Roller coaster night For Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Daytona

Jeff Burton won the Pepsi 400 Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser team finished 35th after a blown engine knocked them out of the running with two laps remaining. Dale ...

Jeff Burton won the Pepsi 400 Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser team finished 35th after a blown engine knocked them out of the running with two laps remaining. Dale Jarrett was second, followed by Rusty Wallace in third.

The Key Moment: Starting 31st (for the second straight week), Dale Jr. sliced through the tight-knit field, joining the top 10 on lap 64. Shortly thereafter, the oil and water temperatures began to climb much higher than normal on the Bud Chevy. After making four pit stops during a caution period on laps 114-118 to try and correct the overheating, the red No. 8 car fell to 33rd position, the final car on the lead lap. From there, it was an awesome display of driving as Dale Jr. passed 11 cars on lap 124, moving into the top 10 in only six laps and becoming a contender for the win. The damage to the engine had been done, however, and the smoldering powerplant finally expired.

Dale Junior's Quotes: "That was one baaaad race car! I told the guys we should just put that car away like it is and get it out again when we go back to a superspeedway. We had a great car. That was fun."

About the overheating engine: "The (oil and water temperature) gauges started creeping up before one of the early yellow flags. I worried that we had damaged the radiator running into the back of another car - that kind of stuff happens in the draft - you just can't help it. The engine never really ran as well again after the temps went up. I probably pissed-off some of the other guys because it must have looked like I was driving like some kind of idiot-I couldn't stay in line in the draft without the temperatures going way up. I had to try and keep clean air running into the front of the car. I could smell it burning up. I've never smelled anything like that in my life! It was running above 260 degrees most of the race. We might've made it (to the finish), but that last caution flag (on lap 154) hurt us - the last re-start finally killed it (the engine)."

About avoiding a major wreck on lap 114: "That was as insane as anything I've done in a long time! That was just wild - I was on the apron (below the steeply banked turn three) with all four wheels and I was wide open. That was like dirt track racing on asphalt. I can't wait to see the replay of that one."

About starting 33rd on lap 120 and flying into 11th place on lap 126: "We got a helluva run going there. The field split into two lines and then the lines slowed down. I just went through the middle - three wide. I swear I would've been up into fifth or sixth place if I hadn't been slowed down by the 42 (Kenny Irwin) car. I hope the fans enjoyed that show."

Pepsi 400 Race Notes Dub-uh-yah

George W. Bush attended the event in Daytona as the Grand Marshall, and although he had a much larger security force, his ovation from the fans was second to another famous son, Dale Jr. George W. had the honor of meeting Earnhardt Jr. for a photo opportunity prior to the race.

10-4

A video crew from the Speedvision network followed the Budweiser crew throughout the race, recording radio chatter and the inner workings of the team during the race. The feature is slated to run next week during the "Speedvision News" program.

What's The Point?

It seemed as if Dale Jr. would again claim top-rookie honors running with the leaders late in the race, but the expired engine dropped him to fifth among rookies. Despite the poor finishing position, Dale Jr. remains 14th in Winston Cup points.

www.Budweiser.com

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace