Jeff Gordon Wins at Martinsville, 18th Place for Dale Jr. No. 8 Budweiser Team Works Through An Action-Packed Afternoon Jeff Gordon won Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, while Nextel Cup point leader Tony Stewart crossed the finish...
Jeff Gordon Wins at Martinsville, 18th Place for Dale Jr.
No. 8 Budweiser Team Works Through An Action-Packed Afternoon
Jeff Gordon won Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, while Nextel Cup point leader Tony Stewart crossed the finish line in second place. Gordon's teammate Jimmie Johnson, second in Cup points, finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team managed to complete the entire 500-lap distance, despite a wide array of accidents, incidents and hard racing, finishing the day in 18th place. The finish drops Dale Jr. one position in the Cup standings to 21st place, his lowest position since the fourth race of the season.
Starting 20th, the contest began with the No. 8 Budweiser car looking as if it would be a contender for the victory, as Dale Jr. consistently turned the fastest laps of the entire field, even while in traffic. It took Dale Jr. only 39 laps on the tight, 1/2-mile oval to climb into the top-10, then less than 30 additional laps to move into seventh position. However, seventh place was as high as the Bud car would climb, running in that position on lap 220, before the car began to handle poorly before being tapped from behind on lap 238, and spinning out in turn two. The resulting spin and contact with a series of other cars dropped the team one lap behind the leaders into the 31st position. Despite a beaten and battered machine, Dale Jr. managed to become the lucky dog -- the first car one lap down -- allowing him a free pass to rejoin the lead lap under a yellow flag on lap 321, yet losing the lap almost immediately again when a left front tire went flat on lap 325. In the final 150 laps of the race, the team regained the lost lap, then moved through the field as high as 13th position, before getting caught in another incident with less than 10 laps remaining, dropping to 18th at the finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"That was so much fun. This track is really a cool little place to race. I mean, stuff is happening every lap. We were really, really good early on. The car had good forward bite off the corners and it seemed like I could pass anybody. Then, it just went away completely. The 29 (Kevin Harvick) got into the back of us, but it was almost like we deserved to get run over as bad as our car got. The front end just wouldn't turn. You're running so hard and so close together on such a small track, it happens before you know it. The 41 car (Casey Mears) lifted the back of our car clear off the track a couple of times, then the 4 car (Mike Wallace) slammed me right into the curb. He was racing somebody else and just came down into us. Then, at the end, the 77 (Travis Kvapil) locked his brakes right in front of us and I got into him. Look at that car (pointing to Bud car). How much more damage can you get?! Do you see any part of the car that isn't smashed or bent or bashed-in? Crazy. Even our pit stall was wild: it's banked -- not flat -- so when they'd drop the jack on the left-hand-side after each stop, it felt like the car was being slammed from six-feet off the ground, How do you think that feels on my (butt)?"
Best Radio Chatter:
Riding up and down the standings like a roller-coaster, Dale Jr. remained animated during 500-laps of radio chatter. Much of the chatter had an edge of macabre humor.
Near the 100-lap point, Dale Jr. became concerned with increasing oil and water temperature.
Dale Jr: "Just take all of the tape off of the front of this thing. I mean it, we don't need downforce. Just take it off and I'll race this sum'bitch. The water temp is up to 240 (degrees) and I just can't use the chrome horn (a.k.a. his front bumper) when it's like that."
While running 11th on lap 181, Dale Jr. was slammed into the inside curb by the car of Mike Wallace. Junior expressed his displeasure by shaking his fist out the window at Wallace, showing him a single, raised digit. Several laps later, he was immediately behind Kurt Busch, when Busch spun the car of DEI teammate Michael Waltrip. Busch was given a one-lap penalty for rough driving.
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "They just penalized the 97 (Busch) for rough driving."
Dale Jr: (joking, most likely) "Good. I'm glad they did because I was thinkin' about wreckin' him. (chuckling)"
Jimmy Kitchens (spotter): (nervously, and perhaps directing his comments to any officials who may have been listening) "You mean you were only thinking that...."JDale Jr: "Hah! Yeah, I was just daydreaming. Just jokin. It's crazy out here. That 4 car (M. Wallace) was racing somebody hard and he just came down and wrecked us."
Tony Jr; (referring to Dale Jr's hand gesture following the incident): "It's amazing how far your arm can come up out of that window when you're mad, isn't it?!
Dale Jr: "Hah hah hahahha Yeah! Hah hah!"
The day started promisingly, yet turned sour mid-race, causing the driver to relish small victories where they could be found. (Apparently "excellent" was the word of the weekend.)
Kitchens: (before the lap 295 restart) "The 32 car (B. Hamilton Jr.) says he'll let you by for this restart. He's going to let us go."
Dale Jr.: "Ah, that's excellent."
Kitchens: "You're coming to the green flag, but it looks like the 66 car (H. Sadler) is slow on the front stretch... Now he's stopped... dead still. (disbelieving) They're still throwing the green!!"
Dale Jr. (after the green flag, followed very soon after by another yellow flag): "HA! That was hilarious! I thought 'surely God they won't throw the green' then it was 'AH NO! Here we go!"... (teasing his crew chief) Tony Jr. did you order that pizza?"
Tony Jr: "I didn't order anything. But now you only have one car to pass for the lucky dog. It's the 41 car (Casey Mears)." Dale Jr: "Yeah, I got him (Mears) thinkin' all kindsa things now. I run up all over him coming off of pit road last time. But, hey, it helped my overheating..."
A strangely similar discussion took place during the Friday afternoon practice session:
Dale Jr: "What's for lunch?"
Bud crew member: "Manwiches!"
Dale Jr.: "Ah. Excellent. That's a bonus."