Sears Point: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Stewart Gets Sonoma Win, Transmission Knocks Junior out of Commission No. 8 Budweiser Team Struggles to 42nd-place Finish Tony Stewart dominated Sunday's Save-Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. California, grabbing his first victory of the...

Stewart Gets Sonoma Win, Transmission Knocks Junior out of Commission
No. 8 Budweiser Team Struggles to 42nd-place Finish

Tony Stewart dominated Sunday's Save-Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. California, grabbing his first victory of the season. Stewart topped Ricky Rudd in second and Kurt Busch in third position. The No. 8 Budweiser team with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the day from the 10th starting position, but was in trouble from the drop of the green flag as a faulty transmission caused Junior to make contact with the car of Mike Bliss, then spin into the outside wall in turn one on the second lap. The Bud team made quick repairs, replacing the entire transmission as well as rear deck lid on the 8 car, rejoining the race 14 laps behind the leaders before returning to the garage several laps later to repair a brake line that had been damaged in the crash. The team returned to the track 22 laps behind the leaders, where they remained for the rest of the race. The 42nd-place finish drops Dale Jr. to 18th in the Nextel Cup point standings.

Key Moments:

Starting 10th, things went pear-shaped from the first corner of the race, as Dale Jr. struggled to keep the car in gear. After losing first and second gear on the first lap, the Bud car lost all drive as he crossed the line to start the second lap. Contact with the car of Mike Bliss cut a right rear tire, sending Dale Jr. into the outside wall. After making repairs, the Budweiser crew were forced back to the garage several lap later to repair a damaged brake line. Dale Jr. spent the remainder of the race staying out of trouble.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"It was broken from the very first turn. It was like musical gears: shift-no gear... shift-gear... shift again-no gear... shift--gear... It finally went out completely at the end of the first lap. I was kind of overwhelmed because there was so much traffic around me, and I was just trying not to hit anybody. I feel bad I got into Mike (Bliss) but I was just trying to get out of the way. There were cars on both sides of me and I was trying to find a gear. That's frustrating because it was a brand-new type of transmission. We were trying some new trick stuff and it just failed. They put a second gearbox in it and it was great the rest of the day."

"I'm actually leavin' without too much disappointment because even when the car was beat to (death), we were really fast. I knew after the practice sessions yesterday, that was a car that was capable of winning, but that ain't gonna happen when you have no transmission. We had a great set-up and it's really fun to drive a car that's so easy to drive. I was out there just making laps and I was able to pass a lot of the lead lap guys. That's so tough: to have a really fast car but you're just trying to stay out of people's way even when you're so much faster. They're on the lead lap fighting for position, and I'm not going to get in their way."

Best Radio Chatter:

There wasn't much chatter after the gearbox problems knocked the team from contention, and the focus switched to surviving the afternoon.

Dale Jr; (during a lap 43 yellow flag) "This car is going to be good for (Watkins) Glen (the next road course event on the schedule). We just need to figure out what happened. Beat yerself up a little bit, but most of all, figure it out because I wanna run this same (stuff) at the Glen. The same style."

Steve Hmiel (crew chief): "It broke the shift pin, Junior. So you had no gears. There were all just floating in there."

Dale Jr.: "Then get me a (expletive) shift pin that won't break and I'll run it. We'll kick their ass at the Glen with this car."

Dale Jr. (during a lap 69 yellow flag): "Man, I'm waaaaaaay faster than these guys, but I don't wanna piss 'em off if they're on the lead lap."

Hmiel: "You're 22 laps behind, so let your conscience be your guide."

Dale Jr: "I'm just trying to ride it out, but I'll pass if I can. If you're getting heat from anyone, lemme know."

Hmiel: "Nah, nobody's said a word. You're doin' good."

Dale Jr.: (giving orders to the crew): "I want this thing in good shape when we go to the Glen. It's a good car. A real good car...

(talking about the frustration of being 22 laps behind): "I don't know how much you guys can take. I can take a whole helluva lot, but I worry about y'all gettin' down. Don't get down. Hold your heads up."

Hmiel: "We're OK. It's unfortunate we had that problem because we had a great car, a lot of scuffed tires, great fuel mileage... This stuff happens. We only get down when we embarrass ourselves, and we've done that a couple of times before, but we're gonna try to never do that again."

Dale Jr: "Just don't believe any of whatcha read in the papers. Just hang tough. If you think it can't get worse, it will. So don't let it getcha down. I think that thing was broken when we rolled off the grid. I really don't think I did anything to break it."

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Mike Bliss