Impressive Rookie wins for first time, Dale Jr. not seriously injured in hard crash. No. 8 Budweiser Team taken out by vicious crash, Dale Jr. bruised and battered. Rookie driver Jimmie Johnson, a native of El Cajon, California, grabbed his...
Impressive Rookie wins for first time, Dale Jr. not seriously injured in hard crash. No. 8 Budweiser Team taken out by vicious crash, Dale Jr. bruised and battered.
Rookie driver Jimmie Johnson, a native of El Cajon, California, grabbed his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory today at the NAPA 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. Johnson, who was already in the top 10 in Winston Cup points following the first nine races, led Kurt Busch and Ricky Rudd across the finish line. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were taken out of the race by a hard crash in turn four on lap 225. Earnhardt Jr. suffered a bruised and swollen right ankle, but was otherwise not seriously injured. Kevin Harvick, who was immediately in front of Dale Jr., had a cut or flat tire, causing his car to veer sharply into the No. 8 Bud car. The hard crash was among the most violent of Earnhardt Jr's career. The crash relegated the team to a 36th place finish and dropped them four positions in the point standings to ninth place.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr. started ninth and moved into seventh place in the first five laps before dropping out of the top 10 with a car that was tight (the front tires would not efficiently turn into the corners) for much of the remainder of the race. The red No. 8 dropped through the field gradually, and was lapped by early leader Kurt Busch on lap 112. After the pit stop, a poor set of tires dropped them further and further behind until Dale Jr. came onto pit road to make an unscheduled stop for four new tires. Less than 10 laps after the pit stop, a yellow flag flew, dropping the team two laps behind the leaders. From that point forward, the adjustments the team had made to the car began to take effect, and Dale Jr. was able to run among the leaders for the next 75 laps until the crash.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "That was about as hard of a hit as I've ever taken. It just took every bit of air out me. I could hear the guys on the radio, but I couldn't answer. I'm pretty damn sore and beat up, but I'll be OK for Richmond next weekend. They said Kevin (Harvick) blew a tire and I just couldn't avoid him."
"All I could say about the car was 'tight, tight, tight.' It just wouldn't turn. We actually got it goin' pretty well at the end of the day, but we were two laps behind and we were just scrapping to try and get a lap back and make-up as many spots as we could."
Best Radio Conversations With an ill-handling car for much of the day, the chatter between Dale Jr. and the team was sparse and not as lively as usual. During one segment midway through the race, the car was victim to a bad set of tires.
Dale Jr: "I've been tight all day, but now I'm loose. Real, real loose."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief); "Are you loose getting in (to the corners) or coming off?"
Dale Jr: "Everywhere. It's a real twitchy loose - the car just jerks around. The right rear tire is chattering it's so loose. There's just no grip at all. I'm slidin' around out here like a fish."
Two laps later
Dale Jr. "I say we sell this car, OK?!"
Ten laps later
Dale Jr. "I can't tell what's wrong with the car. It's like it's pickin' the tires up off the ground."
One lap later
Dale Jr. "I'm comin' in I think I have a right front tire goin' flat"
Post-crash exchange in the infield medical center:
NASCAR Doctor: "Alright, we checked ya out, and you look to be alright. You will still be able to have kids"
Dale Jr.: "Just not tonight"
C'mon C'mon Super Women
Despite a day on the track that the team would probably like to forget, there were some memorable guests in the Budweiser pit area during the race. Sheryl Crow was at the Speedway to sing a rousing version of the national anthem. After meeting with Dale Jr. before the race, she spent the first portion of the event watching the action from the Budweiser pit area. Crow had been a long-time friend and fan of Dale Earnhardt. Her new album is "C'mon, C'mon" on A&M/Interscope Records.
Also viewing the action pitside was Leeann Tweeden of Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show." Tweeden is a model and host of a variety of fitness, sports and extreme sports television shows on ESPN, Fox Sports Net and FX.
Money Won: $89,987
Points Position: 9th
Laps Led: ---
Best Pit Stop: Lap 135 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.91 seconds (Fourth stop of the day)