Las Vegas: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Budweiser Team Handed a Stinging 27th-Place Finish at Las Vegas Johnson wins second race of the season The only lap Jimmie Johnson led was the last, as he passed the day's dominant driver, Matt Kenseth, on a green-white-checkered finish to ...

Budweiser Team Handed a Stinging 27th-Place Finish at Las Vegas
Johnson wins second race of the season

The only lap Jimmie Johnson led was the last, as he passed the day's dominant driver, Matt Kenseth, on a green-white-checkered finish to win Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. It is Johnson's second consecutive victory at Las Vegas, and his second win in three races this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team raced in the top-15 for much of the day and appeared well on their way to their best Vegas finish in three years, but a pit-road speeding penalty moments before the final green-white-checkered restart relegated the Brew Crew to a 27th-place finish. As a result, Dale Jr. slipped out of the top-10 in points for the first time this year. He is now in 11th in the standings, four points behind Jeff Burton in 10th.

Key Moments:

Starting 42nd because of a near-crash on his Bud Pole Qualifying lap on Friday, Dale Jr. passed nearly half the field in just 43 laps, climbing to 22nd position by the time the first caution waved.

The Bud Chevy continued to gradually gain as the raced progressed. Junior took 15th away from Jamie McMurray on lap 226, 14th away from Kurt Busch three laps later, and claimed the 13th spot with a fast pit stop on lap 237. But all the progress made on the day unraveled when NASCAR threw a caution for debris three laps from the scheduled finish. It not only bunched the field for the third green-white-checkered finish in as many races this season, but it turned the race into a game of pit strategy. The Bud team took four tires on lap 265, but was issued a pit-road speeding penalty in the process. It forced Junior to the rear of the field for the two-lap sprint. He took the green in 29th and passed two cars on the final lap.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"This one stings. Not sure what to even say or think. We worked so hard to get our car right for this track, and there we were with a top-15 right in front of us. I know that doesn't sound like much, but the way we've been here the past few years, that was a huge improvement. To have it yanked out from under us as they're waving the checkered flag, man, it's just a huge disappointment. I guess I was speeding on pit road, I don't know. I sure felt like I was going slow enough, but NASCAR makes those calls, and I always stick by them. I'm not one of these guys who gripes and moans about it. We had a good day, but not a good finish. I'm just proud of my team. (Crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. continues to prove himself as one of the top crew chiefs in the series, if you ask me.

Between California and Las Vegas, they're our worst tracks.JEverybody knows that. Yet Tony Jr. built and brought a top-15 car to both places. That says a lot about him, about this team, about this company. This one hurts, but -- hell, if anything, it gives me some good material for my XM radio show this week."

Best Radio Chatter:

On several occasions Sunday, Junior was able to race door-to-door with his DEI teammate, Martin Truex Jr. for positions:

Dale Jr.: "I'm getting to race with me teammate a lot. This is cool."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Yeah, Martin seems to be running pretty well right now. Doing good."

Dale Jr.: "I hope he thinks it's as cool as I do. I'm having fun."

***

Veteran driver Mike Wallace took his turn in the TV booth on Sunday, as DIRECTV did a trial broadcast for a potential pay-per-view package in the future (this was only a trial and not available for viewing). This conversation took place during the sixth caution with Junior in 13th position.

Wallace: "Dale Jr., this is Mike Wallace for DIRECTV."

Dale Jr.: "Go ahead Mike."

Wallace: "Great job today. You guys are on it. You're so calm in the car today. I'm really impressed by the input you're giving the guys back. Top-15 here right now. How are things going? Give us some input."

Dale Jr.: "I'm really happy with the car and the changes they made. Our car has really been good all weekend compared to how we've run here in the past. This is some sort of a moral victory for us as a team. Obviously we'd love to run better than this, but this is still a good step in the right direction, something to look forward to for the rest of the year. The race has been pretty uneventful. Just racing people and trying to keep the tires on it. We've had good long runs and some fast times. I'd like to be a little better on the sticker tire."

Wallace: "I'd like to compliment your whole team on a great job. And if you don't mind, I'd like to ask (spotter) Steve Hmiel a question. Steve, what's the difference between (saying) "Dale Jr." and "June" when you're clearing him during the race?"

Hmiel: "I heard you say something about clearing but I didn't hear you good, Mike."

Wallace: "We were just noticing that sometimes you say "Clear, Junior" and other times you say "Clear, June." Any particular reason why you do that?"

Hmiel: "Yeah, I don't want to bore him. (laughing) I mean that's the only real reason. You get tired of saying 'outside, inside'. Every now and then it's 'June' and sometimes it's 'Dale Jr." but it has nothing to do with how he's doing. I just don't want to sound like a parrot up here. Coming to the green, June."

Wallace: "Thanks guys, go get 'em."

Dale Jr.: "Alright, good luck, y'all. Heh heh.

-dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Mike Wallace , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Martin Truex Jr.