Third Place for No. 8 Budweiser Team at Dover Mid-Race Spin Fails to Knock Dale Jr. Out of Contention, Gordon Grabs Dominating Win Jeff Gordon dominated the MBNA 400 at Dover Downs Speedway Sunday afternoon, leading 371 of the 400 laps for an...
Third Place for No. 8 Budweiser Team at Dover Mid-Race Spin Fails to Knock Dale Jr. Out of Contention, Gordon Grabs Dominating Win
Jeff Gordon dominated the MBNA 400 at Dover Downs Speedway Sunday afternoon, leading 371 of the 400 laps for an easy victory. Following Gordon across the finish line were Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) drivers Steve Park and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The finish is the third top-five of the season for the Budweiser team (matching their total for the 2000 season), and moved them from 10th to ninth in Winston Cup points, less than 100 points behind seventh place. Dale Jr. led twice during the afternoon, marking the seventh race the team has led in the first 13 events of the season.
The Key Moment: The worst moment of the day also turned out to be the best (or perhaps the luckiest!?), as Dale Jr. spun the red No. 8 car coming off of the fourth turn on lap 178. Whether he was really lucky or really good, the car straightened from its wicked slide and Dale Jr. was able to continue without hitting anything or being hit by another car. The team quickly replaced the two flat tires caused by the spin, and then made several other adjustments to the car. Restarting 15th, Dale Jr. suddenly had a much-improved car and barreled through the pack in the remaining 200 laps to gain his second third-place finish in the last four races.
Dale Jr's Quotes: About the spin on lap 178: "Things got a lot better after that spin! We were just really really loose at that point. We had tried to fix it, but I was just hangin' on until the rear end finally kicked out. It somehow stayed off the wall, which was mostly luck. After that, we made some dramatic changes to correct the car, and it was great the rest of the day."
About charging from 15th to 3rd: "It was fun. We had the best car there at the end, and we were even closing on the 24 car (Gordon) and Steve (Park). We had a decent car all day, but we just couldn't get the track position. Gordon just ran off and left us, but from second place on back it was bumper-to-bumper. It makes it fun when you're running that close, plus if you're slightly better than the car in front of you that's really fun. A lot of the lead lap cars came into the pits (during a caution period beginning on lap 362), but we had pitted late and had only about five laps on our tires. That's about the time the tires are just coming in, so we decided to stay out. Once we had the track position (restarting fifth), we got out of the heavy traffic and were able to move up."
"We're happy with anything in the top 10 right now, but to have (teammate) Steve Park up here with me makes us all happy. We're trying to run better than our points position each week, so finishing better than 10th was the goal. We just need to find a way to get (teammate) Michael (Waltrip) up here at the front again. I think they're just a new team trying to gel. It took Park and his guys several years, and its looking like the Bud guys and I are starting to gel as well, so we just need to give Michael's team a little time"
Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day
Dale Jr. (on lap 80): "This thing is sooooo (bleeping) loose y'all." Tony Eury Jr (car chief): "This is a 400 mile race. There's a long way to go. We'll get it fixed," Dale Jr: "Do whatever you have to do, but I'm about ready to spin out." Tony Jr: "10-4."
-Understatement Award' after spinning on lap 178, but continuing without hitting anything: Dale Jr: "Uh, I guess you can only go so fast at this place."
During the pit stop to replace the tires flattened by the spin: Dale Jr: (bragging a bit after saving the spinning car): "Can I get an 'attaboy' for that save?"
Tony Jr., who changes the front tires during pit stops, stands up and offers Dale Jr. a high-five as he exits the pit lane in time to remain on the lead lap.
The top-three finish, combined with the five bonus points for leading the race, moves Dale Jr. to 9th place in Winston Cup points. Since finishing 31st at Bristol in March, the Bud bunch has ripped off five top-10 finishes. They have six top-10s this year (and one 11th place), which is already one more than they were able to grab all of last season.