Rockingham II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Benson's first Winston Cup win comes at Rockingham. No. 8 Budweiser Team struggles to 34th place. Johnny Benson grabbed his first Winston Cup victory Sunday in a thrilling late-race dual with Mark Martin. The likeable Benson took the lead...

Benson's first Winston Cup win comes at Rockingham.
No. 8 Budweiser Team struggles to 34th place.

Johnny Benson grabbed his first Winston Cup victory Sunday in a thrilling late-race dual with Mark Martin. The likeable Benson took the lead for the first time with less than 30 laps left in the race, and then held off Martin for the victory. Kurt Busch was third while Winston Cup points leader Tony Stewart struggled to a 14th place finish. As for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, it was a day they will likely choose to forget. From the drop of the green flag, the red machine was not its usual speedy self, as Dale Jr. struggled with the evil-handling four-wheeled beast, bringing it home 34th, four laps behind Benson. The finish breaks a career-best string of five consecutive top-10 finishes for Dale Jr. and the team. They remain in 11th place in Winston Cup points with two races remaining.

The Key Moments:  Dale Jr. and the Bud team started 22nd and showed some promise early on, climbing into the top 15 before the race was 50-laps old. However, the handling on the car soon went away, and the team was forced to make their second pit stop much earlier than planned. The early stop knocked them out of sequence with the rest of the field for the remainder of the afternoon. Like a rag doll at the end of a bungee cord, they would make a stop, fall back as low as 38th, then climb back up through the ranks as the rest of the field made their subsequent stops. Dale Jr. made it as high as the top-10 for a single lap, and then fought hard to keep from free-falling quickly back through the pack. The day went from bad to worse when the yellow flag flew only two laps after the team had made a pit stop on lap 228, trapping them three laps behind the leaders. 

Dale Jr's Quotes:`"I tried hard every lap, but that was a long day. We were tight early on, and it felt like the car was rolling over onto the right-front tire through the middle of each corner. Then, the changes we made just sent it from bad to worse. The car eventually got loose, loose, loose. It was like all of the magic we seemed to have in the last five or six weeks just disappeared.`We'll forget this and move on. We've got two more chances to get into the top-10 in points..."

Best Radio Conversations
Because of the struggle for much of the day, there was very little conversation between Dale Jr. and the crew... or at least very little we can reproduce here for use in family publications.J

A yellow flag flew on lap 230, only two laps after Dale Jr. had been in the pits for four new tires.
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "How did that feel for those couple o' laps?
Dale Jr.: "heh heh heh Great. It felt like it had four new tires."
Tony Jr: "OK... so you want four more new ones on there?"
Dale Jr: "Yeah - every 10 laps or so would be great..."

Another yellow flag flew on lap 292, prompting a sigh of relief from the

driver.
Dale Jr. "PHEW! Thank god for that! It's getting really really really really really loose. It's just jumping onto the right front..."

Today's Stats
Started: ```22nd
Finished:```` 34th
Points Position: 11th (no change)
Money Won: ```$59,100
Laps Led:```` --
Best Pit Stop: `` Lap 23 / Stop #1 of 8 / 4 tires, Fuel / 13.97 seconds

Special "King of Beers" Bonus Coverage

Celebrity of the Week / Bud Pit Area: No mega-babe guests this weekend, however, bad-ass music video and commercial director Wayne Isham attended as a guest of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Isham has directed recent commercials for Budweiser and Target, but is most famous as director of music videos for a seemingly endless list of rock stars and bands such as Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Michael and Janet Jackson, Metallica, Def Leppard, Whitney Houston, (:::::brief stop to catch a breath:::::), Kid Rock, Ricky Martin, N'Sync and a youthful up-and-coming combo from England called the Rolling Stones. MTV recently voted Isham as music video's "All-Time Best Director."

Don't forget the King of Beers on the internet at:``www.Budweiser.com

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin