Las Vegas: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Marlin Finishes Strong to Take Vegas Cash No. 8 Budweiser Team Leads for the First Time in '02, Takes 16th Place Finish Sterling Marlin added to his already impressive season Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning the DaimlerChrysler...

Marlin Finishes Strong to Take Vegas Cash

No. 8 Budweiser Team Leads for the First Time in '02, Takes 16th Place Finish

Sterling Marlin added to his already impressive season Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning the DaimlerChrysler 400. Marlin added to his NASCAR Winston Cup point lead with his third consecutive top-10 finish of the young season. Jeremy Mayfield finished second, followed by Mark Martin in third place. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team improved 19 positions from their 35th place starting position to grab a 16th place finish. The Bud team also led the race briefly, which is the first time they have led a race in 2002. The team was eligible for a million dollar "No Bull 5" bonus from Winston if they would have won the race. The finish earns the team a leap of six spots in the Winston Cup standings, moving to 25th.

The Key Moment: Dale Jr. and the team fought with an ill-handling car all weekend, starting 35th. From the green flag, Dale Jr. moved up several positions immediately and began a steady climb through the field, climbing into the top 20 after 60 laps and then the top 10 on lap 123 (of 267 laps). The team gambled with a two-tire pit stop on lap 139 to gain track position, climbing to second place at the restart. The red Bud car remained in or near the top 10 for the next 80 laps before a pit stop on lap 213.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "This may sound kinda funny, but my damn butt's sore The car was tight, tight, tight all day [the front tires wouldn't turn effectively] so I had to really strain and struggle to make the car turn. I was buckled in so tight and I was pushing hard on the wheel and bracing myself with my left leg, so my legs kind of went to sleep on me."

"We really struggled through the weekend. The car just wouldn't respond to the changes we were making, so I was happy that it drove better during the early and middle stages of the race. You get pretty good at judging how your car rates against the others out there, so I was thinking we had a seventh- or eighth-place car. We didn't make too many changes to the car through the middle of the race, so maybe we just didn't keep on it as aggressively as we should have, because it got worse and worse the last two or three pit stops. Maybe we needed Pam [Anderson, see Race Notes] to kiss the car again. It seemed to work the first time."

Best Radio Conversations
Dale Jr. (following a pit stop where the team made subtle changes to the air pressure in the tires) "The car feels real different than it did before. Almost like it's softer in the right front, and I like it. I'm able to get a rhythm going here. It's pretty good."
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "Those are some pretty good lap times there"
Ty Norris (spotter): "Good job you look like you've got the rhythm of a drummer" [Dale Jr. is a self-taught drummer]

When the yellow flag flew on lap 139, the team was in 15th position. Car chief Tony Eury Jr. decided to take a risky move to place only two right-side tires on the car rather than take four new ones. The move was designed to produce a very quick pit stop and launch the team much higher in the standings.


Dale Jr.: "The car's good. I like it."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Whaddya think about taking two to get some track position?"
Dale Jr.: "I don't care. You gimme two and I'll do my best to keep it up front."

The gamble brought the team into second place at the restart. A batch of cars with four fresh tires was able to pass the No. 8 car, but Dale Jr. was in 11th place (an improvement of four spots) when the next yellow flag flew.

Dale Jr.: "Let's get four now, whaddya think?"
Tony Jr: "Yeah, 10-4. Four tires."
Dale Jr: "I'm sorry guys, I tried to stay up there, but it just wouldn't turn"
Tony Eury Sr.: "That's OK. It's Las Vegas we gambled"

RACE NOTES

Big Kiss
The normally spotless Budweiser No. 8 car carried a lipstick stain into the race today, as Dale Jr. received a special pre-race visit by the star of "V.I.P.," Pamela Anderson. Pamela then joined the Bud team in the pit area for the first 25 laps of the race. She watched the start from atop the Bud pit cart, creating the sort of buzz and crush of humanity usually reserved only for Dale Jr.

"What do ya say to Pam Anderson?!" Junior joked. "She wanted to know where the party was tonight, and I said we needed her to bless our race car. She leaned over and planted a big kiss on the car right above the driver's door, right next to my name. It seemed to help it for awhile"

Dale Jr. also received a visit from the wrestler Goldberg before the race. Goldberg did NOT kiss the Bud car.

Best in the Pits WThe No. 8 Budweiser team has been elected as the National Association of Pit Crew Members (NAPCM) 2001 Pit Crew of the Year. The selection, based on on-line voting, was held at the NAPCM Web site, napcm.com, during the 2001 season.

Today's Stats
Started: 35th
Finished: 16th
Money Won: $84,875
Points Position: 25th
Laps Led: One time for two laps
Best Pit Stop: Lap 155 / 4 tires and Fuel / 14.79 seconds / 3rd stop of the day

-budweiser/dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeremy Mayfield , Sterling Marlin , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin