in position for the lucky dog, Tony would go off and lap more people. We just couldn't get our lap back. Of course, there were a lot of crashes and a lot of confusion. In the past, I'd be shouting over the radio trying to voice my opinion, but today we just sat there and let everything sort itself out. I felt I was shorted a lap there earlier, but I feel good about the finish. We were able to gain a lot of points on guys who crashes. It's a good day for the Budweiser team."
On the timing of caution flags:
"NASCAR isn't just going to throw cautions every time someone spins, or someone hits the wall, or someone blows the motor. They give you a chance to keep on going and get off the track, as long as it isn't putting anyone else in danger. Today was just one of those crazy days. I saw (Casey Mears') engine blow, but I didn't see any oil, so I don't think they necessarily made a mistake by not immediately throwing the caution. Everyone is going to question NASCAR for what they did, but hell, if you think NASCAR did something wrong and you didn't enjoy the race, don't buy a ticket next year."
On widening his points lead:
"You get some breaks here and there, and we got them today. It sucks for Jimmie (Johnson), because he got driven into his situation. That was a massive wreck! We certainly didn't out-run him. The chips fell like they did today, we dodged a bullet, and this will be one of those races we'll talk about for some time."
Best Radio Chatter:
During the fourth caution on lap 108:
"This car is very, very bouncy! Real, real, REAL rough! I can't drive, I can't see... there are like five or six of the 31s (Robby Gordon) out there."
Ryan Newman's spin on pit road at the end of a series of green-flag pit stops caused the eighth caution on lap 320, and in the ensuing confusion, Dale Jr. was recorded as being two laps behind despite video clearly showing the 8 car ahead of the race leaders at the time of the caution. The field spent 25 laps under yellow as NASCAR tried to sort out the scoring confusion:
Dale Jr.: "Ahhh man, we're (screwed), aren't we?"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "It definitely didn't help."
Dale Jr.: "I want a top-10. Is that capable?"
Tony Jr.: "Let's let everything chill out and I'll find out ... the computer shows us two laps down.
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): This is screwy! It shows the 12 car as the leader, and he was the one who came down pit road, spun out, hit the wall, caused the caution, and he's still the leader?"
Dale Jr.: "They're gonna straighten this out, aren't they?"
Tony Sr.: "I don't think they know how to straighten out."
A huge 18-car pileup on lap 346 caused one of two red-flag periods:
Tony Jr.: "Wow, Talladega doesn't see wrecks like that one!" Stevie Reeves (spotter): "Great job avoiding that Junior. Wait till you see the replay."
Dale Jr. (in his car as it sits on the frontstretch): "I'm watching it on the big screen right here. BAM! ... Look, there goes my car! Great move!"
The 11th caution flew when leader Kasey Kahne spun in an oil streak and hit the wall:
Dale Jr.: "Damn, what is this world coming to? We may finish second or even win this S.O.B."
Tony Jr.: "It's 'game on' now."
Dale Jr.: "This reminds me of Richmond and Bristol back when Daddy was in the Wrangler car. Everybody wreckin' and raisin' hell."
While sitting on the front stretch during the red flag:
Dale Jr.: Sure damn glad to hear Barney Hall's voice on MRN (radio broadcast). He's been on there for years. I remember bein' 10 or 12 years old, playin' with Matchbox cars and listening to him call the races. (pause) But, nobody called a race better than Ken Squier, Chris Economaki and the foreign guy - what's his name?
Tony Jr: "Jack Arute?"
Dale Jr: "NO! He's not foreign."
Tony Jr: "(Jackie) Stewart?"
Dale Jr.: "No, he never called NASCAR races. It's a guy that called the 1979 Daytona 500..."
Stevie Reeves: (spotter): "David Hobbs.... I went over and asked Buddy Baker up here..."
Dale Jr: "Yeah! That's it. Squier could call the hell outta the race, and Hobbs was just funny..."