Stewart Wins At New Hampshire, Bud Team Finishes Ninth Dale Jr. gains ground in point standings Tony Stewart dominated the New England 300 by leading 232 of 300 laps and taking the laurels on a hot and humid Sunday at New Hampshire International...
Stewart Wins At New Hampshire, Bud Team Finishes Ninth Dale Jr. gains ground in point standings
Tony Stewart dominated the New England 300 by leading 232 of 300 laps and taking the laurels on a hot and humid Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway. It is Stewart's third win in the last four weeks. Kurt Busch finished second and Bobby Labonte third. Last week's winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., started 24th in his #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, fell as far back as 35th, and still rallied to finish ninth, his third consecutive top-10. The effort keeps Dale Jr. 13th in the Nextel Cup point standings, but brings him to within 59 points of 10th and 90 points of eighth with seven races to go before the Chase for the Championship.
Key Moments: Fighting an extreme 'tight' condition in the early stages, Dale Jr. dropped to 35th as he struggled to get the Budweiser Monte Carlo to turn smoothly in the corners without losing speed. It took roughly half the race - as well as major chassis adjustments and sequential no-tire and two-tire pit stops on laps 35 and 59 - to claw back into contention, but when he did, Dale Jr. made the most of it. Registering his quickest laps all day, Junior had climbed to 12th by the time the seventh caution flew on lap 215. The Brew Crew answered with a quick, 13.43-second pit stop on its final service call to gain three positions on pit road. Dale Jr. then wheeled his red #8 passed Jimmie Johnson on lap 273 and an ailing Jeff Gordon on lap 289 to score his eighth top-10 this season.
Dale Jr. Quotes: "It was real hot out there today, and real hard to drive. The car was just a little off. I would've liked to have had a little better car. We tried. We adjusted on it a lot trying to get that extra step that we needed to get a top five. I think we held out own today, but it took driving real hard every lap."
On the discomfort in the car today (Dale Jr. reported midway through the race that the new seat was giving him problems, causing great discomfort): "That was a brand new car and a brand new seat. We just have to work the bugs out of it. That stuff happens. You get sore when you get a new seat. It takes some time. That car was brand new, and the guys worked real hard to get it here. I just want to thank the team for working so hard."
On his points situation after 19 races: "Obviously my situation is a helluva lot brighter than it was six weeks ago. We were on our way out on a fast pace, and now we seem to be clawing back. Hopefully we got what it takes. It's going to take more hard work, and some more top-10s and top-fives. I would've liked a couple more spots today. I don't know if you can run ninth and gain a whole lot of ground, but we're close."
Best Radio Chatter: After a rough start, Junior found life in the Budweiser Chevy, as he drove it from 35th to 17th by lap 116:
Steve Hmiel (crew chief): "Junior, that was awfully fast at the end (of the green-flag run). It just takes us awhile. Do you think it's tire pressure related?"
Dale Jr.: "Just two tires, that's why. (The Bud team changed only right-side tires on lap 59). It's working better, and the track is getting better for us. I'm not sure I want much change."
With immense heat beating down on him, Dale Jr. used the sixth caution period to 'shall we say' vent:
Dale Jr.: "We need some padding in this seat. Shocks are rough. It's kicking my ass - you all gotta fix this seat. Damn, my ass hurts."
Hmiel: "We'll make a note of that."
Dale Jr.: "You need to do more than that. It hurts! Feels like I'm racing on a cinder block in here. (Pause) You all cheated me out of some heat deflector (stuff) too. It's been hot all day. I know ya'll put all this stuff on it trying to carry some weight."
Hmiel: "It's real humid."
Dale Jr.: "No, y'all cheated me a little bit. Got no heat deflectors. It's warm in here! (Pause). It's like someone threw water on hot coals in here or something. (It's) probably my brakes"
Hmiel: "Yeah, we'll get you right for Pocono. Sorry about today."
Dale Jr.: (Joking about his "issues") "What else can I complain about today?"
Hmiel: "There are a lot of details to this stuff. Just keep telling us, and we'll keep working on it. You're doing real good with your car."
Dale Jr.: "I got a sneaky suspicion I'm gonna get wrecked today. You know how you get that feeling?"
Hmiel: "I do now."
Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I just ain't run worth a damn all year. You get up here, and they don't respect ya. They think you just got up here 'cause you took tires or something. You race your damn head off trying to chill 'em out and let 'em know you got the speed to be here."
After a day of rubbing fenders, dodging wrecks and dealing with the heat, Dale Jr. was just trying to make it to the end:
Dale Jr.: "Man, I'm just trying to get to the house Or Indy for two days (the Bud team is testing at the Indianapolis Speedway). I tell ya, boy, I ain't looking forward to that at all! Don't be surprised, but there ain't telling what kind of shape I'll be in when I show up."
Hmiel: "We're never surprised."
Dale Jr.: (laughing) "Heh heh. Now that's funny!"
-Budweiser Racing / Dale Earnhardt Jr.