Bud Team Scores Top-10 As Championship Battle Heats Up Tony Stewart takes win at Texas Dale Earnhardt Jr. overcame strep throat, sore joints, and contact with the wall halfway through the race to finish sixth in the Dickies 500 Sunday at Texas...
Bud Team Scores Top-10 As Championship Battle Heats Up
Tony Stewart takes win at Texas
Dale Earnhardt Jr. overcame strep throat, sore joints, and contact with the wall halfway through the race to finish sixth in the Dickies 500 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. It was Junior's 16th top-10 this season, third in the last four races, and seventh in nine career races at Texas Motor Speedway. More importantly it moves him up to third in the Nextel Cup point standings, 78 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 67 points behind second-place Matt Kenseth with two races to go in the 2006 campaign. Tony Stewart led eight times for 278 laps and held off Johnson in a green-white-checkered finish to capture his third win in the last eight races. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five.
Key Moments: Dealing with the lingering effects of a weekend-long bout with strep throat, Dale Jr. started 10th and raced his way to as high as fifth in the opening circuits, keeping his favorite car, Chassis #39, in contention for its eighth consecutive top-10. But on lap 166, the close pursuit of Clint Bowyer's #07 Chevrolet took the air off the Bud car's spoiler, causing Junior to lose control and hit the wall. The Brew Crew needed seven pit stops over the next three caution periods to fix moderate right-side damage. Repaired and rejuvenated, Junior restarted 34th and raced his way back into the top-10, using a two-tire stop on lap 196 and a gusty four-tire stop under green conditions with 25 to go to rejoin the front pack. To cap off his comeback, he made a miraculous move through the infield grass at full speed to avoid the wrecking cars of Scott Riggs, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards and preserve the top-10.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"This was a hard day. The first part of the race wasn't very good at all. But the guys worked on the car and I got to feeling better halfway through the race. I'm just sorry we didn't do any better than we did. We really couldn't get a hold of the car. The No. 07 got right up on me there. I did the same thing to the No. 16 here a year ago and I couldn't believe how quick it spun me around there and we got in the fence. The guys worked on it and fixed it. And I want to thank them. It's a great race car and hopefully we can have it repaired for Homestead."
Were you surprised at how good the car was after making seven pit stops to repair the damage?
"I've seen these guys fix wrecked race cars before. And they've got a great habit of still having that little glimmer of hope that that thing might handle all right. And a lot of teams will just ride it out. These guys stick it out and you can hear it in their voices that they anticipate the car to drive the same, so I go out there and try to make it happen. It was a good race. I'm real proud of my team. It was a good effort for us with all that we went through."
On dealing through illness to finish in the top-10:
"The first part of the race, I was a mess. It was grueling for me. I could concentrate for about three laps and then I'd have two laps to where I just couldn't get nothing done and I was just all over the place feeling sick. I got that out of my system somehow or another. Hitting the fence sort of woke us all up a little bit, because the last half of the race I was fine. We knocked the crush panels out and got a little carbon monoxide - sort of like taking a Valium. It kind of gave me a little bit of a pace there. I had a real bad case of heartburn all weekend from drinking so many power drinks trying to put my fluids back in me. I was just so full of fluids and the first couple of corners, man, it was just all coming back up."
What does it say about your team to be able to finish sixth after a day like today?
"I hope it says a lot. We've been called a lot of things and it would be great to be called resilient. This team is very strong and very dedicated. They carry me whenever I need it and vice-versa and it helps to have that. It really, really does."
Best Radio Chatter:
During the second caution, Dale Jr. began to experience severe heartburn, and it was affecting his ability to focus on the race:
Dale Jr.: "Guys, on the next pit stop, I need a bottle of water, about half empty, with two Prilosecs in the bottom. Know what I mean? I've got some killer heartburn."
Tony Jr.: "Ten-four."
Dale Jr.: "Go down to the 31 hauler. There should be some in there."
Tony Jr.: "Ten-four, the guys are already on it. We'll fix you up on the next stop."
With the laps winding down, a wreck involving the second-place car caused a chain reaction melee on the front tri-oval. Dale Jr., in ninth, went streaking through the infield grass to avoid the carnage, miraculously keeping control despite a 190 mph drive through wet grass.
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Wrecking in front of you, go low, go low, go low... Wow, you're clear buddy!"
Dale Jr. (having momentarily gone airborne when the car popped back onto the pavement): "Man, I landed HARD on the left front."
Tony Jr.: "That was a helluva job, driver. You got a little bit of rocker damage, but that was a helluva job."
Dale Jr.: " Alright."
Tony Jr.: "Looks like he (Scott Riggs) had a flat and they ran over him."
Dale Jr.: "Get your binoculars out and get a good look at this car, and tell me what I got. Make sure the left-front has air in it and everything."
Tony Jr.: "There's nothing rubbing. The left-front valance is pushed straight up like you drove it off the apron. Nothing's rubbin'... I think you're good."
Dale Jr.: "I think what I hit was the inner roll cage here."
Tony Jr.: "You probably hit the frame rail. When you came out of the grass and you landed, that's probably what you felt."