A Long, Hard Struggle For No. 8 Team, Bud Bunch Gains in Point Standings Rookie Kevin Harvick won his second race of the season, winning the inaugural Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. Harvick stepped into the late Dale ...
A Long, Hard Struggle For No. 8 Team, Bud Bunch Gains in Point Standings
Rookie Kevin Harvick won his second race of the season, winning the inaugural Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. Harvick stepped into the late Dale Earnhardt's team at Richard Childress Racing after the first race of the season and won at Atlanta in only his third Winston Cup start. Robert Pressley grabbed a career-best second place finish, while Ricky Rudd closed to within 18 points of the Winston Cup points lead with third place. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team came from the 36th starting position to finish 11th. Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett are now tied for the Winston Cup point lead with 2515 points.
The Key Moment: With a blazing fast car on the brand new 1.5-mile track, Dale Jr. was able to take advantage of early pit strategy to pull into the top five in less than 50 laps. The car remained fast until the engine ignition system began to falter on lap 109. Dale Jr. dropped back more than 10 positions, but was able to change to a back-up ignition box and continue. The engine never ran as strong the remainder of the race. The team also battled with suspension problems that caused handling difficulties on the high-speed track.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "We had a great car at the beginning and a great one at the end of the race, but we had ignition trouble and I just couldn't keep up with anyone on the straightaways. I could wheel the hell outta the car in the corners, but not enough to make up for being slow down the straights. We kind of hung in there and got a good finish even though we struggled. This is the same motor we won with at Texas (in 2000), so I guess we need to retire that one"
"I thought it was a long race I'd get kinda tired and then I'd catch a second wind and then I thought 'I need to finish this thing and go have a cold Bud with the guys.'"
"We fought with 'coil binding' in qualifying and the race. We were going into the corners with so much speed and so much g-force that the left front spring would compress to its maximum and the coils of the spring would touch. That makes it feel like you have no suspension at all and then it would bottom out. Try that every lap"
Best Team Radio Chatter of the Day
Dale Jr.struggled with a badly vibrating tire midway through the race. Dale Jr: "The car is pretty good, but I have a bad vibration. I need to get that tire offa here. I feel like I'm pretty decent otherwise. (He then starts speaking in an exaggerated, trembling voice, as if he were standing on a paint shaker.) eeeeeeevvvvvveeeeeeennnnnunnnnnderrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr theeee yellllllllllllllowwwwwwwwww flaggggg: baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad viiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiibbbbbbraaaaaaaaaaaaaationnnnnnnn"
Dale Jr. got angry when a significant amount of oil was dropped onto the track, but the yellow flag did not come out for several laps. Dale Jr: "There's oil ALL OVER the race track! It's on the inside groove all the way around the track. I hate it when they do that. Why do they wait so damn long to throw the yellow?! We were all running high to avoid it. That's dangerous when they wait so long to throw the yellow flag! I almost backed it into the wall I just about had a very high-speed impact with the wall and I would NOT have been happy about that." Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief, trying to keep the team focused on the task still ahead): "OK, from now on NOBODY complains or says anything about the engine. We are going to try and get the car as good as we can and we're gonna do the best that we can!" Dale Jr (still agitated): "That just makes me mad their mindset has gotta change.You remember back like 10 years ago when they'd blow the hell outta an engine and a big cloud of smoke would go up, and then NASCAR would throw the yellow right away? Now, the fluids on the track are just as bad, but they wait around to see if somebody's gonna crash before they do anything."
The clean up of the oil takes nearly 10 laps, but Dale Jr. is still not pleased. Dale Jr: "There's a pretty little line of oil all over this turn. Weeds will sprout up out of the asphalt before they find it"
During a late caution period, Dale Jr. breaks the "no talking about the engine" agreement. Dale Jr: "This motor ain't running right It's not turning any RPMs. If I'm in the draft, I haul ass, but when I'm by myself on the track, it feels like I'm up against a 200 mph wind. It's so bad that it feels like the wind is whipping in around my feet." Tony Jr (with comedic timing): "Uh yeah we forget to tell ya we put a new duct in the car this week that blows fresh air on your feet to try to keep you cooler" Dale Jr: "Oh (laughs loudly) that may be why I was feelin' that then!"
Seconds later Dale Jr: "This ain't no fun. They need to consult with me on the design of these tracks. They need to speak with me." Ty Norris (Team spotter): "Now you're soundin' like an Earnhardt!" Dale Jr. (getting impatient, talking like a parent speaking to a toddler): "Hey! Everybody that's a lap down needs to line up. Get up here! C'mon! Let's go!"
Race Notes / Tropicana 400
Points Points Points Since dropping to 26th place in early April, the team has used a strong,consistent run of finishes to climb back into 8th place. They are also closing in on the top five in points, trailing fourth place Rusty Wallace by less than 170 points.
Today's Stats Started: 36th Finished: 11th Current Points Position: 8th Laps Led: 0 Best Pit Stop: Lap23 / 4 tires & fuel / 13.98 seconds