Michigan: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Busch wins Michigan 400, Dale Jr. seventh No. 8 Budweiser Team records career-best finish at Michigan Kurt Busch won Sunday's Michigan 400, leading Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon across the finish line. Busch has won a league-leading three ...

Busch wins Michigan 400, Dale Jr. seventh
No. 8 Budweiser Team records career-best finish at Michigan

Kurt Busch won Sunday's Michigan 400, leading Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon across the finish line. Busch has won a league-leading three races this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were in fourth place entering the final lap of the race, but lost three positions to cars with fresher tires after a close incident with Matt Kenseth. The seventh-place tally is the 10th top-10 of the season for the team, and is the best career Winston Cup finish at the two-mile oval for Dale Jr. and the Bud team. Dale Jr. remains in second place in Winston Cup points, gaining five bonus points for leading a lap. The Bud team has scored more bonus points for leading races (70 points) than any other team.

The Key Moments:

The No. 8 Budweiser team qualified third in Friday's Bud Pole qualifying session, but were forced to start at the back of the field after changing an engine prior to the race. The team discovered a cam shaft problem with their engine after the final practice Saturday afternoon. The poor starting position turned into an advantage when a yellow flag on lap two allowed the Bud team to pit for adjustments and four fresh tires. When a second yellow flag fell on lap 11, most of the field made a pit stop while the Bud team remained on the track, leaving Dale Jr. in fourth position on the restart. The red No. 8 car led the race on lap 20, diving low on the front stretch in a three-wide battle for the lead. For the first 100 laps, Dale Jr. complained of an engine that was down on power, but the car handled well in the corners, allowing him to stay in the top-10 for the remainder of the race. The team made a final pit stop for two tires on lap 172, and were able to hold off cars with fresher tires until the final lap.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

About the final lap:

"You'll have to ask Matt (Kenseth) what happened. He got up inside of me (in turn two) and just run me up into the wall. I was a sitting duck out there for the final restart (on lap 195). The guys behind me with fresher tires didn't have any lapped cars to contend with, so I just had to drive my (butt) off. What can you do?"

Later quote from Speed Channel interview:

"We're buddys and all, but Matt always seems to run me into the wall. He had new tires, so he was going by me anyway, so I don't know why he did that. It killed my momentum, it lost me two more spots. That's two spots I should've had. If that's how he wants to battle, that's how we'll battle."

Best Radio Conversations

The race began with the Bud car at the back of the field, but a series of early yellow flags allowed the team to leap-frog back into the top five before the driver began complaining of an engine that was straining against the rev-limiter.

Dale Jr: (holding the mic open on his radio so the team could listen to the engine)

"Listen to this. What am I gonna do? Listen how long it's 'on the chip!' (a rev-limiting chip in the ignition system)

Tony Eury Jr.

"Take care of it the best you can. The pace should slow down -- you're running laps a lot faster than we did last year, but it should slow down."

Dale Jr:

"I can't help it. In the draft, the car just goes. It just takes off!"

On lap 20, Dale Jr. made a dive to the apron of the track to take the lead in a three-wide battle with Tony Stewart and Sterling Marlin.

Dale Jr:

"Tell me if I lead this lap..."

Tony Jr:

"10-4. You led the lap -- you got the bonus points..."

Dale Jr: (dropping back to fourth on the next lap)

"Alright, I don't wanna hurt this engine, so I'm just gonna chill out and keep the leaders in sight."

On lap 25:

Dale Jr:

"There's something wrong with this motor. The engine is tightening up, like I broke a valve spring or something."

Under a yellow-flag period on lap 40:

Dale Jr:

"It's a bad vibration somewhere. It goes away when I put in the clutch -- but it's like I can only drive it three-quarters of the way -- and I don't like that. I wanna be able to push it 100%... "

Under the a yellow-flag period on lap 48:

Dale Jr:

"I feel like we killed the engine speed-wise. But, I still seem to be pretty fast. Maybe this engine is possessed. It's on, then it's not. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise because I'm really getting through the corners. I'm not overdriving it. What do you guys think? I look pretty good in the corners?!"

Tony Jr:

"I can't see ya in the corners, but your lap times have been good."

Best Non-Radio Conversations

In the post-qualifying news conference Friday afternoon, a giddy Dale Jr. pointed out Bobby Labonte's new uniform, a special design promoting the new HULK movie.

"Hey Bobby, if I bump into your car Sunday, will it grow bigger?"

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Tony Eury Jr.