Richmond Budweiser race report: Earnhardt Jr. top rookie

Jeff Gordon won Saturday's Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway, beating Dale Earnhardt to the finish line while Mark Martin finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser Chevrolet team, who were eligible for a million-dollar...

Jeff Gordon won Saturday's Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway, beating Dale Earnhardt to the finish line while Mark Martin finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser Chevrolet team, who were eligible for a million-dollar bonus from Winston if they had won the race, were the top-scoring rookie team for the third consecutive event. Dale Jr. was the first car to cross the line one lap behind Gordon, finishing 13th.

The Key Moment: A poor qualifying run relegated the Bud team to the 31st starting position, but optimism was high after a strong final practice session. Once the race began, the team struggled with a race car that was tight (the front wheels would not turn efficiently) for the first half of the race. Fighting the car, Dale Jr. went one lap behind the leaders on lap 245 (of 400). Late pit strategy sent the red No. 8 Bud car into the lead for five laps (298 through 302), and they finished the race as the first car one lap behind.

Dale Junior's Quotes: "It's good to be the top rookie again, but we were disappointed not to win. The car was almost perfect in happy hour, but it was a total mystery to me during most of the race. We would make changes and it just wouldn't do what we hoped. It would be good and then it would just go backwards. The left front tire would just skate along, but at the end there (the final 150 laps) we did get it going. On long runs, we would start catching up with the leaders. They'd come back to us. We just didn't understand why the car would be .7 (seven-tenths of a second) quicker on one set of tires versus another."

(laughing) "My strategy just didn't pay off. I was planning to come up from 31st and just lap the whole field and take the million dollars. It was gonna be an exciting show. That just didn't work out! The whole team worked hard. We fought and gouged and struggled, but we hung in there and we got a decent finish."

Monte Carlo 400 Race Notes

The Point of It All

Dale Jr. remained in 14th position in the Winston Cup point standings with the 13th-place finish and five bonus points for leading the race. Earnhardt Jr. is now less than 100 points out of 12th position in points, and edged slightly closer to Matt Kenseth in the Rookie of the Year standings with nine races to go. Kenseth now has 255 rookie points while Earnhardt is within 22 points with 233.

Earnhardt Jr. has now led 9 races for a total of 399 laps.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin