Jimmie Johnson Wins Dover, Dale Jr. 31st Bad Brakes Equal Bad Break for No. 8 Budweiser Team Jimmie Johnson led teammate Kyle Busch across the finish line in Sunday's MBNA 400 at Dover International Speedway to take the lead in points following...
Jimmie Johnson Wins Dover, Dale Jr. 31st
Bad Brakes Equal Bad Break for No. 8 Budweiser Team
Jimmie Johnson led teammate Kyle Busch across the finish line in Sunday's MBNA 400 at Dover International Speedway to take the lead in points following the first two of the ten races to the Nextel Cup championship. Rusty Wallace was third. What started as a very promising day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser race team turned sour on lap 20, when the brake pedal went to the floor and Dale Jr. was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop while running in second place. The stop cost the team seven laps to the leaders, and dropped them to 42nd position. The team was able to gradually regain 11 of those spots, finishing the day 31st.
Starting 4th (the third top-five starting position of the season and the second in two weeks), Dale Jr. quickly climbed to second place until suddenly slowing on lap 20 when the brake pedal went to the floor on the Bud car. The resulting pit stop cost the team seven laps and forty positions. After returning to the track, the Bud car consistently turned the quickest laps of the entire field. Following a lap 180 restart, Dale Jr. was able to pass the leaders and pull away from the field, regaining one of his laps. However, he later lost the lap when he received a surreal pass-through penalty from NASCAR for a violation under a yellow flag when Junior handed some shop rags from inside his car to a NASCAR official (see the full explanation below). With a fast car, Dale Jr. was able to reclaim as series of positions as the afternoon wore on, finishing 31st.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"That was the best we've ever run here, no question. That car was haulin' all day. It's great to have a car you can really wheel like that. I mean, we've led a lot of laps here and we've won here too, but we've never been that good from start to finish. The brake problem is frustrating -- the guys said they couldn't find out what was wrong when we stopped. It got better but every once in awhile the pedal would go to the floor. We'll take it back home and see if we can find out what it was. They told me this was a system brought over from one of the #15 cars (the second DEI Cup team), so it may have just been something from the change-over. It's like a kick in the gut to look at the sheet and see we're 31st, but we're going home knowing we would have been right up front without that problem."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. ran in second place and was closing on the leader when he suddenly slowed on lap 20.
Dale Jr: "I'm pitting! Outta brakes!
Tony Eury Jr (crew chief) "OK, cmon in. we'll check all the brake lines."
Dale Jr: "A bad vibration in the right front. No brakes in the right front."
Tony Jr: "Check the lines and see if anything's rubbing on the right front...OK, go... everything looks good."
During a yellow-flag period on lap 104, seven laps down.
Dale Jr. "I'm sorry. I gotta get my (stuff) together."
Tony Jr: "OK. No problem. Take a deep breath. We had a bad start to the day, but we're going to get what we can."
Dale Jr: "The brake pedal went clear to the floor. There was all kinds of noise in the right front. I wouldn't have come in if I didn't think it wasn't real serious. I'll drive as hard as I can. I'll drive 100% every lap. Let's get what we can."
After passing the race leaders, Dale Jr. regained a lap the old-fashioned way: he earned it. When the yellow flag flew on lap 202, the team celebrated a minor victory on a frustrating day.
Dale Jr: "YEAH!!!!"
Tony Jr: "Good job driver. You've been the quickest car for most of the race."
Dale Jr: "The car seemed pretty decent. It just took off there!"
Dale Jr. began to complain about the comfort of his racing seat just past the 100 lap mark, and the problem worsened as the day continued on a high-banked track that puts tremendous g-forces on the driver in each corner.
Dale Jr: "I don't know if I can take it any more. This seat is really painful."
Tony Jr.: "Hang in there, buddy. We'll get you a pad or something on the next stop. You're really doin' it out there. You passed every lapped car that started in front of you.
Dale Jr: "I don't know if I can get a pad stuffed-in back there. Maybe just hand me some rags to stuff behind me. There's nothing supporting my back. The front of the seat is good: it supports my legs but the back is what hurts. I'm really cramping up with no support."
The seat issue created a bizarre situation when the yellow flag fell on lap 270. The team passed a wad of rags to Dale Jr. during the pit stop. The no. 8 car left pit lane as the first car among the lapped cars, but Dale Jr. pulled over at the end of pit lane to hand the extra rags to a NASCAR official. As he regained his position among the lapped cars, he was penalized by NASCAR for improperly lining up under the yellow.
Tony Jr: "They say we have to do a drive-through penalty. They say we passed cars under the yellow, but there's no way we could have because we were the first car out of the pits."
Dale Jr: "I pulled over to hand some of those rags to an official and then I went back up into my position. If that was on the lead lap, that would have been OK, but they weren't paying attention to us. They missed us, so we'll give 'em that one call. It's a really bad call. They weren't paying attention."
Tony Jr: "10-4. I didn't see you stop. All I saw was you were the first lapped car out of the pits."
Dale Jr: "Why would I just pass cars like that?! 'Hey, I think I'll just drive up to the front of the line!' I wouldn't just do that."
Tony Jr: "OK. You're doin' great. We've been among the top-six fastest cars all day. We really are learning a lot and what we need to do next time we come back."
As the race neared the finish, the leaders became less patient with racing against the laps-down Bud car, even though he was fast.
Dale Jr: "The 6 car (Mark Martin) came down on me on that restart like I wasn't even there. What do you want me to do with these leaders?"
Tony Jr: "I would stay out of their way. Let them battle it out among themselves. Just let 'em go and then drop in about eighth or so. Just stay near the front so we can stay out of trouble. The 42 (McMurray) and the 24 (J. Gordon) just crashed, so we can gain some points. Not a lot -- but a few, so let's be smart."
During yellow flag periods, Dale Jr. is known to examine the details of the cars around him.
Dale Jr; "Man, that 5 car (Kyle Busch) is really jacked up in the back."
Tony Jr: "Yeah, you could fit a fence post under there."
Dale Jr; (suspiciously) "Yeah. Somethin's goin on there..."