Phoenix: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Harvick Sweeps Phoenix Race Weekend Dale Jr. Involved in Multi-Car Crash, Limps Home 23rd Kevin Harvick won Saturday night's Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, sweeping the weekend after also winning Friday's Busch Series race at the...

Harvick Sweeps Phoenix Race Weekend
Dale Jr. Involved in Multi-Car Crash, Limps Home 23rd

Kevin Harvick won Saturday night's Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, sweeping the weekend after also winning Friday's Busch Series race at the 1-mile oval. Tony Stewart was second, while Matt Kenseth finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran among the top-three in the first third of the race, but after being involved in a multi-car crash on lap 223, Dale Jr. slowly dropped back in the pack, finishing 23rd, two laps behind the winner. This is the first time this season that the Budweiser team has not finished on the lead lap, but remained in sixth position (tied for sixth with Jeff Gordon, and one point ahead of eighth-place Harvick) in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings after eight races.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 11th, jumped to seventh on the first lap, then climbed into the top-three after a lap-55 pit stop. As the evening cooled and the sun went down (and following a red flag period after a multi-car crash on lap 100), Dale Jr. remained in the top-five until lap 136 when the Bud car began to struggle in the corners, losing grip and chattering the tires. After dropping as low as 15th place, Dale Jr. fought back into the top-10 until he ran into the back of Kyle Petty's car on lap 223, triggering a crash in turn four. Despite damage to the car, the team was able to pound, punch and tape the corners of the machine enough to continue, but the final 90 laps saw the beaten and battered Bud car drop slowly through the field, finishing 23rd, two laps behind.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We started off so well -- the car was fast and it felt like we were one adjustment away from making it really, really great. But, then it just went away and then it just plowed, plowed, plowed after the shade came over the track. We were never able to get the car back to where we started.

"I made a big mistake, and made a bad car worse -- lost a chance for another top-10 -- and it hurt a few other cars as well. I hate it for Kyle (Petty), man, and the other guys that were caught up in it. I have a lot of respect for Kyle, and I want him and all the other drivers to have respect for me as well, and that ain't the way to get it. It makes me sick to have something like that happen. It bent up the car enough that it was just wicked after the crash. I was just hangin' on, trying not to crash in every turn and trying to stay out of the way of the lead lap cars and not put 'er into the wall. That's not a fun way to end the night."

Best Radio Chatter:

During a caution on lap 88... as the sun was setting, it began creating visibility problems for the drivers.

Dale Jr.: "The car wasn't turning in, and I couldn't get on the apron to help it turn. I wasn't running too hard there -- I could have run harder if I needed to. But, I'll be glad when the sun goes down. It's in my eyes off of (turn) four -- I couldn't see the wall so I couldn't really change my line."

***

The visual issues continued on the pit stop the following lap.

Dale Jr. (entered the pits in fourth place, exited in sixth) "That was my fault. I didn't get into the (pit) box very well. I tried to stop in the box before mine. It's my fault -- not theirs. I couldn't see it."

***

The sunshine also played a role in the discussion during the lap 100 red flag stop for a multi-car crash.

Dale Jr: (coming upon the track blocked by wrecked cars): "Wow! Jeez! (Then playing commentator while watching the replays on the large video screens while stopped on the track) OH! Trouble for the 5 car! Trouble! Into the garage!"

***

During the red flag period, the sun continued to be an issue as Dale Jr. rolled the Bud car forward.

Dale Jr: "Tell Greg (Biffle, the race leader) I'm not trying to steal his spotlight, but I'm just trying to find some shade."

Steve Hmiel (spotter): " Ah, he's cool... Junior, are you using your hand to block the sun? I can see you on this yellow thing (referring to the Nextel FanView portable video viewer). This is really a cool deal."

Dale Jr: "Yeah, I wish I could see one of those. Do they have them during the Busch races?"

Hmiel: "Stevie Reeves (Paul Menard's spotter) was using it last night to give lap times, but I'm not sure if they have video (during the Busch races)..."

Dale Jr: (teasing) "Us drivers don't get to see that cool (stuff). We're the ones out here putting on the show."

***

The sun wasn't an issue on lap 223 when Dale Jr. got into the back of Kyle Petty's car, starting a multi-car crash in turn four.

Dale Jr: "We've got a lot of damage in the right rear. We should be alright. Tell the 45 (Petty) it was my fault. I just got down on the apron too far and came up into him."

Hmiel: "I told 'em..."

Dale Jr: "OK, good. I'm sure he knows that. But I apologize. It was my fault. (nervous laugh)"

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "OK, let's go now. We can still get a top-10 finish."

Dale Jr: "I know. I was trying my hardest here. I just (messed) up."

Tony Jr: "Its OK. Not a problem."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Paul Menard , Stevie Reeves , Tony Eury Jr.