Richmond II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Mayfield Wins, Budweiser Team Grabs Eventful Second Place Dale Jr. enters "Chase for the Championship" third place in points Jeremy Mayfield won the Chevy Rock-and-Roll 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Mayfield needed the ...

Mayfield Wins, Budweiser Team Grabs Eventful Second Place Dale Jr. enters "Chase for the Championship" third place in points

Jeremy Mayfield won the Chevy Rock-and-Roll 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Mayfield needed the victory to clinch a spot in the top-10 in points, which qualifies him for the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team somehow survived two crashes and continued their strong run of short-track success, finishing in second place. Jeff Gordon finished third, and leads the point standings going into the final 10 races. Dale Jr. finished one point behind Jimmie Johnson in points after 26 races, and will begin the Chase in third place, 10 points behind Gordon. The No. 8 team led three times for 42 laps, extending a string of leading seven consecutive Cup races at tracks less than one mile in length. So far this season, Dale Jr. has scored more points on short tracks than any other driver, including two victories, a second, a third and an 11th-place finish. Dale Jr. won the spring race here at Richmond in May. On short-tracks, Dale Jr. has 13 top-five finishes in the last 19 races and 15 top-10 finishes in his last 21 starts.

Key Moments: Starting 14th, Dale Jr. methodically climbed through the field, running in the top-10 until being swept into a multi-car accident on lap 180. Dale Jr. was hit by the car of Jimmie Johnson and was launched into the air, then was hit again from behind, spinning the Bud machine into the infield grass. Somehow, the damage was more cosmetic than serious, and despite a broken rear shock and multiple pit stops to assess the wrinkled Bud car, Junior remained on the lead lap. The excitement was only beginning, as a second crash immediately in front of him only a few laps later resulted in a heavily damaged front grille. Again, with multiple pit stops, the Bud crew was able to straighten the machine so it was not only drivable, but among the fastest cars on the track. Restarting 23rd, Dale Jr. charged hard, gaining ten positions in less than 30 laps, and gaining additional spots when the leaders made pit stops. He took the lead for the first time on lap 282 (of 400), and took advantage of superior fuel mileage to remain in the top-three for the remainder of the race.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "We'll take it. We kinda stole that finish tonight after all the crashing and wreckin' goin on. But, I'm happy for my guys for the effort they put in all night, all weekend and all season. It was a fast car and a strong run, and it means we're really going to enjoy our day off (Sunday). The key tonight? Probably a sledgehammer. We beat it up pretty bad like an empty can o' Budweiser, but it still drove really well and somehow all four tires were still rolling the same direction. We had good gas mileage and it paid off there at the end (when leader Kurt Busch ran out of fuel less than 10 laps from the finish). That was fun, and now I suppose we'll get a little more serious and go after the championship."

Best Radio Chatter:
During a yellow-flag period on lap 171
Dale Jr.: "The car's pretty good, but it feels nervous. The thing is, it can't be any looser and it can't be any tighter...heh heh... so you guys got your work cut out for ya."

After being involved in the tumultuous multi-car crash on 180:
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief) (As Junior slid through the infield grass):
"Go! Just grab a gear and go. You'll be OK..."

Dale Jr.: "I got hit a lotta times... I don't know what may be damaged."

Tony Jr: (after seeing the replay) "Man, ya done real good... for what you went through - ya did real good."

Dale Jr: "The wheel in my hands feels pretty good. I'm not sure - it aint real bad. I dunno what happened, it just felt like the hand of God came over and hit me real hard."

After a few more laps under the yellow flag:
Dale Jr.: "How bad does it look?"
Tony Jr: "Bad enough that we can still win."
Dale Jr.: "That'll be cool to win with it all beat up like this."

After being involved in a second crash several laps later:
Dale Jr: "I killed the 99 (Carl Edwards) car... so we may have knocked the radiator out of it. I couldn't stop in time."

Tony Jr: "Tell me the water temperature and check your pressure gauge."

Dale Jr: "It smells hot... It's 240 (degrees) now."

Tony Jr: "Pit now and we'll check it out."

As Dale Jr. passed seven cars in the next 15 laps:
Dale Jr.: "With that shock broken, it's carrying the left front tire offa (turn) two like a sprint car. It's pretty cool!" Tony Jr: "You're doin' good driver. Keep the hammer down. The leaders should start pitting soon and we'll be lookin' good."

After the race, while waiting for what seemed like an eternity for a live television interview:
Dale Jr. (yelling while Mark Martin is being interviewed): "Hey! Mark! Wrap it up! C'mon! Speed it up! I'm getting bumped more on this TV show than I was on the track tonight."

Today's Stats
Started: 14th
Finished: 2nd
Led: Three times for 42 laps
Money: $153,543
Points: 3rd (10 points behind leader / will compete in
    final 10 races for the Nextel Cup Championship)
Best Pit Stop: Stop #11 of 12/Lap 207/ four tires and fuel / 11.82


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin