Budweiser Team Ninth at Kansas, Nemechek Wins Dale Jr. Celebrates 30th Birthday with Fifth Consecutive Top-10 Joe Nemechek won Sunday's Banquet Foods 400 at Kansas Speedway, his first victory this year in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but his ...
Budweiser Team Ninth at Kansas, Nemechek Wins
Dale Jr. Celebrates 30th Birthday with Fifth Consecutive Top-10
Joe Nemechek won Sunday's Banquet Foods 400 at Kansas Speedway, his first victory this year in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but his second win in two days after taking the victory in the Busch Series race here Saturday afternoon. Ricky Rudd was second, followed by Greg Biffle in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team matched a career-best streak of consecutive top-10 finishes with a ninth place in today's race. Dale Jr. and the team have now recorded five-straight top-10s in each of the last three seasons. Dale Jr. remains second in Nextel Cup points with six races remaining in the Chase for the Championship. Dale Jr. trails Kurt Busch by 29 points, and leads third-place Jeff Gordon by 50 points. Busch and Junior are the only drivers with top-10 finishes in each of the first four races in the Chase for the Championship.
Starting in the 8th position, the No. 8 team ran among the top-15 spots for the first segment of the race, However, the team lost more than 10 positions on lap 77 when the car of Ward Burton spun in front of Dale Jr. on pit lane. NASCAR rules do not allow passing on pit lane, so Junior pushed the Burton car down the pit lane before making a stop. The team regained a few spots from there, and then took advantage of the "lucky dog" rule to regain a position on the lead lap. He fought back into the top-10 by lap 190, and seemed to be in contention for the victory after making a fuel-only stop on lap 210 while many of the other leaders stayed on the track. The fuel advantage went away when several additional yellow flags flew in the final 50 laps. The last pit stop on lap 242 was pivotal, as the team mounted two fresh right-side tires on the car, which allowed Dale Jr. to climb from 12th to ninth at the finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"We got closer and closer to the front, but just never could get all the way there. It was real fun racing (Dale) Jarrett at end. He's a good friend, real good competitor. We gained on it. We tested real hard here (at Kansas) hoping it would pay off, and it paid off. A top-10 finish, we'll take it. It means a lot. It means we can concentrate on Homestead now. I think the championship will be decided there. We're gonna work hard to get there."
Why so happy about a top-10?: "Because we were 18th here last year. That's bad, alright?! We tested here for two days and we had a good car all day, but we never could establish track position with the leaders. We had a big setback when the "0" car (Ward Burton) spun out on pit lane right in front of me. It was weird, but NASCAR says you can't pass on pit lane, and I thought he was out of gas, so I pushed him down the pit lane. They told me he had lost his brakes, so I apologized, but I think his team was OK with the push. But, it really slowed us down and we lost a lot of spots that we never seemed to be able to regain."
About finishing behind point leader Busch: "It doesn't matter. I'm not going to judge my day by where he finished. My team has worked hard and we've been in the top-10 every week in the Chase, and we're going to try to do that every week. That's what it will take to win the championship. If we finish in the top-10 every race, no matter where we end up in points, I'll be proud of my team."
Best Radio Chatter:
After a relatively quiet afternoon on the radio, the amount and pace of chatter picked up considerably as the race neared an end.
Dale Jr: (under caution with less than 20 laps to go) "It's rainin' out here."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief) "Yeah, 10-4. You're doing really good. You're doing what you need to do."
Dale Jr: "Are you gonna tell me where we're at (on pit strategy) or are ya gonna keep it a secret?"
Tony Jr: "We're staying out."
Dale Jr: "What if somebody comes in and takes two tires like we did (before)?"
Tony Jr. "There's not enough time for them to come back."
Dale Jr: "How many laps are left?"
Tony Jr.: "16 laps..."
Dale Jr. (mock complaining) "Awwwww man, that's a LONG time!... tell me the five cars behind me."
Tony Jr: "the 19... the 24.. the 77... the 88..."
Dale Jr.: "OK, the 19 (Jeremy Mayfield) is pretty quick. That's about all the car will gimme. I think you've seen the last of "Greatness" (an occasionally boastful nickname when Junior is driving well) here today."
Tony Jr: "Yeah, we saw some earlier."
Dale Jr: "What about taking two left-side tires?"
Tony Jr. : (teasing) "They're all gone. Goodyear says they're outta tires... but all of the cars in front of you don't have fresh tires like you."
Dale Jr. :"Well, I wore the fresh right outta my tires. I used those two up..."
Tony Jr: "Naw - you were just scuffin' 'em for a qualifying run.... OK, belts tight and elbows up..."
After the checkered flag:
Tony Jr.: "Good job Junebug. Ninth place. We appreciate your hard work out there today."
Dale Jr: "Yeah! EVERYDAY baybeeee... Good job on the test session here. Let's go get us another good test at Homestead. Everybody get concentrated..."