Kenseth wins at Richmond, Dale Jr. fourth; No. 8 Budweiser Team makes brilliant recovery from two laps down. Matt Kenseth won his fourth race of the 2002 season Saturday night at the Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Kenseth ...
Kenseth wins at Richmond, Dale Jr. fourth; No. 8 Budweiser Team makes brilliant recovery from two laps down.
Matt Kenseth won his fourth race of the 2002 season Saturday night at the Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Kenseth recovered from two flat tires for the win, topping rookie Ryan Newman and Jeff Green, who finished second and third. Fourth place was reserved for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, who recovered from 35th position, two laps behind the leaders, to score their seventh top-five finish of the season. In the last 100 laps, Dale Jr. gained 19 positions. The finish continues a recent resurgence for the team, recording the third top-10 tally in the last four Winston Cup races and the tenth top-10 finish in 2002. The strong finish moves the Bud bunch up one spot in the Winston Cup point standings to 14th, and continues a career's worth of success at the Richmond oval. Dale Jr. has one victory and five top-10 finishes in seven Winston Cup races at the .75-mile oval, in addition to three victories in the Busch Series. The top-five finish also earns the team an opportunity to win a $1 million bonus from Winston in the "No Bull 5" program if they win the race at Talladega in October. (Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team have won the last two races at the harrowing Talladega track.)
The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting in the 24th position, showed strength and speed from the green flag, working through traffic and surviving a series of yellow flags (and even one red-flag period) to climb into the top-10 before the race reached the 100-lap mark. The outlook was good until lap 132, when Dale Jr. yelled into the radio "Flat tire! Flat tire!" and was forced to slow dramatically. He limped into the pits where the team changed the punctured right front tire, but dropped two laps behind the leaders and fell to 35th place. From that point, it was a continuous march forward, as Dale Jr. gained one lap back as many of the leaders pitted for fuel. Without the benefit of well-timed yellow flags, the red Bud car remained one lap behind until lap 289, when Dale Jr. swept past the leader Ward Burton to get back on the lead lap. In the remaining 111 laps, Dale Jr. clicked off laps faster than any other car, streaking ahead of eventual winner Kenseth and essentially lapping most of the rest of the field as he passed many contenders on the track while others were forced to drop into the pits for fuel. The fuel-efficient Bud car made the final 126 laps on one tank, finally running dry as Dale Jr. rounded into the third turn on the final lap of the race.
Dale Jr's Quotes: "I'm really happy with this. The team gave me a great car. It was fast enough to be a race-winning car, but I got kind of high in turn one (on lap 132) and got up in the marbles and punctured a right front tire. So, I guess that was really my fault. After that, the guys really made the right adjustments and the track seemed to come around to us. I could pass guys high or low and the car was great on long runs. We'd stay fast and lot of the other guys looked like they were just hanging on after awhile.
"It was pretty exciting from where I sat. I knew I had to just get up on the wheel and try to get those laps back and then we just picked 'em off one by one. The guys were telling me when the cars ahead of us would run out of fuel, and I know a couple of guys blew tires. We always seem to do well here, but this one is hard to believe! This one is for the team and guys like Richie Gilmore (DEI chief engine builder) who built a great engine that was fast and got great gas mileage."
Best Radio Conversations: The final 100-plus laps were run under green flag conditions, making it hard to carry on much of a conversation on the radio. However, Dale Jr. was in humorous form when a brief red-flag period was called on lap 11 to clean up a multi-car crash. The field rolled to a stop with the Bud car within approximately 50 yards of the team's pit area.
Dale Jr. "I like these red flag periods when I can see y'all (referring to the team's catch-can man David Lippard) Is Lippard gonna wear that helmet all night?... He's gonna need the HANS device to hold that big thing up! (laughter) Hey man - just kidding. I'm just tryin' to keep a little humor in this boring damn red flag."
Shortly thereafter, two Winston Cup officials began chatting while standing alongside the No. 8 car. One got relaxed enough to lean against the red racer.
Dale Jr: "Somebody needs to break up this party goin' on here (loudly) "NOBODY TOUCH THIS CAR!" (pause) "For everyone listenin,' that last quote was from the great movie 'Stroker Ace' (back in uh... 'character') "I said 'Nobody touch this car!"'"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief) "We were wondering why it took two of those officials to keep an eye on you"
Dale Jr: "Hey - they just want some 'cool points' to rub off onto 'em"
Dale Jr: "Hey, I like the seat that Tony (Eury Sr.) and Tony Jr. have! (Referring to their perch atop the team's pit box.) I need a job where I can sit up there and watch. (Suddenly remembering that he is the co-owner of a new Busch Series team that will race a limited schedule of events in 2003) Yeah! I can't wait for (teammate Steve) Park to drive that car. I'll be sittin' up there goin' "BRING HIM IN! BRING HIM IN! FOUR TIRES!! FOUR TIRES!!" That'll be fun as hell!"
Points Position: 14th (gained one)
Money Won: $87,205
Laps Led: ---
Best Pit Stop: Lap 254/ Stop #4 of 5 / 4 tires, Fuel / 14.34 seconds