Gordon Wins Talladega, Dale Jr. Seventh Bud Team Gets Top-10 Finish in Odd Race For the second week in a row, Jeff Gordon completed a clean sweep, taking the Bud Pole Award and then the Nextel Cup race victory. Gordon on Sunday's Aaron's 499 ...
Gordon Wins Talladega, Dale Jr. Seventh
Bud Team Gets Top-10 Finish in Odd Race
For the second week in a row, Jeff Gordon completed a clean sweep, taking the Bud Pole Award and then the Nextel Cup race victory. Gordon on Sunday's Aaron's 499 which ended under yellow flag conditions at Talladega Superspeedway. Jimmie Johnson was second while Kurt Busch finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished seventh (unofficially - after being told immediately after the race a finish anywhere between fifth and eighth. The official results will be posted by NASCAR Monday). Dale Jr. led two laps midway through the race, and was as high as second place in the final ten laps before the final series of caution flags. This is the team's ninth top-10 at Talladega, and Dale Jr. has now led in 13 of 15 Cup starts at the Alabama oval. The finish moves Junior two positions higher in the standings to 12th after nine races.
Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 36th, moved forward almost immediately, gaining 15 spots in the first two laps. When the superspeedway traffic became too crazy, Dale Jr. dropped back to run in safer, cleaner environs - which paid off several times as he missed all of the day's multi-car accidents. The race was a typical restrictor-plate-type scrum for much of the afternoon - where the leaps and falls on the scoreboard each lap would look like an EKG read-out if plotted on a graph. Dale Jr. would often gain as many as 10 or 11 positions on a single lap, only to fall five or six positions on the following lap. However, the race took an odd turn on lap 136, as the teams opted to begin conserving fuel - which meant the entire field running in a single, snaking line. Suddenly, the EKG became a flat-line as Dale Jr. ran in sixth place for nearly 25 laps laps. When the green flag came out with 10 laps to go, the racing was again crazed and furious, as Dale Jr. made several daring moves into second place on lap 183. However, the outside line proved not to be the lane of choice as Gordon and his teammate Johnson freight-trained past on the inside. The yellow flag flew again on lap 184, and the race - scheduled for 188 laps - became a green-white-checkered flag finish. When the green flag fell on lap 190, Dale Jr. restarted eighth, and gained one spot before another multi-car crash meant the field was locked into position and the race ended under caution.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"I'm happy with the day since we got a top-10 and gained a few spots in the point standings. I think we were ahead of a couple of guys that NASCAR says are ahead of us on the unofficial results, but that's the way it goes. Depends on when they decide the yellow came out. We didn't have the car to seriously run up front today. We could put ourselves in a position to move up and maybe get lucky, but we were just out-run. I saw the 24 (Gordon) coming (on his late run into the lead), but there was nothing I could do to stop him. We were a sitting duck once they got a run on us. But, we made the most of what we had and I got to lead a few laps which is always cool here at Talladega because it really makes the fans happy. I wish we could have led at the end, but we gave it everything we had."
About today being the birthday of his late father, Dale Earnhardt (Big E would have been 56 years old): "It's a good day for me. His birthday always means a lot to me each year. We treat it like a holiday and I'm headin' home now to open a few cold Buds and celebrate. We'll celebrate tonight."
Best Radio Chatter:
The Bud car streaked forward in the first few laps, then just as abruptly dropped back as the racing was three-wide and very crazy in the early going.
Dale Jr.: "The water temp was up to 225 (degrees). There was a lot of water coming out of a lotta cars - so we're gonna back out of it and just chill back here. No need for that three-wide stuff this early."
Tony Eury Jr (crew chief): "You're doing the right thing."
Dale Jr: "Yeah. I wasn't going anywhere anyway."
Eury Jr: "We're good. Just chill your brain waves. Save 'em for the finish."
During the caution period on lap 72, Dale Jr. talked to the audience watching on "Hot Pass" from DirecTV while running 12th.
Rick Allen (DirecTV): "Junior, you've said you inherited your dad's peripheral vision. Are you going to put that to use?
Dale Jr: "Yeah, I'd like to think I see things before anyone else, but it ain't helpin' me right now. We'll get up there someway, somehow. I just need a little more hot rod and a little more daylight."
The always raucous and unruly Talladega crowd erupted on lap 86 when Dale Jr. swept past Kurt Busch into the lead. Spotter Steve Hmiel turned into a play-by-play announcer.
Hmiel: "New leader. The 8."
The hot afternoon meant the engines were running with very high temperatures in traffic. Dale Jr. became concerned on lap 112 while running 10th.
Dale Jr: "Hot! Hot! Hot! The water's at 255. Is that OK or do you want me to get out of the pack and into clean air?"
Eury Jr: "I think you're OK. It should handle that. Everybody seems to be running hot. It if gets to 260.. then it's 260."
Dale Jr: "No one said anything if that's OK. I mean, I was just kinda goin' on my own."
Eury Jr: "Should be alright. Just let it eat."
Dale Jr: "Alright then. I'll let it eat!"
As the race entered the final 40 laps, fuel conservation became much more of a concern than pure speed while Dale Jr. was running sixth.
Eury Jr: "I know we've got other issues, but if you can save me half-a-mile-a-gallon, we can make it."
Dale Jr: "I just ride right here I reckon."
Eury Jr: "Just do what you need to and we'll figure it from here, but if you can save us some, it'd help."
Dale Jr: "I'm about half-throttle all the way around now... how many laps left?"
Eury Jr: "You're coming to 35 laps to go..."