Kurt Busch Wins Michigan, Dale Jr. 12th From the Back to the Front for the Bud Team Kurt Busch won for the second time in three races Tuesday, winning the much-rain-delayed 3M 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. finished ...
Kurt Busch Wins Michigan, Dale Jr. 12th
From the Back to the Front for the Bud Team
Kurt Busch won for the second time in three races Tuesday, winning the much-rain-delayed 3M 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. finished second while Jimmie Johnson finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team started from the back of the field after changing a clutch and transmission Saturday afternoon, but needed less than 70 laps to slice through the field into the top-10. After spending much of the race in or near the top-five positions, Dale Jr. overshot his pit stall on lap 167, and dropped from second place to 13th after the lengthy stop. In the final laps, Dale Jr. crawled back into the top-10 before a fierce battle in the waning laps resulted in a 12th-place finish at the end of the green-white-checkered flag overtime on lap 203. The finish moves Dale Jr. back into 13th place in Nextel Cup points, but is now 163 points behind the 12th place driver with three races remaining before the end of the regular season.
Dale Jr., who qualified 39th but started the race 43rd after finding problems with the clutch during Saturday morning's practice session, launched through the field in the early going, gaining four positions after a pit stop on lap 32 and then passed cars seemingly at will until gaining a top-10 position on lap 69. The pit crew earned their pay again on a yellow-flag stop on lap 89, as they sent Dale Jr. back into action three spots ahead of where he entered the pits. By the halfway stage of the race, Dale Jr. had made his way into the top-five, and he eventually led a lap on the 131st circuit when the team stayed on track while the other leaders pitted. After that stop, Dale Jr. was again among the top-five until he slid through and then past his pit stall on lap 167. The lengthy stop dropped the Bud car to 13th place, and remained near that position for the final 36 laps.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"We had a top-five car today and I cost us a lot of positions by over-shooting the pit stall. It was a big miscue and it was all my fault. I took my eyes off our stall for just a second to look at another car that was pitting, and I just missed it. It's my fault and I apologized to my guys. The pit crew was awesome again today and we gained three or four positions every time we made a pit stop under a yellow flag. And I also want to recognize the guys that built this engine. We've had some problems with engines the last few weeks, but this one today was as good as it gets. It would HAUL down the straightaways and I don't think anybody had anything on us today as far as horsepower goes. We led a lap and spent much of the day in the top-five, but it was a dumb mistake that cost us near the end. But, I'll tell ya, that was some damn hard racing those last fifteen laps or so. It was wild inside the car, but I'll bet the fans loved the show."
Best Radio Chatter:
The start of the race was delayed after two days of seemingly constant rain, and then was again delayed this morning when the field was stopped by a red flag on lap 10 due to heavy fog.
Dale Jr: "Why are we stopping? The track is good?"
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "No visibility, June. The spotters can see most of turns one and two and the backstretch, but no one can see very well at all in turns three and four."
Tony Eury Jr: "I'll tell ya why this is delayed. It's because we got the 43 best drivers in the world, but none of 'em can use their mirrors..."
Under a yellow flag period beginning on lap 94, Dale Jr. spoke on the radio with DirecTV 'Hotpass' announcer Matt Yocum.
Yocum: "How about your pit crew today. You've gained spots on every stop."
Dale Jr: (joking with his guys - perhaps) "Yeah, I tell ya. Since I've been with this team for years and we've always been inconsistent on pit stops. Then, after I announced I was leaving the team, all of a sudden we've had great stops and the guys have been on their game. And, our engines have been a lot more powerful too. I don't know if it's because they're all auditioning for jobs or if it's because the pressure's off."
The Bud car started each run after a pit stop with very loose handling characteristics, and then would eventually get tighter as the run went along. Sometimes the transition between the two conditions was an abrupt one. Dale Jr. spoke with Tony Jr. during a late caution period on lap 189.
Dale Jr: "I was (expeletive) wreckin! What place are we in?"
Eury Jr: "12th. The 83 (B. Vickers) is your next spot."
Dale Jr: "I'm gonna tell ya, I was spinnin'-out looooooooooose! I don't know why - maybe it's that spring we put in the right front, but it's loose loose loose the first six laps or so, and then I go into the next corner and all of a sudden, it's tight! (to spotter Hmiel) "I know the 07 (C. Bowyer) is mad at me, but I didn't hit him! He was loose on his own! Tell his spotter!"
Hmiel: "I know, I told him."
Dale Jr: "I'm not sure I believe ya. I mean, I was on the brakes too."
Eury Jr: (laughing) "Lemme tell ya, my wife will be proud of me. She always gets on me and says I can never make you loose..."
Dale Jr: "I'm so loose, I should be fast..."
Hmiel: "Boy, that 17 (M. Kenseth) cleaned the 24's (J. Gordon) clock!"
Dale Jr: "Well, he had it comin.'"
Hmiel: "Yeah, that's the truth. And I'd take a lie detector test on that."