Jeff Burton Crosses Line First at Phoenix Dale Jr. Suffers From Engine Problem Late in the Race Jeff Burton won his second race of the season and his second consecutive race at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, topping the field at...
Jeff Burton Crosses Line First at Phoenix
Dale Jr. Suffers From Engine Problem Late in the Race
Jeff Burton won his second race of the season and his second consecutive race at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, topping the field at the Checker 500k. Mike Wallace scored a career-best second place finish, while Ricky Rudd finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran among the top ten for close to 100 laps, but engine problems with less than 30 laps remaining dropped the second-year team out of the race. The engine was damaged after a piece of debris launched through the radiator, causing the engine to overheat and eventually expire. Dale Jr. brought the ailing car to pit lane, but the powerplant was only able to muster enough RPMs to sound like an old sewing machine.
The Key Moment: Starting deep in the field from the 30th position, Dale Jr. gradually moved his way through traffic, moving into the top 15 in less than 50 laps, and then using a quick pit stop by the Bud team to climb into the top 10 on lap 134. He stayed among the lead pack until another pit stop on lap 203. When the Bud car entered the pit area, the engine stalled and would not re-fire until the crew pushed it down the pit lane. The long stop cost them eight positions, and they remained near the top 15 until the broken engine dropped them out of the race entirely on lap 287.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "It's heartbreaking, but we had some debris damage the radiator and the engine just wouldn't last in this heat. I guess I had something like 20 laps of warning - I could tell it was beginning to heat-up and smoke a little bit. During the last yellow flag period (on laps 270-274), one of the cars behind us radioed that we were leaking fluid, but we really couldn't see anything. We weren't that concerned right then, but it was pretty clear we had a problem when everyone blew past us pretty easily."
"The car was good early on, but it just seemed like it wouldn't turn. It was tight and I just couldn't get the front end to cooperate. It seemed like when we'd make changes (on pit stops), it just wouldn't help the car like we hoped it would. We were pretty strong early on, and we could keep up with the lap times of the leaders, but we just didn't have the combination to pass a lot of people."
The Tonight Show - Monday Night
Dale Jr. will be a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno tomorrow night (Monday) on NBC. Dale Jr. will make his first appearance on the popular late night talk show along with other guests John Travolta and the band Alien Ant Farm.
Intermittent interference and poor reception on the team's radio system reduced much of the communications to quick bursts, rather than long conversations. After several cars suffered blown tires, the team discussed the issue during a yellow-flag period.
Dale Jr: "I wonder what's up with all of those tires?"
Tony Eury (crew chief): "Our tires look fine - we should not have a problem. We're hearing some of the other teams are seeing tire temperatures above 290 degrees, but we're looking really good there. I think the guys that are having trouble are running more camber than we are."
Dale Jr: "OK, that's good, but we still need to think about how we can make this car turn in the middle. We need to get off the corner better if we're gonna have a chance to get into the top five."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "It looks like your lap times are better."
Dale Jr.: "Yeah, it drives like it wants to be better, but it's still tight off. I'm just tellin' ya because I want you to fix it, OK?"
Points Points Points
The early exit dropped Dale Jr. to seventh position in the Winston Cup point standings, falling one spot. With four races remaining in the season, Dale Jr. is less than 200 points behind fourth-place Dale Jarrett.
Money Won: $73,248
Points Position: 7th
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 133 / 4 tires and Fuel / 14.01 seconds