Fontana II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kahne Wins California, Dale Jr. Second Bud Team Grabs Career-Best California Finish, Moves to Sixth in Points Kasey Kahne led the most laps and won Sunday night's Sony HD 500 from California Speedway in Fontana. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No.

Kahne Wins California, Dale Jr. Second
Bud Team Grabs Career-Best California Finish, Moves to Sixth in Points

Kasey Kahne led the most laps and won Sunday night's Sony HD 500 from California Speedway in Fontana. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team scored their best-ever finish at Fontana, leading six laps and finishing second. Clint Bowyer was third. The finish for the Bud team moves them to sixth place in the point standings with one race remaining before the Nextel Chase for the Cup. Dale Jr. is now unofficially 77 points ahead of 11th place Kahne heading into the final race, which means a finish of 16th or better will secure a spot in the Chase for the Bud car. This is the fifth top-three finish of the season for the No. 8 team.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 6th (tied for his season-best start), raced into second place by the 10th lap despite troubles with the radio in the Bud car. A rugged restart in lap 32 dropped Junior to 13th place, but began a trend that would repeat throughout the night: the car was not very fast early in a run on new tires, but after 10 laps or so, would become the fastest car on the track running a very high line, traversing the corners only inches from the wall. A key moment of the night was a decision to take only two-tires on a lap 175 pit stop, which put the Bud car in the lead, but eventually led to an ill-handling car that dropped Dale Jr. back into the pack. An erratic lapped car almost crashed into the No. 8 car on lap 204, dropping him to 16th position with 45 laps to go, but the remainder of the race remained under green-flag conditions, allowing Dale Jr. to repeatedly set the quickest lap time of any car in the field, and to pass 15 cars by the finish, including getting past the car of Clint Bowyer on the final lap for the second place finish.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"It was a great night, a great job by my entire team. We're peaking at just the right time, and we want to keep that momentum going where we can put ourselves in position to win the Chase. We've got all of the tangibles to win - the team, the cars, the driver and the pit crew - so we'll see if we can keep it going. I'm so proud of my guys because they work so hard and the cars are really showing that effort each race.

"It's great to get my best finish here. Any second place is a great finish anywhere, but especially here at California. The car was great - I think we were the fastest car but we just couldn't get the track position to get up there to catch Kasey. We weren't that great for the first five or ten laps on new tires, so I was just hanging on trying to hold my own, just stay out of the way. But then, the car would come in and I would go up to that top groove and we were really good up there. I think we're down on power to some of the other teams, so running that top line really keeps the momentum up and makes it really launch off the corners."

"The Chase is a great deal for NASCAR. I think it's great for the sport. It's creating a lot of drama and a lot of excitement when it used to be a really boring part of the season. (Going to Richmond) it's so close in points, and any of those guys can knock you out. So, you have be smart and whoever gets in deserves it. I like Kasey (Kahne, 11th place) a lot, so I don't want to look at him as an adversary. Any of us all together there in the points can have trouble."

Best Radio Chatter:

With the race winding toward its conclusion, Dale Jr. found himself cut-off by a slow lapped car on lap 204, dropping him to 16th place. In the remaining laps, Dale Jr. turned the quickest time of the field nearly every lap in the final 45 laps.

Dale Jr.: "OK, I'm good. The car's turning good. Let's pray for a long long long green flag run here!"

Steve Hmiel: "Alright... 40 laps to go. Go get 'em!"

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "You're doin' it! Just keep goin!"

***

Ten laps later, and gaining ground quickly.

Dale Jr.: "What place am I in?"

Tony Jr: "10th... You're kickin; butt! Keep diggin'... That pack in front of you goes all the way to third place!"

***

Ten laps later, now in third-place...

Tony Jr: "Alright dude, good job! You're third place. Elliott (Sadler's) up there- and he's a second slower! Second place in front of ya!"

***

Ten laps later, running second to Kahne...

Dale Jr.: "Don't let me run out (of fuel!)"

Tony Jr: "We're not. We're good."

***

After pitting on lap 240 and taking two tires, returning to the track in ninth place with nine laps remaining.

Dale Jr: "Tell me where I am. I want information! Who's behind me?"

Tony Jr: "Nobody's coming from behind ya. You'll be second place. There are a lot of guys ahead of you who didn't stop and they can't make it to the end."

Dale Jr: "Alright! Let me know when I pass people!"

Tony Jr. "We will. Jimmy (Elledge, crew chief for the 41 car driven by Reed Sorenson) is leading, but he's on the Make-a-Wish program to make it to the end. Keep digging. You're fifth now, and three of those guys didn't stop."

Dale Jr: "Alright! Top-five!"

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kasey Kahne , Clint Bowyer , Reed Sorenson , Tony Eury Jr.