Dover: Dale Earnhardt Jr. race report

Newman wins Dover, Dale Jr. 11th No. 8 Budweiser Team fights forward from back of the field Ryan Newman held off Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte in a six-lap green-flag dash to the finish of today's Dover 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 ...

Newman wins Dover, Dale Jr. 11th
No. 8 Budweiser Team fights forward from back of the field

Ryan Newman held off Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte in a six-lap green-flag dash to the finish of today's Dover 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were forced to start from the back of the 43-car field after a crash during a Saturday morning practice session, but led the race late in the afternoon, ending the day in 11th position. The finishing position allows Dale Jr. to remain in second place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings, 171 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, who finished seventh today.

The Key Moments: The No. 8 Budweiser team qualified 12th in Friday's Bud Pole qualifying session, but a crash during practice on Saturday morning sent the team to the back of the 43-car starting field for the start of the race. The back-up car was the same chassis that raced last weekend in Charlotte, and Dale Jr. started today's race with no practice laps on the back-up car at Dover. A multi-car crash on the first lap almost cost the team heavily, but despite being knocked into the wall by another car, Dale Jr. was able to avoid heavy damage. The team made a pit stop on lap three to make a slight repair to the nose of the Bud car. From that point onward, it was a steady, gradual climb through the field. The team stayed on the lead lap throughout the day, finally climbing into the top-10 on lap 283 (of 400), and then taking the lead for two laps before the team made their final pit stop on lap 366. Dale Jr. started eighth on the final restart on lap 394, but lost several positions on the final lap to cars with four fresh tires.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "It's hard to come from the back like that, but we were able to stay on the lead lap, and work our way up. Since we hadn't turned a lap with this chassis before the race started, I think the guys did a great job of getting the back-up ready to race. We got better as the race went on, but I was frustrated on that last yellow flag. With the single-file re-start, the guys right behind us had fresh tires and we weren't able to hold them off. The car was really good on long runs 0x2022 we turned our best laps of the day in the final 100 laps, but we didn't have enough there in that last sprint to hold our position. I was really proud of the team today 0x2022 we did a lot of great things, but I was disappointed that we didn't end up with a top-10. We did lead a couple of laps to get the five bonus points, but you have to claw and fight for every position every week to stay in the hunt for the title."

Best Radio Conversations

When the race began with a multi-car crash, Dale Jr. was able to avoid serious damage. The yellow-flag for the crash was extended when rain fell for a short time, allowing Dale Jr. and the team to reminisce about past events...
Dale Jr: "How many times have we had to start with a back-up car?"
Tony Eury Jr (car chief): "Five? Richmond... Pocono... California... and then Milwaukee and Darlington in the Busch Series. We've always done pretty well when we did that... We would have won that Darlington race if they hadn't moved the finish line on us... (laughs)"
Dale Jr; "Oh, yeah. We should have won that Darlington race (in Sept. 1998). I was a little less aggressive in those days, not yet the steamroller that I am today... We shoulda won that... How about our first trip to Daytona, where I didn't have the sense to leave the pits hard so the car would get up to speed for the qualifying lap?! I just eased it on out there and your dad (Tony Eury, crew chief) was yellin' 'what's he doin?!?' heh heh I just thought that car would get up to speed a lot sooner."

As the race neared an end, Dale Jr. continued to pick up positions, often running laps faster than the leader. On lap 318, he asked for some feedback from his crew...
Dale Jr: "Talk to me Tony Jr.! Tell me something!"
Tony Jr: "Just keep doing what you're doing. No more, no less. You're doing great. You are faster than anybody but the 20 car (Tony Stewart)."
Dale Jr: (sounding surprised, then speaking as if his opinion of his car had changed) "oh... well then, it's just a lil' bit tight... is anybody else backing up to me?"
Tony Jr: "Yeah 0x2022 keep goin'... the 5 (Terry Labonte) and the 32 (Ricky Craven) are right there in front of you..."
Dale Jr: "OK then, I guess it's not driving too bad then..."

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Ryan Newman , Ricky Craven