Hamlin Wins at New Hampshire, Dale Jr. Fourth Bud Team Leads the Most Laps, DEI Has Two Cars in the Top-Four Denny Hamlin won for the first time this season Sunday afternoon, taking the checkered flag by only a few feet over Jeff Gordon in the...
Hamlin Wins at New Hampshire, Dale Jr. Fourth
Bud Team Leads the Most Laps, DEI Has Two Cars in the Top-Four
Denny Hamlin won for the first time this season Sunday afternoon, taking the checkered flag by only a few feet over Jeff Gordon in the Lenox Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Hamlin's team gambled by taking only two tires on their final pit stop, and was able to hold off the challenges of Gordon and third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished fourth, their best finish and third top-five finish of 2007. For the second time this year, the team led more laps (64 of the 300 laps total) than any other, earning the maximum 10 bonus points. While the team remains 12th in Nextel Cup points, they are now only one point behind 11th place and have extended the margin to 13th place to 127 points. Dale Jr. won the Goodyear Fastest Lap award for turning the fastest lap of the race on lap 111 at 126.547 mph average speed.
Dale Jr., starting 6th, climbed into the top-three on lap 37, and then took the lead on lap 74 after a quick green-flag pit stop by the Budweiser team. After dropping to third place after pit stops under yellow on lap 97, he needed only a few laps to blast back to the front on lap 106. The Bud car seemed to improve the longer it ran on green flag segments. While not leading, Dale Jr. ran easily in second place for much of the middle segment of the race, driving easily and taking care of his car and brakes. The brake pedal had began to get softer and chatter under braking, and Junior was careful to preserve the brakes for the final segment of the race. Junior regained the lead on lap 200, but after the tires cooled under a caution flag that began on lap 201, Dale Jr. dropped back a few spots but never fell from the top-five for the remaining 100 laps of the race.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"I want to thank (interim crew chief) Tony Gibson. He filled-in for Tony Jr. (Eury, crew chief who served his final race of a six-race suspension after technical violations in Darlington), and he did a great job. He did more than he was asked and it was a great effort. I was happy with the day. We had a car that could have won and it was fast all day and that's all I can ask for. A shot to win - that's all any driver can hope for, and this entire team has been giving me that all year. The six races that Tony Gibson was in charge, we had good cars every week and the joke around the shop is that Tony Jr. is under pressure now because we run better with Gibson! (laughs) But, it will be great to be back at full strength with Tony Jr. back next week at Daytona.
About complaining about the car at the start of the race: "I forgot about the modified race on the track yesterday and I was bitchin' about my car until the Goodyear rubber got laid down and then we just got faster and faster. We were really good through the middle part of the race and I didn't ask for enough adjustments as the race went on in the late stages. I think the track got cooler and the car just lost the edge we had through the middle section. It's good to hear that we led the most laps (64 laps led) and we'll take all of the bonus points we can get.
"I'm so proud of everyone at DEI - we had two cars in the top-four, and it was fun to race with (teammate) Marttn (Truex Jr). I wanna go out of my way to tell everyone how proud I am of how well we've been performing and how much I've enjoyed driving these cars every week. It's been great."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. earned a new nickname - NostroDalemus- when he urged crew chief Gibson to keep strategy in mind after only eight laps of the race. He was very nearly spot-on accurate until two minor incidents late in the race...
Dale Jr: "Tony, I don't think this race is gonna have a lotta wrecks - so keep that strategy in mind. Don't base your strategy on a lot of crashs. I don't think we'll have that many."
Dale Jr. spotted a familiar face on the hill outside of turn two during a yellow-flag period on lap 98. The face will return to the Bud pit box next week at Daytona.
Dale Jr: (loud and animated) "HEY! MAN!"
Tony Gibson: "What was that?!"
Dale Jr.: "I just saw a friend out there..."
Gibson: "See if he kept his shirt on this week..."
The team opted to take two right-side tires on a lap 122 pit stop - but narrowly avoided disaster when Gibson spotted the 43 car (B. Labonte) entering the pit box in front of the Bud machine.
Gibson: "Hold it! Hold it! OK, now go go go!"
Dale Jr: "Good job noticing that Tony. I about wasn't gonna listen ya!"
Gibson: "Well, I'm glad you did. That had disaster written all over it."
Reassuring the team after dropping to second place on lap 141:
Dale Jr: "I'm running about 70% here. I 'm trying to save the car and save the brakes."
On lap 237, while running third:
Dale Jr: "I'm losing the nose in the middle of the corners. I think a spring rubber mighta come outta my car."
Gibson: "No, Brian (Holshouser, shock specialist) had 'em taped in there pretty good."
Dale Jr. (after a long pause): "Just jokin'!"
Holshouser: "That's NOT funny!"