Bill Elliott wins, Dale Jr. uninjured in horrific crash Earnhardt Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team make repairs after lap one crash, finish 37th Bill Elliott grabbed his first victory of the season Sunday in the rain-delayed Pennsylvania 500 at...
Bill Elliott wins, Dale Jr. uninjured in horrific crash Earnhardt Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team make repairs after lap one crash, finish 37th
Bill Elliott grabbed his first victory of the season Sunday in the rain-delayed Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, scoring a victory for the aging veterans against the new breed of young drivers that have been grabbing many of the headlines this season. One of the youngest drivers, Kurt Busch, was second while points leader Sterling Marlin finished third. It was a rough day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, as Dale Jr. was a helpless passenger in a multi-car wreck on the first lap. Junior was swept up as teammate Steve Park shot across the track and then the two DEI cars slid across the wet infield grass before making horrendous impact with the inside guard rail. The Bud car was seriously damaged, but the immediate concern was for Park, who was briefly trapped in his destroyed race car. Park and Dale Jr. were both checked out and quickly released from the infield medical center. The Bud team was able to make repairs, and returned to the track just as a rain storm stopped the race for an extended period of time. The shortened race (175 laps instead of the scheduled 200) ended in near-darkness, with Dale Jr. in 37th position, 31 laps behind the lead-lap finishers.
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 11th, seemed poised for a strong run at the race where he finished second last season, but high hopes ended almost before they began when contact between the cars of Steve Park and Rusty Wallace sent Park sliding across the track and into the No. 8 car. The two machines remained together as the hit the inside guard rail, with the Park car flipping wildly as Dale Jr. slid backwards along the rail. Dale Jr. raced to the crashed No. 1 car, where Park was temporarily trapped inside. Both drivers rode to the care center together, where they were examined and quickly released. The Bud team made significant repairs to the heavily-damaged car, cobbling together parts and pieces from all of the DEI teams. As many as 23 crew members representing all three DEI teams worked to repair the car, replacing the entire front body work and much of the mud-caked external engine parts (radiator, pumps, etc.) in 31 minutes. The multi-colored tape that somehow held together the patchwork body flapped in the wind like a bad 1960's fringe jacket, but allowed Dale Jr. to finish the race.
Dale Jr's Quotes: About the crash: "The 1 (Park) and the 2 car (Wallace) got together and Steve just shot across the track. I was in his way, and we slid down into the grass. I was trying everything I could to separate my car from his because I knew it would be a really hard hit if both cars were still together when got there. I saw that guardrail coming up fast and it scared me -- bad. I thought Steve and I would both go right through it and end up in among the fans and the RVs and the campers. That guard rail there is no good for anyone. That's not a good deal, but it may have helped lessen the impact for Steve. After we hit, I was sliding backwards and I just saw Steve flipping over and over. I knew I had to get to him to make sure he was OK. When I got to him, he had unbuckled, but the angle of the car meant he couldn't get out with his helmet on. The big headrest in there was blocking him, so he undid his helmet and slid out. We need to think about that sort of thing as we keep building these seats bigger and bigger. I'm really glad Steve was alright. I'm going to be sore, but I'm OK. I didn't feel anything (any pain) until I strapped back into the car and felt the spot where the seat belt rubbed my neck in the crash. I thought 'damn! That hurts!'"
About the fast work of the team to make the extensive repairs in a short time: "I could not be prouder of my guys right now if we were leading the race. That car was torn up bad, and there was mud everywhere. They did a great job. I mean, this really sucks, but the guys are getting good at putting these things back together when they're crashed. You can never say die, and we hung in there all day when we were really just making laps. That tape was flapping all over the place and the car was jittery, but we picked up a few spots by the end. We could have even pulled in a few laps early and not lost any positions, but we hung in there all day and I didn't wanna see a DNF (did not finish) next to our car on the results, so we stayed out there to the end."
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Because they returned to the race 26 laps behind the rest of the field, it was a long, lonely day for Dale Jr., as he rode around at the back, merely logging laps and gaining spots as others crashed or dropped out of the race. Consequently, there was very little chatter until late in the race, when Dale Jr. turned to humor.
As the team prepared for their final pit stop of the day (well, actually evening by that time), Dale Jr. decided to narrate his approach to the pit stall.
Dale Jr. "OKkkkkkkk -- I'm comin' innnnnn -- pitting nowwwwwwww -- comin' 'round the cornerrrrrr -- comin' in -- here I come -- "
After the team changed a faltering battery on the same stop, Dale Jr. happily reported the new and improved voltage reading in a manner much like a Spinal Tap movie moment.
Dale Jr: "Hey, it's back up to 12 -- nice -- that's one more than 11 -- "
As the race neared the final restart, Dale Jr. remained at the back of the longest line, and reminded his spotter, Joey Meier, about the possibility of crazy driving and big crashes --
Dale Jr. : "Hey -- Joey -- if there's a big crash in front of me, just say 'WHOA!' a buncha times."
Points Position: 16th
Money Won: $55,100
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 91 / 4 tires and fuel as well as bodywork tape "resituating" / 23.02 seconds