Long Pond: Earnhardt Jr race report

Jarrett wins at Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. 12th No. 8 Budweiser team fight back from one lap down to grab strong finish. Dale Jarrett scored his first victory of the season this afternoon at the Pocono 500 at Pocono (Penn.) Speedway, passing his ...

Jarrett wins at Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. 12th
No. 8 Budweiser team fight back from one lap down to grab strong finish.

Dale Jarrett scored his first victory of the season this afternoon at the Pocono 500 at Pocono (Penn.) Speedway, passing his teammate Ricky Rudd with only five laps remaining. Mark Martin finished second while red-hot rookie Jimmy Johnson finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ended a recent string of poor results by racing to a 12th place finish. The team had fallen one lap behind the leaders after running out of fuel and receiving a pit lane penalty late in the race, but were able to regain the lead lap when the fourth caution period of the day fell on lap 169 (of 200). Once they were on the lead lap, aggressive pit strategy helped pull them from 21st toward their 12th place finish. The result ends an agonizing string of four consecutive finishes of 30th or worse since the Bud team won the race at Talladega.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 14th based upon NASCAR points after the track suffered a water seepage problem Friday, took very little time to launch into the top five, streaking into fifth on lap three. Getting as high as third place in the first segment of the race, the team then began to encounter a car that had little overall grip, sliding through the corners and dropping them as far back as 21st. Making a series of small adjustments, the Bud car was soon the fastest on the track, climbing back into the top 10 by lap 125. Trying to stretch the fuel mileage an additional lap bit the team on lap 158, as the car coasted to a quiet, fuel-free stop in the Bud pit box. The team were assessed a 10-second penalty for having too many men working on the car while trying to re-fire the silent beast. Dropping one lap behind, they regained the lead lap ten laps later, and then used a two-tire pit stop to gain more positions with 25 laps remaining.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "It's a relief to get a good finish. We've been running good but just not getting the finishes we need, so we all knew we had to focus and keep motivated to do well. We had fun today - and that's really important. We've been through some rough periods before, so we know we can come out of a slump - but it's been just awful lately to see how fast our cars have been but we we're crashing or getting crashed or suffering from bad luck.

"The guys (on the team) work so hard that it motivates me, so I try to do what I can to motivate them too. We want - and we need - to race up front every week and when we don't it doesn't feel good for anyone. I love this track because you can race all over the place. But, I'm sore from trying to turn the car the last 50 or 60 laps. I raced my butt off out there at the end to hang onto that position."

Best Radio Conversations

As he was pulling out of the pit stall on lap 87

Dale Jr: "I'm sorry about that guys. First gear's a little tough getting outta the box without spinning the tires. It kinda bogs down. I'll just hot-dog it outta there next time"

On the next pit stop, a tire-smoking Dale Jr. blasted out of the box, but almost collected a couple of cars in the process

Dale Jr: "Whoever's spotting in the pits for me, let me know when I'm clear on pit lane so I don't end up knockin' a buncha guys out."

Tony Eury Sr. (Crew chief): "It was too crowded! You're doing just fine on your own!"

Dale Jr. was following four-time Winston Cup champ Jeff Gordon on lap 152, when Gordon spun out while trying to get into pit lane.

Dale Jr: (surprised) "WHOA! The 24 just spun out. Gordon spun out!"

It was not a radio transmission, but when the Juniors - Earnhardt and Eury, who are cousins and life-long friends - met after the race, they had one of their usual entertaining discussions.

Tony Jr: "Sorry I ran ya outta gas there. We were tryin' something. I know you were mad at me."

Dale Jr: "Nah, I wasn't mad at you, but after that (stuff) happens, you can get yerself a bottle of Powerade (Coca-Cola's sports drink) and relax.. but I'm still out there strapped into that hot race car." (laughs all around)

Dateline Dale Jr.
Watch for Dale Jr. on Tuesday night's broadcast of "Dateline NBC" (that's NBC-TV for those of you not familiar with the network news program) for details about a major magazine feature that you will be "eligible" to see later this week.

Though we urge you (as always) to watch all of the NASCAR racing action televised from Michigan this week, you should also keep an eye on MTV for the "True Life" marathon weekend. At various times Saturday June 15 and Sunday the 16th, you can catch an updated version of "True Life, I'm A Race Car Driver," the one-hour documentary from Dale Jr's rookie season. The show will include new interview footage updating his life since the show aired last spring.

Today's Stats
Started: 14th
Finished: 12th
Points Position: 14th
Money Won: $78,612
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 114 / 4 tires and Fuel / 14.41 seconds


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Mark Martin