Fontana: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kurt Busch wins, Dale Jr. sixth No. 8 Budweiser team fights back from one lap down late in the race. Kurt Busch won Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, leading the last 21 laps to become the season's first repeat winner in 10 races.

Kurt Busch wins, Dale Jr. sixth
No. 8 Budweiser team fights back from one lap down late in the race.

Kurt Busch won Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, leading the last 21 laps to become the season's first repeat winner in 10 races. Bobby Labonte finished second and Rusty Wallace was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were forced to start at the back of the field after changing engines Sunday morning, but launched into the top ten in only 34 laps. After running among the top-five for much of the afternoon, the team fell one lap behind with less than 50 laps to go after an errant pit stop. After getting back onto the lead lap by racing past the leader on lap 216, a well-timed yellow flag allowed them to stay on the lead lap. In the final 32 circuits of the race, Dale Jr. drove from 18th to a sixth-place finish. Dale Jr. remains in second place in Winston Cup points, closing to 44 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Dale Jr. has finished sixth or better in seven of the last eight races.

The Key Moments:

The team qualified in the eighth position on Friday afternoon, but was forced to start at the rear of the field after an engine change on Sunday morning. The poor starting position did little to impede their run into the top-five, taking fifth-place for the first time on lap 46 (of 250). The red No. 8 car remained in the top-10 until a disastrous pit stop on lap 204 forced them to return to the pits on lap 205 to tighten lug nuts on the left-front tire. The extra stop put them one-lap behind, but a yellow flag on lap 209 allowed Dale Jr. to line-up inside of the race leader on the restart, and then raced back onto the lead lap by lap 216. After dropping to 18th place, Dale Jr. passed a long list of cars (occasionally going four-wide to do so) and escaped several accidents in the final laps to finish sixth.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"I'm happy about finishing sixth, but yet I'm still really (mad). On one hand, it was a championship-type day. We had to overcome a lot to make that lap up and then make it through to sixth-place. When we had trouble, we did what we had to do to get back all we could. That's what you need to do to win a title. We even gained a few points on Matt (Kenseth, the points leader), so we'll take it and go on.

"I'm mad because we had a great car and we really screwed up in the pits. We cannot keep doing things to beat ourselves like that. I want to apologize to my crew guys because I was really, really hard on them on the radio, but at the same time they need to know that we can't keep doing that. If you really, really want it, you have to not make mistakes. I want to win the championship so much, and I know my guys do too, but we need to WANT it. WANT it. "

Eight, Twenty and Three Doors Down
You can see the music video "The Road I'm On" by the band Three Doors Down on MTV, MTV2, Much Music (Canada) or online at MTV.com. The video stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart racing through the streets of Concord, NC and then around the Concord Motor Speedway. (By the way kids, don't try this at home. And, on a personal note, why doesn't SOMEBODY pick up that blonde!?) This is the third major music video that Dale Jr. has appeared since early 2002... (Matthew Good Band/"Anti-Pop" and Sheryl Crow/"Steve McQueen" were the others.)

Star Power
Among those who visited the Dale Jr. motor coach this weekend were actress/model Susan Ward, the Dahm triplets (from Junior's Playboy.com photo shoot) along with their father, actor Skeet Ulrich, and a relatively unknown actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appeared to promote a new movie.

Best Radio Conversations

The team changed engines Sunday morning, and they became concerned after Dale Jr. reported some strange sounds in the car on lap 30.

Dale Jr: "This engine doesn't sound very good. It sounds like it's got a hole in the exhaust or it has an old 4-inch exhaust pipe from a late-model car. I let off going into the corner, and it just kind of goes 'pow... pow... pow... powpowpowpowpow... But, it seems to run alright otherwise."

The team made a change to the handling of the car during a lap-92 pit stop. Dale Jr. was not happy with the way the car responded to the changes.

Lap 104:
Dale Jr: "I may have a tire going down. I'm really, really loose."

Lap 108:
Dale Jr.: "It's not as bad now, but these tires just feel harder somehow."

Lap 110 (after losing two positions)
Dale Jr: "I'm sideways! Everybody's running me down! I know you wanted to try some changes, but I'm not a guinea pig... let's get this (car) tightened up!"

Lap 116
Dale Jr.: "Alright, I feel a little bit better. It's not so bad anymore, but it's still loose. I have my hands full out here, but I can handle it... I'm a PROFESSIONAL racecar driver."

Have you checked out the King of Beers internet site at: www.Budweiser.com? It's all about the music, the sports, videos, games... and the beer!

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch