Pocono: Dale Earnhardt Jr. race report

Tony Stewart wins at Pocono, Dale Jr. fourth No. 8 Budweiser Team record seventh top-five of season Tony Stewart, the 2002 Winston Cup champion, grabbed his first victory of the season Sunday, taking the win at the Pocono 500. Stewart crossed ...

Tony Stewart wins at Pocono, Dale Jr. fourth
No. 8 Budweiser Team record seventh top-five of season

Tony Stewart, the 2002 Winston Cup champion, grabbed his first victory of the season Sunday, taking the win at the Pocono 500. Stewart crossed the finish line ahead of Mark Martin in second and Matt Kenseth in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished fourth, their seventh top-5 tally of the season after 14 races. Dale Jr. led the race three times for 22 laps, and remains in second place in the Winston Cup point standings behind Kenseth. The team has finished in the top-10 in all but five races so far this season, and have led 10 of the 14 races. This is the seventh consecutive week that Dale Jr. and the Budweiser team have been in the second position in Winston Cup points.

The Key Moments:

The No. 8 Budweiser team qualified fifth for Sunday's race, their best starting positions in seven starts at Pocono. The red Bud car steadily climbed toward the front, taking the lead on lap 31 (of 200 laps), then leading by an ever-increasing margin until making a pit stop on lap 47. The team chose to return to pit lane again on lap 54 during a caution-period to change two right-side tires when Dale Jr. complained of an ill-handling set of tires ("they just feel... weird."). The additional stop dropped them to 12th position at the restart on lap 61. It took less than 15 laps for Dale Jr. to slice through his way into second place before the next set of pit stops. After being consistently the quickest car on the track during the first 125 laps, Dale Jr. struggled with the car for the final 75 laps, but stayed among the top-10 positions before taking the lead again on lap 178 until making a final pit stop on lap 180. The race ended under the caution flag after a hard crash by Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Jeff Green. Green was uninjured.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"I'll tell ya, that's a good finish. We're getting there, and I'm proud of the team. A top-five is always something we strive for, but we brought a brand-new car, and it responded well. We didn't have many practice laps (due to heavy rains on Saturday), but I felt like we had the best car out there for the first half of the race. We have struggled here before, but we had a fast car all weekend, especially after we took only two tires on a couple of stops. I'm happy with that -- fourth place... You always want to win, and we would have liked to have finished ahead of Matt (Kenseth, Winston Cup point leader), but we gained points on a lot of guys that are behind us in the point standings, so that's a positive result."

Best Radio Conversations

The race was marked by a series of long green-flag segments, which reduced the volume of banter between Dale Jr. and the team. However, several yellow-flags late in the race allowed for some lively debate about strategy and adjustments to the car.

Under a yellow flag on lap 153.

Dale Jr:

"I feel like the car is OK, but it's just a little too tight."

Tony Eury Jr (car chief):

"Nah, we lost a few tenths (of a second per lap) from some of those changes. We aren't as quick as we were."

Dale Jr.:

"I guess it's too late to undo everything... I thought we were OK, but if I need to drive this thing sideways, I'll do it."

When a yellow flag flew with seven laps remaining, the team briefly considered a quick stop for tires for the final run to the checkered flag.

Dale Jr:

"How many on the lead lap? I could use some tires... I ain't sayin' I can win, but I just don't feel like I'm fast enough to hold off that 12 car (Ryan Newman) or the 40 (Sterling Marlin). They were coming fast, and there was nothing I could do about it."

Tony Jr:

"Not enough laps to make it up if we stop..."

Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief):

"Alright now -- let's all think positive here. Somedays we have a car that can win, and some days we're gonna have a tenth-place car. Let's get what we can -- we're gonna race the hell outta them boys and wherever we end up is gonna be alright. So let's think positive here..."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jeff Green , Ryan Newman , Mark Martin