Biffle Claims Michigan Victory, Dale Jr. Finishes 21st Handling woes damper day for Bud team Greg Biffle led 73 of 200 laps and drove away from the field at the end to win Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. It is...
Biffle Claims Michigan Victory, Dale Jr. Finishes 21st
Handling woes damper day for Bud team
Greg Biffle led 73 of 200 laps and drove away from the field at the end to win Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. It is Biffle's second career victory and first of 2004. Mark Martin finished second and Dale Jarrett third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled from the outset with a poor-handling car, needing numerous adjustments to salvage a 21st-place finish. It matched the result the Bud team posted here in June. Despite the struggle, Dale Jr. remained in third in the NEXTEL Cup championship standings, now 139 points behind new leader Jeff Gordon and 26 points ahead of fourth-place Tony Stewart. Jimmie Johnson, who had held the lead for eight weeks, slipped to second with a blown engine and a 40th-place finish.
Key Moments: Starting third for the second consecutive week due to a rained-out qualifying session, Dale Jr.'s door-to-door racing with the top five cars in the opening laps proved misleading, as the Bud team struggled much of the day with the No. 8 Chevy. Reporting a severe tight condition early in the event, Dale Jr. fell as far back as 33rd at lap 54, and only sporadically broke the top-20 for the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately a caution-plagued race kept the field bunched, and it gave the Bud team ample opportunity to make drastic changes. Far from perfect, the red No. 8 responded with gradual improvement, climbing to 21st and holding its position in the closing circuits.
Dale Jr. Quotes: "That was actually a better finish than what I thought we'd get. I don't know, it ain't that bad. We were just tight all day. I couldn't ever get the car to turn in the middle of the corners, and it just killed us. What are ya gonna do about it? We're busting our ass right now as hard as we can, and that's all you can hope for. We struggle at tracks like this for some reason. We'll figure it out. It wasn't the worst day we've ever had, and I'm real proud of my team for sticking it out at the end."
Best Radio Chatter:
A strong series of fast laps to open the race quickly disappeared, as the Bud car became excessively tight, and the Bud team tried to figure out how to fix it:
Dale Jr.: "The nose just slides, and it feels like there's something wrong with the steering. I feel like it will be OK if we can just fix the center (of the turns). It's like I got no control. And something's making smoke come into the cockpit. It smells like something is burning, but I don't know if it's serious."
Tony Eury Jr.: "All I did on that last stop was take out two rounds of bite and pull a half-rubber out of the left rear. I don't know how that would mess up your steering, so I'm just going to ignore it, because there's nothing I can do about it."
Much of the afternoon's conversation was specifically about the car, but Dale Jr. broke form during the ninth caution:
Dale Jr.: "I think the 30 (Jeff Burton) broke a valve or lost a cylinder or something. He started running like (crap)."
Stevie Reeves: "They said there is nothing wrong with the 30. He just slowed because he thought there was a caution."
Dale Jr.: "I mean, I don't (really care). I was just talking."
Reeves: "Well, if he's lost a cylinder it's good to know for the restart."
Dale Jr.: "Yeah, that's true."
After taking the checkered flag:
Dale Jr.: "Whether we performed well or not, the effort was good. I appreciate y'all gutting this one out and not giving up."
Started: 3rd (based on Nextel Cup points)
Points: 3rd (-139 to the leader)
Best Pit Stop: Pit stop number 9 of 9 / four tires and fuel / 12.35 seconds