Talladega II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Waltrip Wins, Dale Jr. Second in DEI Sweep No. 8 Budweiser Team one position shy of fifth-straight victory at Talladega Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished first and second, sweeping Sunday's EA Sports...

Waltrip Wins, Dale Jr. Second in DEI Sweep
No. 8 Budweiser Team one position shy of fifth-straight victory at Talladega

Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished first and second, sweeping Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The No. 8 Budweiser team was attempting to become the first in NASCAR history to win five consecutive races at a superspeedway. The second-place tally, combined with five bonus points for leading the race, pulls Dale Jr. up one position to third in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. It gives him nine top-3 finishes in 2003, 11 top-5s and 17 top-10s with seven races remaining.

The Key Moments:

After their qualifying lap was disallowed, Dale Jr. was forced to start in the 38th position. The second-place finish was anything but easy, as the No. 8 car was involved in a lap-14 chain-reaction accident on pit lane, and then narrowly avoided a second collision with the car of Mike Skinner during their third pit stop. The incident damaged the nose of the Bud car, and the resulting pit stops to repair the damage dropped Dale Jr. deep into the field. With a damaged machine, Dale Jr. dropped one lap behind on lap 60, and then fought to regain the lap on a lap 147 yellow-flag. The Bud team benefited from the new NASCAR rule that allows the first car one-lap behind to regain their lap under caution. Restarting 24th, Dale Jr. passed nine cars on lap 148, then another six on lap 150 to gain a top-10 position. Dale Jr. eventually took the lead on lap 165 (of 188). When Elliott Sadler was involved in a violent crash, NASCAR red-flagged the race, restarting with four laps to go. Dale Jr. restarted second, behind Waltrip, and was unable to pass his teammate in the final laps.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I'm proud and happy to see DEI get first and second, and I'm proud of second, but I wanted to win this one. It's cool. We fought hard all day, especially after the mess on pit lane (on lap 14). The crew worked and worked to repair the nose of the car, and we played catch-up the rest of the day. That was one crazy race, and I've never seen anything like it. It was too crazy even for me, and I'm the craziest one out there. There was just a lotta beatin' and carryin' on all day. I don't think I've ever been run into and run into other cars so much in one race. It was a rowdy day."

"I was looking to make a move around Michael (in the final laps), but I never had the right support or push from behind. I was prepared to make a move if it meant I was going to be sure I would be able to pass Michael, but that never developed, so I knew we could get a one-two finish. I feel real lucky that we were able to come back with a damaged car and gain our lap back. We led for a few laps, and we gave it a shot for the win."

(Pointing at a sheet showing the number of his top-five and top-10 finishes):

"These are the numbers that are important to me. My team is having our best season ever, and if we can't win every race, then we're happy to keep on getting those top-fives..."

(About losing the draft, then being lapped by the lead pack):

"It's a lot like getting attacked by a shark. You look back and you see this big scary thing comin' up on ya, and you know it's faster than you, no matter how hard you try to swim. It just sweeps up on ya, and you just have to try to hang on and get in there somewhere in the pack."

Best Radio Chatter: Foreshadowing?

Dale Jr: (moments before being swept into a multi-car crash on pit lane on lap 14): "That was fun..."

NASCAR's new rule allowing the first car one-lap down to regain the lead lap caused some momentary confusion during the yellow flag on lap 145...

Dale Jr.: "I don't think I messed the nose up, but check it out cuz' I was hitting Michael (Waltrip) pretty hard. Can I go around these boys? All these guys out here running slow without fenders and stuff? Who can I pass?"

Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "You will get to start at the end of the line of lead lap cars, so you're OK. Just calm down, cuz' we're gonna win this baby!"

Dale Jr. : "OK, I'm calm...

After the final pit stop...

Dale Jr.: "I'm just glad I don't have to come down pit lane anymore. It seemed like a bomb went off every time I made a stop..."

Under the red flag period, when Dale Jr. was lined-up second behind his teammate.

Dale Jr.: "I've had enough. I'm ready for this thing to be over with... Michael's car is FAST. I wish there was someone else up there in front. He knows me, ya know?"

Tony Eury Jr (car chief): "Yeah, well maybe we can teach a dog some new tricks..."

Dale Jr: "I've tried all the tricks today, man! I even invented some new ones."

Tony Jr: "Alright Junebug, we're not gonna talk to ya no more. You'll have four laps to go. Go out and get ya number five (fifth consecutive victory at Talladega)."

Dale Jr: "Alright, 10-4. We've done good to get where we are now. You guys have done a real good job today..."

NBC Nightly News:

Dale Jr. sat down at Talladega for an extended interview with Brian Williams of NBC News. A portion of the interview aired during Sunday's pre-race telecast, and an additional segment will be aired during Monday evening's NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw at 6:30 pm Eastern time.

Walk of Fame:

Dale Jr. was inducted into Talladega's Walk of Fame in Davey Allison Memorial Park Saturday evening. He was selected for the honor via voting by race fans. His father Dale Earnhardt was the first active driver to be inducted in the Walk of Fame nearly 10 years ago.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Elliott Sadler , Davey Allison
Teams Williams