Phoenix: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kurt Busch Wins at Phoenix, Bud Team Continues Momentum Dale Jr. Grabs Fourth Consecutive Top-Five at Phoenix Kurt Busch took the laurels Saturday night, winning the Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch topped Michael Waltrip, who...

Kurt Busch Wins at Phoenix, Bud Team Continues Momentum
Dale Jr. Grabs Fourth Consecutive Top-Five at Phoenix

Kurt Busch took the laurels Saturday night, winning the Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch topped Michael Waltrip, who finished second, with Jeff Burton third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished fourth. It is the third top-five of the season, and improves Dale Jr.'s position in the Nextel Cup standings into a tie for 12th. It is the fourth consecutive race where Dale Jr. has improved at least one position in the standings. After winning the last two races held at Phoenix, Dale Jr. has now recorded four consecutive top-five finishes at the one-mile oval.

Key Moments:

Starting 15th, Dale Jr. struggled with the handling of the No. 8 car for the first ha;f of the race, struggling to remain in the top-20. However, a series of pit stops made positive changes and a more relaxed driving style produced quicker lap times. Dale Jr. moved into the top-five on lap 208, then used a saavy pit strategy from crew chief Pete Rondeau to remain among the top-five for the final 70 laps of the race.J

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I'm proud of everyone in a DEI uniform, and everyone at home who puts in five-six-seven days a week for DEI. It was hard time paying attention to me because I was watching Michael (Waltrip) and hoping he could win. It was great effort by everyone and great strategy by Pete (Rondeau). The track was so slick, there was no grip but we kept working hard and I finally quit over-driving the car. I was getting mad at myself because I was pushing too hard early on. Tonight was all about track position, and my guys got it for me."

"I'm pretty hard on everybody (on the radio), but I want everybody on the team to know I'm serious about this, and it's important that everybody keeps fired-up. This finish was the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. struggled for the first third of the race, but eventually found a rhythm that improved lap times, and found his attitude improved the car.

Dale Jr.: "It's still loose comin' off the corner. It's hard to get the power down up off."

Pete Rondeau (crew chief): "Those last three laps were real good..."

Dale Jr: "Yeah, once I figured it out that I was just too angry. I just chilled out and the car rolls around the track much better that way. If I wanted to, I could run much harder..."

Dale Jr. began climbing up through the field, but lost communications with his spotter, Steve Hmiel on lap 163.

Dale Jr.: (frantic) Clear? Clear? I didn't hear anything."

Pete Rondeau: "We gotcha Junior. Steve was adjusting his radio."

Dale Jr. (teasing) "Damn! We're in the middle of a race, this aint no time to be tearing (stuff) apart! Heh! OK, here come in (to the pits) for four fresh tires. I think we're doin' good. (to spotter Hmiel): Man, I needed ya, bud. We were going forward!"

The radio woes continued as the race progressed (lap 190)

Dale Jr.: "Do I have a spotter? I was racin' the 22 and I didn't know the 42 (Jamie McMurray) was there. I know ya gotta be tired of talkin,- but ya gotta keep talkin' to me."

The lack of communications begins to hamper Dale Jr. in heavy traffic on lap 196, after losing more than five positions on the restart.

Dale Jr: "I was madder than a hornet there -- losin' all those spots. I got beat up pretty good on that restart. I was a punk there, but I needed my spotter to get the spots back."

Steve Hmiel: "10-4. I gotcha. Can you hear me?"

Dale Jr: "Yeah. When I don't need you, I hear you. When I think 'what the hell?' is when I can't hear ya."

Less than 10 laps later, with fresh tires, Dale Jr. gained six spots in side-by-side racing.

Dale Jr: "YEAH! WHOOOOOOOOOOO! That's fun racin'! The car's about right there. It was good, better in the middle. Man, Tony (Stewart) drives wide-as-hell! But that's OK. We didn't touch. The only one I touched was the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). He run me into the wall offa four. That was FUN racin..."

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Michael Waltrip , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray