Talladega: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Budweiser team finishes second at Talladega Dale Jr. strengthens points lead with 95-point edge over Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team by inches, keeping a nose ahead of the Budweiser Chevy when a ...

Budweiser team finishes second at Talladega
Dale Jr. strengthens points lead with 95-point edge over Jimmie Johnson

Jeff Gordon beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team by inches, keeping a nose ahead of the Budweiser Chevy when a yellow flag flew three laps shy of the finish to Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The race ended under caution, giving Gordon his first win of the season, and handing Dale Jr. his sixth straight top-two finish at Talladega. The Bud team led 11 times for 57 laps en route to its series-leading sixth (and third consecutive) top-five. There were 55 lead changes among 23 drivers, and a track-record 11 cautions for 55 laps. Dale Jr. now holds a 94-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson in the NEXTEL Cup championship standings.

Key Moments: Starting third, Dale Jr. fought among the leaders for most of the day in a cauldron of two- and three-wide racing. The red No. 8 Chevy needed only minor adjustments throughout the afternoon, and a gas-and-go pit stop on lap 150 gave Dale Jr. enough fuel to make it to the finish. The Bud car was in front on a lap 179-restart but lost the lead on lap 183 in a door-to-door duel with Gordon. Dale Jr. fought back and was moving in for a pass for the lead on lap 184 when Brian Vickers' spin brought out the 11th caution and froze the field. NASCAR reviewed the tapes and ruled that Gordon was ahead of the Bud car when the caution came out. The final four laps were run under the tow of the pace car.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "Man, what a wild race. It was a lot of fun. I love running this race track, and it was a good points day for us. The car was great at the start, I worked with my teammate (Michael Waltrip) and the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) cars, and we just had a lot of fun. There at the end, I was leading, got shoved back, took the lead again, and then I looked back in the mirror and saw more guys coming. At the end, I was on the outside and I thought I was ahead of Jeff when the caution came out, but NASCAR had a different opinion. That's cool. We obviously would have liked to have the win, but NASCAR has a tough decision, and they ruled it the way they saw it. I'm just real pleased with my race team. We weren't too confident in this car. I'm not really sure why we brought it, but it turned out to be better than I anticipated."

On why he thought he had the lead:
"I had a car-length on (Gordon) when I passed the caution light, and the light wasn't on. But you go on when the flag was waved, and I have no idea when that was. So we'll go with their decision. We're not going to gripe and moan. It's a tough call. That's the way it is."

On getting drafting help from brother Kerry Earnhardt, who was driving Richard Childress' No. 33 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet:
"Man, that was awesome. I was caught in the middle at one point, and it looked like I was going to get hung out to dry (in the draft), and all of a sudden I see this dang fish come up through the middle and give me a push. I think he had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, he was a victim in an accident, but he has a lot to be happy about. He showed a lot of promise, and I'm proud of him."

On his reaction to the fans voicing their displeasure at the end of the race by throwing beer onto the race track:
"I guess you could look at it as a form of expression (laughing). We can only speculate why they did that, but I'm sure each little beer can had its own message to it. Luckily it wasn't seat cushions (which fans threw on the track at Daytona in 2001). Those (cushions) are a lot harder for your car to climb over. And if you noticed, there wasn't anyone throwing their Budweiser away! All I saw was Coors. What's that tell ya? I guess those last few swallows of a Coors really ain't that good."

Best Radio Conversations:
Under a yellow flag period on lap 68...
Stevie Reeves (spotter): "The 20 (Tony Stewart) was lookin' for ya out there. He was looking to help you get in line..."

Dale Jr.: "Tell him I don't wanna be in line. I wanna have fun."

Later during the same yellow flag period:
Dale Jr: "Can I get on the radio with (teammate) Michael (Waltrip)? I couldn't tell what he wanted me to do. I'll run three-wide all day long -- especially up there against the wall. That's fun and exciting, man. I love it. But, find out if Michael needs me to help him in the low lane... up high?... 3- wide? I couldn't tell by his body language or how we was driving."

Reeves: "He says his car is really fast everywhere."

Dale Jr: "OK. Can he talk to me on his radio? Tell him to talk to me all he wants. Lemme know where he wants to run."

Under the yellow flag on lap 95...
Dale Jr: "Man, these fans are crazy! I think there's a fight near the flag stand... It's good to see 'em enjoyin' themselves. I love it. These fans are up the whole damn race... I love the crowd here. I feed off it and race like hell."

During another yellow flag on lap 147...
Dale Jr. : "I'm in bad need of a tear-off (on the windshield). I think Tony (Stewart) or the 01 (Joe Nemechek) is dropping grease or something. I couldn't see anything there -- I was just trying to push an orange blur past the blue blur."

Jon Dennison (engine tuner): "Save all the fuel you can..."

Dale Jr. (dejected): "Oh... nice...:

Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "We'll be OK. Everybody's gonna come in and do a splash of gas before green..."

Dale Jr; "So we'll be OK?"

Tony Jr: "Yeah, we'll be good to go."

Under yet another yellow flag period, lap 167, while leading the race:
Dale Jr: "Y'all nervous?"

Tony Jr: "Nope."

Dale Jr: "Y'all look nervous."

Tony Jr.: "Nope. You'll have 19 laps to go."

Dale Jr: "How about Jimmie (Johnson). I figured if he wanted to win really bad, we'll see how he hangs onto it when he's sideways in the corners. He must want it pretty bad because he hung onto it...

After the race-ending yellow-flag, after NASCAR ruled Jeff Gordon was inches ahead of Dale Jr. when the caution came out, giving Gordon the victory.
Dale Jr.: "Listen to me guys, we know we were leading when that (caution) light came on. But -- watch what you say on TV or radio or anywhere. First place or second place -- we are gonna handle it with class."

Tony Eury Sr. (Crew chief) "I just want to see the tape (regarding the ruling). We've shown we've got class."

Dale Jr: "I'm proud of y'all. We had a good day no matter where they say we finish."

Tony Sr. (referring to the fans beginning to throw debris onto the track) "It looks like they're starting a riot here..."

Today's Stats
Started: 3rd
Finished: 2nd (sixth straight top-two at Talladega, sixth top-five of the year)
Points: 1st place (94 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson)
Laps Led: 11 times for 57 laps
Best Pit Stop: Stop 6 of 8 / lap 115 / four tires & fuel / 13.31 seconds


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Jimmie Johnson , Kerry Earnhardt , Stevie Reeves , Tony Eury Jr.
Teams Richard Childress Racing