Watkins Glen: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Robbie Gordon wins, Dale Jr. third No. 8 Budweiser team records career-best road course finish. Robbie Gordon made it a sweep of both Winston Cup road races in 2003, as he won Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen at Watkins Glen, NY....

Robbie Gordon wins, Dale Jr. third No. 8 Budweiser team records career-best road course finish.

Robbie Gordon made it a sweep of both Winston Cup road races in 2003, as he won Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen at Watkins Glen, NY. Gordon also won at Infineon Raceway earlier in the season. Scott Pruett finished second while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser Team grabbed a career-best road course finish in third place. (Their previous best Winston Cup road race start and finish was 11th, both recorded at Infineon Raceway in June.) It is the ninth top-five finish in 22 races so far this season, and it solidifies Dale Jr's spot in second place in Winston Cup points (138 points ahead of third-place Jeff Gordon, and 258 points behind points leader Matt Kenseth.) This is the first top-10 start and top-10 finish on a road course for Dale Jr. and the team and the first time they have led a Cup race at a road course.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr. started sixth, quickly climbed to second place by the sixth lap, then passed Jeff Burton for the lead on lap 43. After leading 11 laps, Dale Jr. and the team made their second pit stop under the yellow flag. Despite being the first car off of pit lane, the Bud team restarted in 20th position on lap 55 restart, behind the cars that had pitted prior to the yellow flag. In only 10 laps, Junior gained 15 positions, twice passing three cars in one lap. Dale Jr. was consistently the quickest car on the course, but the distance from 20th place was too much to overcome to catch the top two cars. Dale Jr. passed Jeff Gordon on the final lap when Gordon ran out of fuel.

Dale Jr. Quotes: "It was good, hard fight today. We worked so hard to get ourselves into a position to be one of the top cars out here, so it feels good to come away with a good finish. We tested here (at Watkins Glen) and I uncovered a lot of mistakes I was making (in the past). It's about getting acclimated, more familiar and comfortable with the track, and then having a car fast enough to stay near the front. We worked hard to stay in the top three, but we got caught on that yellow flag (on lap 50). What can you do? The guys that pitted before the pits were closed were able to take advantage of it there. It's frustrating, but what can ya do? I'm proud of my guys. We knew we needed to do better here to be considered a more complete team, a championship contender, and we had a great weekend."

"We had to push the last (25 laps) because we restarted 20th. Before then, I was just chillin' out. Stayin' on the asphalt and not making any mistakes. When (Greg) Biffle was leading early on, I could tell he was really pushing, his brakes were glowing, so I just held back. Then, we passed Jeff Burton for the lead, but I was still taking it easy. We used up our tires passing all of those cars (on the restart). We were a little bit off at the end, but we're happy with the finish today."

"I tried to enjoy it today, but it's a lot of pressure. We have to think of the big picture, and we have to score as many points as we can, so the challenge is to not make any mistakes. You try to run hard, but you try to be as smooth and as careful as you can. We gave up a little speed to be smooth, but we had a good car all day."

About making contact with Jeff Gordon on the last lap: "He ran out of gas, and tried to block me. I was going 60 mph faster than he was, but, you're not gonna be able to block me for the last two corners of the race. I hit him getting past, because wherever I went, he went."

About removing the in-car camera equipment Saturday afternoon: "I need to thank Budweiser for approving that. We tested here, and we had a great set-up, but once they put in the in-car camera system (approximately 30 lbs.), it upset the balance of the car. So, after practice, we asked Bud if we could take it out, and they said 'OK.' We're racing for a championship here, and every little bit helps. I appreciate that a lot..."

Best Radio Conversations
The 11-turn road course at Watkin's Glen is a spotter's nightmare. The full track is not visible from any position, while the distance between pit lane and the back of the course makes communications very difficult. The Bud team used three spotters: the team's usual spotter Ty Norris, crew chief Tony Eury and former sprint car racer Stevie Reeves. Norris encouraged Junior when he turned the fastest lap of the race on lap 48. However, the encouragement was not received enthusiastically...

Dale Jr.: "Y'all need to be quiet. I'm out here trying to maintain my speed and you're in my ear."

Under the yellow flag that followed, he again encouraged his spotters to pick their spots wisely.

Dale Jr.: "I was just taking it easy there (while leading). I'd kind of chill until they got close, but I need total concentration here. There's some serious stuff goin' on out here, so you guys need to be quiet."

The final yellow flag of the afternoon fell on lap 76. Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Alright hot rod, we're stayin' out. You'll have 14 laps to go. You just keep doin' what you're doin' and we'll be alright. You're doin' great."

Dale Jr.: (referring to the rookie driver who restarted in front of the No. 8 car): "Be sure to remind that boy in front of us who's racing for points here..."

Today's Stats
Started: 6th
Finished: 3rd (This is the 9th top-five and 14th top-10 of the season.)
Points: 2nd (no change)
Money: $127,202
Best Pit Stop: Stop one of two / lap 23 / four tires & fuel / 14.46 seconds
Race Awards: Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award, $5,000 (lap 48, 121.117 mph), MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award, $10,000


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Stevie Reeves , Tony Eury Jr.