Sears Point: Dale Earnhardt Jr. race report

Robby Gordon wins at Sonoma, Dale Jr. 11th No. 8 Budweiser Team records career-best road course finish Robby Gordon held off Jeff Gordon in the final laps of Sunday's Save-Mart 350 for his second career Winston Cup victory. Kevin Harvick was ...

Robby Gordon wins at Sonoma, Dale Jr. 11th
No. 8 Budweiser Team records career-best road course finish

Robby Gordon held off Jeff Gordon in the final laps of Sunday's Save-Mart 350 for his second career Winston Cup victory. Kevin Harvick was third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team recorded an 11th place finish, their best-ever finish in a Winston Cup road course event. (Previous best was 12th at Watkins Glen, NY in 2001, and previous best at Sonoma was 19th in 2001.) Earnhardt Jr. was among the quickest cars throughout the 110-lap race, but was hit from behind and spun off the course on lap 61, dropping to 35th position. After the team's final pit stop, Dale Jr. restarted 22nd, passing 11 cars in the final 19 laps of the race. Jeff Gordon's second-place finish moved him two points ahead of Dale Jr. in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, dropping Dale Jr. to third place, but both drivers gained on leader Matt Kenseth, who finished 14th. This is the 12th finish of 11th-place or better in the past 14 races for the Budweiser team.

The Key Moments:

The red Budweiser car started in the 11th position, and crawled into the top-10 by lap seven. Dale Jr. remained in the top-10 until a restart on lap 61, when he was hit from behind while trying to avoid the spinning car of Rusty Wallace. After restarting in 35th position on lap 64, the team climbed gradually up the standings until their final pit stop of the afternoon on lap 89. In the final 20 laps, Dale Jr. turned lap times equal to the leader, slicing past 11 cars to grab 11th place.

Dale Jr's Quotes:

"We worked hard for that 11th-place finish. This is a track where we knew we had to improve, and I think we showed that we're here to stay as a championship contender. I wanted a top-10 sooo bad -- and we had the car to do it. I want to thank the guys for a car that was the best I've had on a road course. We came, we conquered, we kicked some butt. That was a knock-down drag-out, and I had some fun!"

"I was taking it easy early on, just chillin,' saving the car as much as I could. The 99 car (Jeff Burton) got into the 2 car (Rusty Wallace) right in front of me. I was trying to whoa it down, and the 97 car (Kurt Busch) plowed right through me. I would have only lost a few spots, but I couldn't get the engine re-fired. I just sat there hoping that thing would fire. We all did our best to stay calm and get as many spots back as we could. We had an awesome car in the last 20 laps. Man -- I was haulin' past some cars!"

Best Radio Conversations

Tony Eury Sr., crew chief of the Budweiser team, missed the event after undergoing elective surgery on his neck last Tuesday. Tony Eury Jr. filled in as crew chief in his absence. As the team discussed pit strategy on lap 52, Dale Jr. was thinking of Tony Sr., who was likely watching the race from home.

Dale Jr: (to Tony Jr., asking if Tony Sr. had called) "Hey man, is your cell phone ringing yet?"
Tony Jr: "Heh-heh-heh. No, he isn't wearin' me out yet."
Dale Jr: "I thought he'd be wearing you out by now..."

After being spun out on lap 61.

Dale Jr.: "Sorry guys. I got spun out."
Tony Jr: "It's alright -- just drive like you've been doing all day and we'll be fine."
Dale Jr: "OK, everybody calm down. You guys need to help me finish this race. Let's do what we can do -- and get what we can get. Let's stay positive and forget about was has already happened..."

Playin' Hurt

Best wishes to Tony Eury Sr., who is resting at home after neck surgery last week.

Budweiser jackman Kevin Pennell injured his left hand during a pit stop on lap 62. Pennell fell to the ground when he stepped on loose lug nuts while running around the front of the car. The impact with the ground snapped the handle on the jack. Pennell suffered swelling on his left hand after the incident but refused treatment until after the race. He went over the wall on the team's two final stops.

Junior and Zito Hang at Sonoma

Dale Jr. and Oakland A's pitcher Barry Zito spent Friday morning at Infineon Speedway for a photo session for USA Weekend magazine. Zito, the 2002 Cy Young Award winner, joined Junior for an interview and photo shoot that is slated to appear in August.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Tony Eury Jr.