Las Vegas: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Dale Jr. leads 97 Laps, finishes second. Matt Kenseth won Sunday's Las Vegas 400, leading the final 32 laps to take his first Winston Cup victory of the young season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished second after leading...

Dale Jr. leads 97 Laps, finishes second.

Matt Kenseth won Sunday's Las Vegas 400, leading the final 32 laps to take his first Winston Cup victory of the young season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished second after leading the race four times for 97 laps. The finish, combined with the 10 bonus points for leading the most laps, vaults Dale Jr. twenty positions in the Winston Cup standings to 18th after three races.`Leading the point standings going into the next race at Atlanta is Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver Michael Waltrip, who followed the Bud car across the finish line to finish third this afternoon. The second-place finish is a career best at Las Vegas for Dale Jr. and the Bud team.

The Key Moments:

Dale Jr. started the race in the fourth position, and rarely dropped outside of the top five positions for the entire 267-lap race. He took the lead for the first time on lap 51, and then took advantage of a fast car and a series of brilliant pit stops. The Bud team made five pit stops, with the slowest being 14.07 seconds to change four tires and take fuel. The team made three stops of less than 14 seconds. The quick pit work nearly always allowed Dale Jr. to gain positions, including the final stop of the day on lap 226, climbing from fifth to third place before making his late run into second, sliding past Waltrip with less than 10 laps to go. Dale Jr. recorded the fastest lap of the race on lap 139 at an average speed of 167.83 mph.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"Great... second place is a great finish for us, and it's the type of day that we work hard for. I mean, we expect to run like this and to get the good results. I had a great car all day -- it was a pleasure to drive. The team did a great job preparing the car and then making some great stops to keep me up front. This is how good we are supposed to be, ya know? I think Matt was quicker than we were late in the race, so good for them, but we were able to run with anybody else all day. We made some very small changes to the car on each stop, and I was surprised how much the car reacted to small changes. It was temperamental -- and the car was pushing pretty bad on the next-to-last set of tires. We dropped back a little, but the car was fast at the end, and we caught everybody but Matt... This does a lot for our confidence, my confidence. We're happy and we're relieved to run so good and then have a finish to show for it."

About the poor finishes in the first two races of the season: "We learned a lot last year that is going to help us this season, so everybody but the team made a big deal out of the start of the season. We just had a part go bad at Daytona, and we've always struggled at Rockingham. We can still win the championship this year, and this deal today helps. We were really good, we led a lot of laps, and we're confident that we're going to be really strong again next week at Atlanta."

Best Radio Conversations

After the second pit stop of the day moved the Bud car from second to first plac on lap 102, car chief Tony Eury Jr. cheered on his pit crew members

Eury Jr. (car chief): "Y'all did great. Give yourselves a pat on the back for that one."

Danny Earnhardt (front tire carrier) "No! No pats on the back until we do that again four or five more times..."

The team chose to change only two tires during their third stop on lap 117 after leading the race by up to five seconds...

Dale Jr: "I was leading easy, just chillin,' but I about busted my ass there racing too hard. I thought I'd better just not push so hard and I got into a good rhythm at the end of the run."

Eury Jr.: "Yeah, we could see it in your lap times."

Dale Jr. : "10-4. Y'all just be patient cuz' I'll be more patient."

Eury Jr. : 'If it comes down to taking two tires at the end of the race, we'll know what the car will do..."

Dale Jr: (referring to DEI engine builder Richie Gilmore): "If anybody gets a pat on the back, it's Gilmore. This engine is screamin'! It's like it's comin' outta the hood going down the front stretch. If this things blows up, it'll blow a huge hole in the ground."

Fast Track to Fast Lane: Immediately following today's race, Dale Jr. jetted to Los Angeles, where he will appear in a guest-starring role on the Fox-TV cars-and-babes series Fast Lane. (Broadcast date TBA) After his day on the set Monday, Dale Jr. will then be shuttled to Dallas to attend the Anheuser-Busch National Convention.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Tony Eury Jr.