Johnson wins, Dale Jr. 6th No. 8 Budweiser Team leads early, finishes strong Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's New Hampshire 300, leading the final 36 laps for his second victory of the 2003 season. Kevin Harvick finished second and points leader Matt...
Johnson wins, Dale Jr. 6th
No. 8 Budweiser Team leads early, finishes strong
Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's New Hampshire 300, leading the final 36 laps for his second victory of the 2003 season. Kevin Harvick finished second and points leader Matt Kenseth finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team recorded their 12th top-10 of the season with a sixth-place finish. This is a career-best finish at the one-mile New Hampshire oval for the team (previous best was 9th at this event last year). Dale Jr. led two laps early in the race, and maintained his third-place position in the Winston Cup point standings. The Bud team has now finished seventh or better in 12 of the last 17 races, and led 13 races for 574 laps in 2003. Johnson's victory is the 400th in Winston Cup history for Chevrolet.
The Key Moments:
The Budweiser team started the afternoon from the third starting position after Bud Pole qualifying was rained out and the field was set by the Winston Cup point standings. It took Dale Jr. only three laps to take the lead, holding it for two circuits before relinquishing the top spot to Jeff Gordon. The race became an odd, topsy-turvy affair, with many of the top teams opting for a variety of fuel and tire strategies during the 12 caution flag periods (including one caution when an unnamed photographer dropped a lens onto the track). After running in the top-10 for the first 100 laps, pit strategy dropped Dale Jr. to 21st place on lap 102, then back to 28th position after making another pit stop on lap 118. However, it was a steady climb forward for the final 180 laps, as Dale Jr. reached 4th position before making his last stop for fuel on lap 208. Dale Jr. gained 14 positions in the final 90 laps, earning his third sixth-place finish of the year.
Dale Jr's Quotes:
"We had some good pit strategy today, so I want to give credit to (car chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. and Pops (crew chief Tony Eury). They made some good choices about when to pit, and we gained a lot of positions late in the race. We had some damage to the nose of the car, so that made it hard to get it to turn through the middle of the corners like we wanted. I think the owners of the track should be credited with spending the money that was needed to re-pave the track. More tracks should pay attention to this place, because we had some good, hard racing today, and I was able to run a high line or down on the apron if I needed."
"I'm happy with sixth. It's another good finish for us- the best we've ever done here, that's for sure. We are doing a lot of things the right way this season, and I think we're where we need to be overall. We're not chipping away at Matt (Kenseth's) lead in the points, but you gotta hand it to him and his team. We're having our best year ever, and we can only keep working hard and focusing on our own effort. We can't let it bother us if we keep knocking off top-five and top-10 finishes while Matt is doing the same."
Best Radio Conversations
Dale Jr. seemed to be near many of the incidents that caused a series of yellow flags early in the race. On lap 110, the cars of Rusty Wallace and Kyle Petty made contact right in front of the Bud car.
"I'm not sure what happened there. I hit him (Wallace) in the rear because he just stopped for some reason. It was like he just paused for a second coming off of (turn) two. If he's mad, I'd apologize, but something happened to him. It didn't take much (for him to spin), because I barely touched him."
Less than 10 laps later, Dale Jr. had to make a dramatic, evasive move to avoid the spinning car of Mike Wallace, who had made contact with Ward Burton.
"Whooooo! Wallace made Ward realllly (mad). I think he ran into Ward about every lap for three or four laps. Gawwwwd allllmighty, that was awesome. A wreck waitin' to happen..."
After making an extra pit stop for fuel and two tires on lap 118, Dale Jr. restarted in 28th position.
Ty Norris (spotter):
"Just be careful on the restart here, brother..."
"There's some (pause) inexperience in front of ya, so just be careful."
The last yellow flag of the afternoon fell on lap 234. The Bud team had enough fuel to make it to the finish, while many of the leaders pulled to pit lane for fuel and tires. Dale Jr. wasn't happy with the handling of his car (the car was tight because of body damage), but track position was more critical.
"If we're pittin,' I'm plowin.' If we're not, then we'll be OK. We'll hang on."