Gordon wins Brickyard 400, heartbreak for Bud team Blown tire on last lap sends Dale Jr. to 27th-place finish Jeff Gordon won his fifth race of the season and fourth career Brickyard 400 Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, dominating the...
Gordon wins Brickyard 400, heartbreak for Bud team
Blown tire on last lap sends Dale Jr. to 27th-place finish
Jeff Gordon won his fifth race of the season and fourth career Brickyard 400 Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, dominating the field by leading 122 of 160 laps and surviving a green-white-checker finish at the end. Dale Jarrett finished second and Elliott Sadler third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were in sixth place and in prime position for its 13th top-10 of the season before the left-front tire of the Bud Chevy blew out on the final lap. Dale Jr., competing in his first full race since suffering burns in a sports-car accident July 18, limped the car home in 27th, this after running in the top-10 for much of the day. Despite the finish, Dale Jr. remains in third place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, now 240 points behind point-leader Jimmie Johnson and 143 behind second-place Gordon.
Key Moments: Starting fifth (his eighth top-five qualifying effort of the year) Dale Jr. climbed to as high as third and raced among the top-10 throughout the first 40 laps despite a lingering tight condition in the race car. Under the fourth caution at lap 46, the Bud team decided to get aggressive with the adjustments, willingly giving up track position in order to perform major wedge and spring alterations to Bud Chevy. Dale Jr. restarted 20th and slowly clawed his way through the field, avoiding several wrecks along the way. The team's final pit stop, a four-tire service call on lap 124, put Dale Jr. in eighth place. Turning lap-times as quick as he had all day, he raced his way to sixth and was beckoning for a top-10 finish before his last-lap misfortunes.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
It's a hell of a heartbreak to have a tire cut down on the last lap. We had a real good run going, sitting there in sixth place and trying to make it to the end and leave here with a top-10. My car was the best it had been all day 20 laps earlier, but those last few laps it got real tight again, it was bottoming out in every corner, and I knew something bad was happening. I could just feel the car leaning on that left-front (tire). It's tough, man, but it was a good run for us. I'm proud of the guys. This was a new chassis for us, and we did a lot of adjusting on it to make it fast. The motor was awesome. I've got to hand it to our motor department, because it was turning some high RPMs all day and just hauling ass. Even though (the race) didn't end the way we wanted it to, I hope this puts us back on the right track. We're going to leave here to go test at Michigan, see if we can figure some stuff out there, and get ready for Watkins Glen."
On if his burns affected him today:
"No, I didn't have any problems with my burns. I was driving the car as hard as I could. I really wanted a top-10. I don't think I could've driven it any harder."
Best Radio Chatter:
In 10th place when the seventh yellow flag flew on lap 87, Dale Jr. had to take evasive action to keep from running into the No. 20 Chevy of Tony Stewart:
Tony Eury Jr. (as driver 8 pulled out of the pit box): "Go hard out, hard out!"
Dale Jr.: "Good stop guys. Man, I about took that 20 out. I like 'straight out' instead of 'hard out' Junior. Of course, straight out means straight into the wall to me."
With 18 laps remaining:
Dale Jr.: "Whoa! The 17 (Matt Kenseth) is in the pits. (Pause) We ain't gotta pit, do we?"
Tony Jr.: "Negative, he thought he had a tire going down."
The caution on lap 143 was the last thing the driver of the Budweiser Chevy wanted to see, but it called for a quick discussion of strategy:
Dale Jr. (in disgust): "Ain't that convenient ... Alright, what are ya thinking? Two (tires) or four?"
Tony Jr.: "I'm thinking more like we stay out."
Dale Jr.: "Really? Holy $#@! You're gonna get your ass kicked. You know the guys in the back are gonna take tires. (Pause)
OK, we're staying out."
Tony Jr.: "You'll be alright."
Dale Jr.: "I don't know. Seventeen laps is a long time around here."
Tony Jr.: "There'll be 12 when you take the green."
Dale Jr.: "Well I'm gonna go! I know what I got, and I know what I am... We'll be four-wide on the backstretch, so just be ready."
Sitting sixth under the 11th caution at lap 155:
Dale Jr. (laughing): "Ask Stewart (behind him in seventh place) if he's got any mercy for a guy who really needs a top-10?"
Points: 3rd (-240 behind leader Jimmie Johnson)
Best Pit Stop: Pit stop number 1 of 5 / four tires and fuel / 13.08 seconds