Joe Nemechek Wins Strange Race at Rockingham Dale Jr. 15th After Late Race Surge Joe Nemechek grabbed his second career Winston Cup victory with a dominating performance Sunday at the Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C.
Joe Nemechek Wins Strange Race at Rockingham
Dale Jr. 15th After Late Race Surge
Joe Nemechek grabbed his second career Winston Cup victory with a dominating performance Sunday at the Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. Nemechek led 196 of 393 laps, and beat Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) driver Kenny Wallace across the finish line by more than six seconds. Johnny Benson finished third in a strange race that changed complexion on lap 177 when a yellow flag left nearly the entire field one or more laps behind. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team spent much of the first half of the race in the top ten, but, like many of the fastest cars, fell victim to the caution flag that fell immediately after their second pit stop of the day. There were no more yellow flags the rest of the day. After struggling with an ill-handling car for more than 100 laps, Dale Jr. moved up nine positions in the final 53 laps to gain a 15th place finish.
The Key Moment: Starting 21st, Dale Jr. made it look almost easy, as he launched the red Bud car into the top 10 in less than 65 laps. He climbed as high as fourth position consistently using a low line around the corners while most of the other competitors slid to a much higher line. The top-10 run continued until the team made a pit stop on lap 173, only to see the caution flag come out on lap 177. This put them at the end of the lead lap, and was a foreshadowing of the remainder of the afternoon. They dropped as low as 24th place before climbing nine spots by the end of the race.
Dale Jr's Quotes:
"How about Kenny (Wallace, DEI teammate, who won the Bud Pole and finished second)?!? He's a good guy who stepped into that car after Steve Park was injured, and it's not an easy situation for anyone. But, Kenny has a great attitude and he's fun to be around and he's helping to keep the Pennzoil team on track. It's a great finish for them and for DEI."
"We were great early on, but the car went away from us after that first pit stop. I was outta control the rest of the day. This track is so difficult because it just chews up the tires - then you hang on for dear life until your next pit stop. You have cars that are laps down coming in for fresh tires and then they come back out a second or more per lap faster and they just blow past you like you're standing still. It takes a lot of concentration to keep from knocking the wall down each lap."
"It wasn't a great day for us, but we held our position in points, so maybe it's good to just look at the bigger picture there and go on to Homestead..."
Radio Chatter (the best moments of radio conversation during the race)
In the first turn on the first lap, Kyle Petty made contact with the right front fender of the No. 8 Bud car, spinning Petty into the wall.
Dale Jr: "I didn't think he (Petty) was comin' down like that. But I guess I thought wrong"
Dale Jr. struggled with the handling of the car for much of the second half of the race. The Bud pit area was located at the center of turns one and two, so Dale Jr. began describing the handling of the car while passing the Bud pits.
Dale Jr: "I'm tight on entry into the corners. Lemme show ya (Dale Jr. continues to hold the "talk" button down.) It's tight in to right. HERE. Right here, guys."
Points Points Points
Dale Jr. remained in seventh position in Winston Cup points with three races remaining on the seemingly endless Winston Cup tour.
Money Won: $75,223
Points Position: 7th
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 257 / 4 tires and Fuel 13.78 seconds