Edwards Wins, Dale Jr. Third in "Bizarre" Dover Race Bud Team Runs Strong, Avoids Trouble to a Top-Three Finish Carl Edwards won Sunday's wreck-strewn Dodge 400 at Dover International Speedway, pushing his way near the top of the Nextel Cup...
Edwards Wins, Dale Jr. Third in "Bizarre" Dover Race
Bud Team Runs Strong, Avoids Trouble to a Top-Three Finish
Carl Edwards won Sunday's wreck-strewn Dodge 400 at Dover International Speedway, pushing his way near the top of the Nextel Cup point standings, where the top six drivers are separated by less than 20 points after two races in the the 10-event Chase for the Championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were among the fastest cars throughout the day, but relied upon some good timing and a lucky break or two to finish in third place after being one lap down to the leaders as late as lap 381 (of 400 laps). The Bud team ran among the top-10 nearly the entire afternoon, reaching as high as second place midway through the race before surviving two red flag periods and 13 yellow flag periods after a number of multi-car crashes. The finish is the seventh top-five and the 11th top-10 finish of the season for Dale Jr. and the Bud bunch.
Dale Jr., starting 21st, needed only 12 laps to gain 10 spots and then climbed to 10th-place on lap 21 (followed by a joyous observation from the driver on the radio: "Top 10!"). The Bud car remained in the lead pack the rest of the afternoon, using a fast car and strong pit stops to run as high as second place. Only an errant pit stop on lap 205 sent them back to 11th position, but Dale Jr. drove his way back into the top-five by lap 288. Even with a fast car, the dominant car of eventual winner Edwards put the Bud team one lap down on lap 347. A series of crashes and yellow-flags allowed the team to regain their spot on the lead lap on lap 381, and then managed to avoid the huge multi-car crash on lap 386 which damaged many of the other lead lap cars. The Bud team restarted in third position, lost a spot to Greg Biffle, but then Dale Jr. made a daring pass of teammate Mark Martin on lap 399, assuring the team of its second top-three tally of 2007.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"That was fun! I think we deserved to get a top-three even though we probably should have finished eighth or so. We had a good car today - and we jumped right up into the top-10 and stayed there all day. I was happy we made it through the wrecks and had a fun day. It was a bizarre and weird race. We got a top-three and we'll take it! There have been so many races this year when we should have been in the top-three where we blew up or had some sort of late-race issue that stopped us, and it's about time we have some sort of positive result to reward this crew of guys that have busted their (butts) all season.
"The Car of Tomorrow is odd. Someone seems to figure it out and just run away with the race, especially here at Dover. I mean, I was racing for seventh place and all of a sudden the leader (Edwards) was lapping me! I was like 'Damn!' It really surprised me, and I would have been fighting harder than I was had I known he was so close! And I wasn't even the Lucky Dog (awarded a lap back under yellow) that time, but we fought hard and got back on the lead lap and then just avoided all of the wild carnage ahead of us. It's good to be invited to the media center again! (the top-three finishers are required to make a visit to the media center after the race...)
Best Radio Chatter:
The team had a strong day on pit lane, with only one stop longer than 14 seconds, and they sent Dale Jr. back into action on lap 150 in second place. The Bud car exited pit lane alongside the car of Kurt Busch.
TJ Majors (spotter): "Are ya sure you beat him there?"
Dale Jr: "I dunno! I'm gonna pretend I did! It looked like my 'A-post' was ahead of his 'A-post!'"
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "They showed it on TV. Looks like we're ahead."
Majors: "NASCAR says the 8, then the 2. We beat 'em... I swear you were 10 mph faster than the 16 (Greg Biffle) when you passed him!"
Dale Jr: "I was - but we blew two right-rear tires here last time because we ran so hard up in the high groove. It's faster, but I won't go up there unless I have to."
Majors: "10-4. It just looked cool!"
Dale Jr. was fast most of the race, but was very frustrated with inconsistent sets of tires which meant completely unpredictable handling every time the team changed tires on a pit stop.
Dale Jr: "You guys need to keep on top of your (stuff)! You have such short-term memories. Every time we take air out of the right rear tire, I spin out, Tony Jr!"
Eury Jr: "10-4. We made very small changes."
Dale Jr: "Y'all make me work too hard! I'm bustin' my (butt) to keep in the top-five!"
On lap 205, the car fell off the jack during a pit stop and the team dropped seven positions in one swoop...
Dale Jr: (encouraging the crew, with tongue firmly in cheek...) "That'll be alright. It's just a natural mistake. Humans make mistakes. An average man would get upset and give up. But we're not average!... how many cars on the lead lap?"
Eury Jr: "17."
Dale Jr.: "Awesome. We only have to beat 17 cars, That's easier than beating 43 cars!"
Majors: "The 99 (C. Edwards) is restarting right behind you. He's been fast all day, but he had to go to the end of the longest line."
Dale Jr: "These tires feel like a different set each time. I mean it's as if they're a different compound or they're made from a mold from different years. They're never the same!"
Dale Jr. hit the wall on lap 215 while racing hard to get back to the front. He worried about the damage, but mused about it later when the car proved to be undamaged...
Dale Jr: "There's a difference between running hard and smart and being an idiot. I think I crossed the line that time!"
During the first red flag on lap 370, most of the cars parked on the track pointed down the banking, while Dale Jr. parked at an odd angle - pointing up against the wall near the end of the front stretch, creating a frenzy of fans rushing to the catch fence to catch a glimpse of NASCAR's most popular driver.
Eury Jr: "Do you have all of your switches off?"
Dale Jr: "Now I do.... (long pause while searching the crowd) Where's all the girls?!" (after the cars were restarted) "I wanna know who I'm racing for position."
Eury Jr: "The 25 and the 5 will be the cars."
Dale Jr: "I know - I mean when we get going, OK? You guys may not wanna listen these final laps. You're gonna hear some nasty (stuff) because the car's pushin'! It's gonna be tight!"
The climax of the event took place on lap 386, when a huge wreck took out many of the cars ahead of Dale Jr., who had luckily restarted at the back of the longest line of cars.
Dale Jr: (seeing some his rivals involved and realizing his good fortune at missing the crash) "Oh! The 2 (Kurt Busch) is in it! The 2 and the 12 (R. Newman) are in it!"
Majors: "Good job."
Eury Jr: "Looks like the 5 (Kyle Busch) got some of it too. And (teammate) Martin (Truex Jr.) was in it. You may line-up fourth for the restart."
Dale Jr: (while parking for the second red flag of the day) "Tell NASCAR I'm just parkin' in the shade. I don't wanna get in trouble!"
Majors: "No scenery over there?!"
Dale Jr: "Nah. None over there either!... what a bizarre race!"
Majors: "Yeah, I'll agree with that."
Dale Jr: "It was a spectacular scene when I came up on it!... (suddenly remembering something else) "Ahhhhhhhhh - Tony Jr! The answer to the question you asked earlier today is Jello Pudding Pops! I like those!"