Sonoma: Dale Earnhardt Jr race summary

Rudd wins when Nadeau breaks. Earnhardt Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team finish 30th. Ricky Rudd, who had lost several races this season when late-race failures knocked him out of a likely victory, saw his luck turn around Sunday as Jerry Nadeau ...

Rudd wins when Nadeau breaks.
Earnhardt Jr. and No. 8 Budweiser Team finish 30th.

Ricky Rudd, who had lost several races this season when late-race failures knocked him out of a likely victory, saw his luck turn around Sunday as Jerry Nadeau suffered a broken transmission while leading the Save-Mart 350 with three laps to go at the Sears Poi uh, um I mean the (newly re-christened) Infineon Raceway at Sonoma, California. Rudd took the lead for the first time on lap 108 (of 110 total) to gain his first victory of 2002. The race, the first of two this season on road courses, was a strange, jumbled affair, with an unlikely top five at the end due to the timing of yellow flags and the early retirement of many of the season's points leaders. Tony Stewart was second, followed by Terry Labonte, Kurt Busch and Jeff Green in fifth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team showed flashes of continued improvement on road courses, as they climbed as high as 14th before hard contact while racing with Kyle Petty sent the red Bud car off course and into the wall on lap 43. Dale Jr. was able to re-fire the damaged car, and even held on to the lead lap until the 59th go-round. Dale Jr. finished 30th, one lap behind Rudd at the finish. The finish is the fourth of 30th or worse in the six races since the Bud team won in dominating fashion at Talladega.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 23rd (his best start in three seasons at the Sears Point track), was able to run lap times competitive with the leaders as he fought through traffic during the early stages of the race. A fast pit stop on lap 34 moved him up several positions until the first yellow flag of the day on lap 38. With the field bunched-up for the restart, Dale Jr. raced side-by-side with Jimmy Johnson and then Kyle Petty before contact with Petty knocked the No. 8 car into the wall in the "esses" portion of the race track. The bent and battered car was still able to turn relatively quick lap times, but was never able to make-up the significant amount of ground lost in the crash.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "We were actually pretty good today. I know 30th place doesn't show it, but we never laid-down or let-up after the crash, which is important. The car was competitive and I had a better attitude for the race. I used to dread coming here, but I finally decided to just go out and have fun and the guys were able to give me a car that was able to run with just about anybody. Early on, I was concentrating so hard that I almost couldn't tell the guys what the car was doing."

About the crash: "We were all bottled-up after the restart, and Jimmy (Johnson) and I ran side-by-side. He hit me hard and I was pretty (mad) about it. So, I was really pushing hard to pass him back when the 45 (Petty) car and I got together and it just launched me over the curbing and into the dirt. I was inside of him but you go back and forth in that section, so Even after that we could run the same pace as the leaders for a few laps, but ithe car wasn't in alignment. I was kinda (mad) at the end to look up front and see the guys who were in the top 10. We coulda' been up there, but one mistake and that's it."

Best Radio Conversations

After passing the car of Ken Schrader on lap 20, spotter Ty Norris encouraged Dale Jr. to continue making smooth progress.

Ty Norris (spotter): "Good job man. We know we're faster than the guys in front of us. You can pull away here. Just hit your marks stay smooth you have no pressure from behind."

Dale Jr. (interrupting and urging Norris to be quiet): "Hey! I'm concentrating, man!"

The team made their first pit stop on lap 34, so when the first yellow flag fell a few laps later, they opted to stay on-track without making another pit stop.

Norris: "Alright guys, I assume we're not coming in here, right?

Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "We're stayin'out. I just didn't want to say it over the radio"

Dale Jr: "Tony Jr. - you can rest assured that no other team on that pit lane gives a (damn) about whether we're coming in or not."

Tony Jr: "10-4"

Dale Jr.: "What I mean is that we're not the top dogs here yet like we will be at Daytona. Until then, I don't think any of the 42 other teams give a damn if we pit here or not."

Tony Jr: "I like that enthusiasm You said 'yet'"

Today's Stats
Started: 23rd
Finished: 30th
Points Position: 16th
Money Won: $84,607
Best Pit Stop: Lap 34 / 4 tires and Fuel / 13.88 seconds

See Dale Jr. in New Sheryl Crow Video
Wanna get a head start and see the new Sheryl Crow music video before the rest of the world sees it on VH1? Link to: www2.fanscape.com/sherylcrow/emails/newsletter/scnews062102.html for a preview of "Steve McQueen," the video that co-stars Dale Jr. It's the second music video that young Junior has appeared in 2002. He previously co-starred in "Anti Pop," a video by the Matthew Good Band.

-dei/budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Jeff Green , Jerry Nadeau , Kurt Busch , Tony Eury Jr.