Kenseth Wins All-Star Challenge, Dale Jr. Finishes 5th Budweiser car leads early but fades at the end Defending series champion Matt Kenseth won his first career NEXTEL All-Star Challenge by beating Ryan Newman in a two-car breakaway at the end...
Kenseth Wins All-Star Challenge, Dale Jr. Finishes 5th
Budweiser car leads early but fades at the end
Defending series champion Matt Kenseth won his first career NEXTEL All-Star Challenge by beating Ryan Newman in a two-car breakaway at the end of Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Kenseth's winning move came with three laps to go when he applied the bump-and-run to Newman's Dodge, and then passed him on the inside. Tony Stewart finished third. Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team avoided several big accidents in the opening stages and put itself in good position at the end, only to have the handling of the Bud car fade in the final segment en route to a fifth-place finish. It was the 10th top-five in 14 "non-points" or all-star type races for the Bud crew. Dale Jr. led four laps on the evening, all in the first of the three segments.
Key Moments: Starting 15th, Dale Jr. dodge a massive wreck on lap 10 and fought his way into the lead by lap 25. After an eight-car inversion to start the second segment, Dale Jr. remained in the top five through the entire 30-lap session, thanks in large part to savvy driving and a 12.43-second pit stop by the Bud brew crew. One last attempt to improve the handling on the Bud car for the final segment came on lap 70, just prior to the 20-lap sprint to the checkers. Dale Jr. restarted the final segment in seventh, fought his way to the top-three behind Kenseth and Newman, but lost two positions in the waning circuits to Stewart and his teammate Michael Waltrip.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"This is frustrating and disappointing. We had a real fast car at the beginning of the race, and I felt I could race there at the end for the win, but we didn't play it very smart in the pits. We made some adjustments on our car that only hurt us, and it made the car just way too loose. I don't know, I guess this will teach us a good lesson ... when you got a good car, don't mess with it. I just hope that when we come back for the (Coca-Cola) 600 (next weekend), we know what we're doing in the pits, because tonight we didn't. There was a lot of money to be won ... we're kicking ourselves right now.
"We were easily the fastest car early on, but we made too many adjustments. (Car chief) Tony (Eury) Junior felt like the track got tighter because of the cooler temperatures. The guys up front adjusted to it better than we did."
Best Radio Conversation:
A multi-car crash called for immediate, evasive action by Driver #8 to keep the Bud Chevy out of the carnage by driving on the apron of turn one:
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): (while the crash was happening) " Stay
Stevie Reeves (spotter): "That was a heckuva job! There was so much smoke, I couldn't see at all."
Tony Jr.: "Way to keep your eyes open there driver."
Reeves: "Helluva job. I couldn't even see ya."
At the end of the first segment:
Dale Jr.: "I'm real, real loose. I drive it in, and then it's like BAM!... loose. Sideways!"
During the 10-minute intermission between the first and second segments:
Dale Jr.: "I swear something's been happening in the last three or four weeks with these driving suits ... the dry cleaning or something has messed them all up. I'm burning up in this suit. It's like they're machine washed or something, and it's made 'em real tight and my ass is burning up. The seat and everything around me is cool, but I'm burning up all over -- my arms and legs... I mean, I put some new ones on order about 12 months ago ... they ought to be here sometime in the next couple years."
More comedic relief after the opening 40-lap session:
Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief, talking to team member Rick "Otis"
Hodges after Hodges had sprinted to the hauler for a fan): "You need
Dale Jr.: "Ha, ha, ha ... What, you think I'm out of shape all of a sudden? I know I'm all hot in this firesuit, but I ain't out of shape."
Tony Sr. (laughing): "I was talking to Otis."
Dale Jr.: "Oh, I was getting all offended in here. I just want my new uniforms, that's all."