Loudon II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Jimmie Johnson wins, Dale Jr. fifth at Loudon No. 8 Budweiser Team leads 120 laps, limps home on seven cylinders Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Johnson and his team recovered from a freak mid-race ...

Jimmie Johnson wins, Dale Jr. fifth at Loudon
No. 8 Budweiser Team leads 120 laps, limps home on seven cylinders

Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Johnson and his team recovered from a freak mid-race pit incident where three of his crew members were hit by the car of Johnson's teammate Jeff Gordon. (The crew members were not seriously injured.) Ricky Rudd was second while Joe Nemechek finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were dominant throughout the day, leading three times for 120 laps. The team managed to finish fifth, despite completing the final 160 laps on only seven cylinders. (A broken valve spring is the suspected cause.) It is the 10th top-five finish of the season for Dale Jr. He has led 15 races for 797 laps, and recorded 16 top-10 finishes in 27 races. The fifth-place finish is a career-best for Dale Jr. and the team at the Loudon oval.

The Key Moments:

Starting from the sixth position, Dale Jr., moved through the top-five methodically, taking the lead for the first time on lap 46. After the first series of pit stops, the red number 8 car regained the lead on lap 91, holding the point until the next pit stop on lap 127. After the re-start, the engine began to slow, but Dale Jr. was able to retain his position in the top-five. The team took the lead for the final time on lap 184, streaking away from the field until making their final pit stop on 230. The green flag stop dropped Dale Jr. to 24th place, one lap behind the leaders. As the race continued and the rest of the field was forced to stop for fuel, Dale Jr. moved back into the top five in the final five laps of the race.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"Man, my right foot hurts! We lost a cylinder about halfway (approximately 140 laps into the 300-lap race), so we limped home with seven cylinders. We were so slow on the straights, I feel like I have a hole in my foot because I was pushing the pedal down as hard as I could. I'd drive hard through the corners, and then drop back on the straights. It's just a reflex I guess, to push the pedal harder when you see the other cars pulling away. The engine got worse and worse, and I kept pushing harder and harder. It was like driving a Busch Series car, because we had very little power. That sucker was makin' some really strange sounds by the end of the race."

"No question we had the field covered when we had all eight cylinders. Easily. We had a lot more for 'em even after we took the lead. The car was awesome, and when the engine started to go away, we were still able to lead because the car handled so well in the corners. I hated that we had to spot the rest of the field a cylinder, but we still got a top-five because my team prepared an awesome car and then they made the right calls on pit lane. We needed the race to stay green to the finish, and it did. It seemed like we gained a spot or two every lap there at the end as one after another ran outta gas or had to pit. Tony Jr. was cheering me on almost every lap there at the end. I was just hoping we'd make it to the finish."

Best Radio Conversations:

Before the first pit stop, while leading the race.

Dale Jr.: "Put my pit sign out. I can't see our pit area... where is it?"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "It's right at the start/finish line. We'll wave at ya as you go by..."
Dale Jr.: "OK... where is it? Just at the line?"
Tony Jr: "10-4."
Dale Jr: "How many cars on the lead lap?"
Tony Jr: "Only 23."
Dale Jr.: Whooooo... we've been men at work here haven't we?!"

Despite the prior discussion, Dale Jr. almost over-shot the Bud pit area on his first pit stop on lap 84.

Dale Jr: "Sorry about that guys. That was a big mess-up on my behalf."
Tony Jr: "I was trying to tell you to pull in just past the 19 car (Jeremy Mayfield)."
Dale Jr.: "Yeah, I didn't see the 19 car. I dunno what I was thinking. I knew you were talking,' but I wasn't hearin' ya, ya know? I was in La-la-land..."
Tony Jr.: "I understand completely. I get that way sometimes."
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "Yeah. Especially when I talk to him."

After the first pit stop...

Dale Jr.: "We're great, but just don't let me run too hard. The secret to success here is spreading the goodness of the car out over the entire run. Don't let me wear it out by racing too hard with somebody and messin' the car up..."

After racing for nearly 50 laps with engine problems.

Dale Jr: "Guys, I'm going so slow down the straight, you need to toss them M&M's at me each lap and see if I can catch 'em in my mouth... How many laps have we led? I'm just trying to think of positives. I'm in a gun fight with a switchblade here. I'm not happy about it, and it aint gonna take much set off my infamous temper here..."

With less than 15 laps left...

Dale Jr: "It's getting worse. I don't think the engine is gonna make it."
Tony Jr: "You're doin' great, babe. Just talk to it. Tell it how much you love it. You're doin' great. Keep doin' it."

Everyone affiliated with the Budweiser NASCAR program sends condolences to Shawn Parker, crew chief of the No. 88 team, whose wife Tara lost her life in a traffic accident this week. Memorial donations may be made for their infant son at:

Jagger Alexander Parker Fund
c/o Wachovia Bank
PO Box 2519
Cornelius, NC 28031

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Joe Nemechek , Jimmie Johnson , Shawn Parker , Tony Eury Jr.