Rockingham: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Dale Jr. has rough day, finishes 33rd at Rockingham. Dale Jarrett prevailed in a thrilling late-race duel with Kurt Busch to win the Subway 400 Sunday at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Busch finished as the runner-up for the second ...

Dale Jr. has rough day, finishes 33rd at Rockingham.

Dale Jarrett prevailed in a thrilling late-race duel with Kurt Busch to win the Subway 400 Sunday at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Busch finished as the runner-up for the second consecutive week, taking the early lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Matt Kenseth, who won this race last season, finished third. It was anything but a thrilling day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, as a blown tire on lap 45 began what would be a long afternoon of spins and incidents. After the blown tire caused some damage to the machine, Dale Jr. was involved in several of the subsequent yellow flags throughout the frigid and gusty afternoon, including two solo spin-outs in turn two. Dale Jr. completed 390 laps, finishing in the 33rd position, three laps behind at the finish.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr. started the race in the 12th position and was dicing for position on lap 10 when the Bud car was hit by Jeff Gordon. The damage to the No. 8 car became immediately apparent, as the left front fender began rubbing on the tire every time Dale Jr. went into a corner. The tire smoke slowly subsided, but the damage had been done, and the tire shredded and blew on lap 45. A yellow flag period allowed the team to make five pit stops to repair the damage while remaining on the lead lap, but the car was never able to run competitive lap times after the blown tire. Dale Jr. fought with the ill-handling car, and was later involved in solo spins in turn two on lap 163 and again on lap 291. He did not make contact with the wall or another car in either incident.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"We have always struggled here before, and we thought we had figured some things out at a test a few weeks ago. We qualified well, and started the race alright, but once the tire began rubbing and then blew out, the damage was done. It was never the same after that. I know Jeff (Gordon) didn't mean to get into me, but he turned into the left front. It wasn't a hard hit, but it was enough to damage the tire..."

"We had a bad set of tires or a bad wheel after that -- it was vibrating so bad I though the brakes had failed, but once we changed tires again, we were actually able to run pretty decent for 10 laps or so, but then the car would just get loose, really loose. It would just snap out from under me, and that's why I spun a couple of times. It felt to me like it was gonna crash or spin out on every lap. Well... I guess we just go to Las Vegas (for next week's race) and try again."

Best Radio Conversations

When a blown tire knocked the team out of contention just after the race was 10 percent completed, it became hard to find radio "highlights..." Dale Jr. had complained about problems with the brakes after the tire trouble, so car chief Tony Eury Jr. asked about the brakes before the next pit stop on lap 88...
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Do you think you have brakes? Is the (brake) pedal soft?"
Dale Jr (exasperated) "That ain't our problem right now. The brakes seem alright, but I have a bad, bad vibration. The car is just not drivin' right... it's not handling. It feels like it's drivin' wrecked instead of drivin alright. It's kind of loose, then it's tight... it's awful..."

Was he joking, or is time to upgrade to a newer, more comfortable seat?
Dale Jr (before a lap 231 pit stop): "Has anyone dropped out (of the race) yet? Are there any drivers around that can get in this car?"
Tony Jr: "Uhhhhh no. Nobody's dropped out..."
Dale Jr.: "Well, I need something because my (butt) is asleep... I can't feel a thing... (Speaking to Tony Jr. ) I wish you could drive this car because it's loose like I've never felt before. I don't know how to tell ya or describe it. It's just loose, loose, loose... The right front (tire) is holding the whole car up in the turns. It's like the left rear (tire) is just up in the air.. up in the wheel-well, like it's not supporting the car at all. It's not good... it's like I'm crashing every lap."

Bad Call of the Race: To the person who approved the pre-race parachute jump by an US Army team in what were just short of gale-force winds... As the skydivers came to earth, they smashed, crashed and scattered all across the race facility. Four jumpers were injured, including one who crashed hard into the hood of the Budweiser team transporter in the Winston Cup garage... The unidentified jumper was airlifted to a local hospital for evaluation.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Tony Eury Jr.