Richmond II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Harvick Sweeps Richmond, Dale Jr. in the Chase Bud Team Sixth in Points for Nextel Chase for the Cup Kevin Harvick won Saturday night's Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, after winning Friday night's Busch Series race ...

Harvick Sweeps Richmond, Dale Jr. in the Chase
Bud Team Sixth in Points for Nextel Chase for the Cup

Kevin Harvick won Saturday night's Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, after winning Friday night's Busch Series race at the same three-quarter-mile oval. Kyle Busch finished second followed by Kasey Kahne in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team raced into the top-five and seemed poised for yet another push for victory at Richmond, until developing a brake fluid leak on the right rear of the car with approximately 85 laps remaining. The Bud team made three pit stops during the yellow-flag period beginning on lap 321, but was unable to fix the problem entirely. Dale Jr. eventually dropped one lap down, and finished the night in 17th position. The finish secures a spot in the Nextel Chase for the Cup - finishing the regular season sixth in points. This is the second time in three seasons Dale Jr. and the Bud team have made the ten-race Chase for the Championship. Among the 11 drivers eligible for the 10-man Chase going into the race, Kasey Kahne raced into the Chase, while defending Cup champion Tony Stewart dropped out.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 33rd, worked his way forward methodically, climbing forward into the top-20 by lap 52, and then into the top-10 with a dramatic three-wide pass to launch into ninth place on lap 171. He gradually made his way forward, climbing to fifth place on lap 303 (of 400). However, a short time after making contact while passing Ryan Newman, Dale Jr. began reporting the brake pedal had begun to drop all the way to the floorboard. With the problem becoming more serious by the lap, the team used a series of stops to check for the problem. They located a brake fluid leak in the right rear, but were unable to make complete repairs and remain on the lead lap. For the remainder of the race, Dale Jr. adjusted his brake bias entirely to the front brakes, and then cruised easily for the remainder of the night - eventually losing a lap to the leaders on lap 363.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"It was a long night. We blew a seal or something on the brakes. Then, I lost the front brakes with about 30 to go. I was just watching that flag stand and hoping the laps would go by fast. I was really grateful for the car I had tonight. We were in the top-five and we were looking good before that happened. The guys did a real good job of keeping me informed that we were OK in the big picture (the points), but it was damn frustrating in the car. I really appreciated that because the guys helped me through it. They have all the points and stats there in the pits but it's tough on me behind the wheel. Once I got into the car tonight, I got worried about the points and felt nervous that something was gonna break on my car. But, we hung in there and this is what our team is all about."

"I couldn't ask for a better group of guys. Tony (Eury) Jr. is a great crew chief, and the guys around him are all experienced. We're an all-around great race team. I think I can wheel a race car and they can build cars that are fast. We are all more mature than we used to be and I think we can go out and win a championship. We should have won it in 2004, but we gave it away. I made some mistakes and they made some mistakes and we let it slip away. But, we're much better than we were then. We can come back from mistakes much better than we did then. Every person on this team is a critical part and we couldn't have made the Chase without all of them."

"We have some really good tracks in the Chase (Dale Jr. has Cup victories at six of the ten remaining tracks), and I don't see any reason we can't go out and win this thing. Homestead will be tough as the last race. We've struggled there for a few years, but we'll be good in the Chase."

Best Radio Chatter:

Starting near the back of the field, Dale Jr. cautiously made his way forward. As the car became faster and faster, Dale Jr. became more and more aggressive, making a dramatic three-wide move in the outside lane, passing two cars in one swoop to take ninth place.

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "CLEAR! Hah hah ah! I wish everybody coulda seen that!"

***

Under a yellow flag period on lap 223, while running in the top-10, but the driver was unaware of the current state of the points among the drivers trying to get into the Chase for the Cup.

Dale Jr: (nervously) "Lemme know when I ain't gotta worry about the Chase no more."

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "OK, 10-4. You ain't gotta worry no more."

Dale Jr.: "Tell me when someone drops out! I'm sick o' worryin' about it! It's killin' me!"

Tony Jr: "You're good. You're in great shape. The 24 (J. Gordon) has dropped way back, and the 20 (Stewart) is struggling. As long as you have guys behind you, you're OK."

Dale Jr.: "I didn't worry me until I got into the car tonight."

Tony Jr: "Just wait until Homestead when ya go for the big one (the championship)!"

Dale Jr. : "Yeah." (sounding unconvinced) (after a long pause) "I ordered a cooler of cold Bud for the end of the race, so make sure they get it for me."

***

Under the next yellow flag period beginning on lap 252.

Hmiel: "Tony Jr, was your little in-car TV (the Nextel Fan Scan video player) workin' when he went three-wide?"

Tony Jr.: "No, it's still not programmed right, but I saw him going there when they went behind the trucks."

Hmiel: "You don't see too many highlight reel moves when everybody says you're just racing for points!"

Dale Jr: "I appreciate it, guys. I love it when y'all get pumped up. It helps me. But, that wasn't as hard as it looked. I mean, he's one of my racing heroes, but Mark (Martin) was trying to get out of the way as fast as he could..." (after a pause, his mind wanders back to the post-race) "There's a cooler of beer being delivered to pit at the end of the race. I don't want you guys getting into that until we're done. I wanna have a cold Bud with y'all no matter what happens. We've had a great season so far. And make sure we gotta back-up cooler I'm sure the first one will go fast."

***

While running fifth and gaining ground on the top-four, suddenly the good night started to go bad...

Dale Jr.: "The brake pedal is starting to go down by itself!"

Tony Jr: "Alright... you've got 85 to go."

Dale Jr: (more frantic) "I've got a serious issue! I push the pedal and it goes clear to the floor! I need a pizza!" (code for caution flag)

***

The team finally got a caution flag about 35 laps later when the 48 car spun in turn one. The team stopped on three consecutive laps to try to diagnose the issue.

Dale Jr: "Alright. We got a serious brake problem. It's a leak somewhere. Let's get it figured out!"

Tony Jr: "OK, the first stop, let's take the right side (tires) off and look there. Then we''ll come back to get lefts (tires) and gas."

***

After seeing the leak in the right rear...

Tony Jr: "It's in the right rear, the right rear! Just put the tire on and let's go. Junebug, you'll still have front brakes, the problem is in the rear, so you're fine. You're gonna be fine. Haul butt!"

***

With the remaining brakes failing, Dale Jr. dropped back to 16th place, and eventually was passed by the leaders to fall one lap down. The focus became solely to survive and make the Chase...

Dale Jr: "NO BRAKES!"

Tony Jr: "Just do the best you can. Keep doin' what you're doin."

Hmiel: "Coming to 28 laps to go. The big picture looks good. The big picture looks good."

Dale Jr. "Am I good where I am?"

Tony Jr: "Yes, you're fine. You're fine."

Dale Jr: "I'm afraid to mash it real hard. The pedal stops but it does go to the floor."

Tony Jr: "The 19 car (Sadler) is closing. If you need to, just let him go. Let him go. We're in great shape."

Note: The entire team and Dale Jr. enjoyed their coolers of cold Bud after the race along the pit wall.

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Tony Eury Jr. , Kyle Busch