Watkins Glen: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Tony Stewart wins, good day gone bad for Dale Jr.. No. 8 Budweiser team 35th place after late spin into gravel. Tony Stewart, who managed to survive a week of heated media scrutiny after a post-race incident where Stewart struck a photographer...

Tony Stewart wins, good day gone bad for Dale Jr..
No. 8 Budweiser team 35th place after late spin into gravel.

Tony Stewart, who managed to survive a week of heated media scrutiny after a post-race incident where Stewart struck a photographer and was fined by NASCAR AND his sponsor, put the drama behind him today as well as the rest of the field with a victory in the Sirius Radio at the Glen at Watkins Glen, NY. Stewart survived a late-race red flag to hold off rookie Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon in a dash to the finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran strong through the first 70 laps of the race, running as high as second place and utilizing a fuel strategy that positioned them for a top-10 finish. However, while challenging Jeff Gordon for 14th place on lap 72, the rear brakes locked on the No. 8 car and sent Dale Jr. for a wild ride, sliding backwards through the gravel trap outside of turn one. The team revived the dust-strewn car in the garage area, and Dale Jr. returned to the track, finishing 35th place, six laps behind the leaders.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 21st, and not known for his road racing savvy, showed his continuing improvement by running strong and competitive lap times all afternoon. Choosing to make an early pit stop during the initial yellow flag period of the race on lap 10, the team was able to take advantage of the extra fuel as they climbed to second place on lap 29 (of 90) until their second pit stop on lap 38. The pit strategy looked as if it was going to pay off as the team made what should have been their final pit stop of the day on lap 52, while many of the cars in front of them were forced to pit for more fuel later in the afternoon. While battling up through the field, Dale Jr. got inside of Jeff Gordon for 14th position on lap 72, but the rear brakes locked while he was positioning the car for the first corner, which sent him careening into the gravel trap. When the dust-covered No. 8 returned to the pit lane, looking more like a Baja desert racer than NASCAR stock car, the team was able to make quick repairs and send Dale Jr. back on the track to finish six laps down in 35th position.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "I. apologized to Tony Jr. (Eury, car chief) and the guys after I spun out. The car was pretty good - and I felt like I was quicker than the guys in front of me at that point in the race. I got inside (Jeff) Gordon, and when I jumped on the brakes, they locked and I was just hanging on. I got out after the tow truck pulled the car out of the gravel and right into the wall. That was the damage to the back of the car - I didn't do that - the wrecker did!"

"I felt like we were going to have a really good finish. I was 15th when I went off, so that's an improvement for us. I feel like we're getting better and better at the road courses. I was having fun and I drove my butt off every corner of every lap. It was really hard to pass, so track position was critical. I was behind Boris (Said, a renowned road racer) and I really felt like we were faster than him, but I just couldn't get past him anywhere."

Best Radio Conversations: Not all of the best or most entertaining radio conversations take place on race day. Friday's practice and qualifying produced some exciting moments, including Dale Jr. avoiding a possum that wandered onto the course on his qualifying lap. Earlier in the day, Dale Jr. rolled to a stop during the practice session with a loose rear axle, leading to a lengthy delay to return to the pits via tow truck:

Tony Eury Jr: "Where y'at?!?"

Dale Jr.  "Who knows?! I broke at turn one so now I am at (pause)
who-knows-what-turn (pause) I'm at  'www.who-the-hell-knows.com'"

Following the final pit stop of the day on lap 52, the team believed that they had enough fuel to continue to the finish, but did not want to take any chances. Under the yellow flag, they encouraged the driver to save fuel as best he could:

Tony Jr. "Third gear, please, Dale Jr"

Tony Eury Sr. (crew chief): "You have enough, but just don't pump on that gas pedal."

Dale Jr. (in a mocking tone) "I dunno I'm not really a believer"

Tony Sr: "Yeah, well, this time you ARE gonna make it."

Dale Jr: (chuckling) "Oh... OK. I'm a believer now."

Tony Jr: (referring to Dale Jr's buddy Hank Parker Jr., who has two Busch Series victories based primarily on superb fuel mileage) "Just pretend you're Hank Jr. for a weekend"

After the field circulated another lap under the yellow flag, Tony Jr. seemed surprised at their position on the track (Dale Jr. restarted in 17th position):

Tony Jr: 'Hell - we're almost leading this thing! I thought it was going to be worse, but we're in a good position here. There are at least seven cars ahead of you that can't make it (without making another pit stop)."

Today's Stats
Started: 21st
Finished: 35th
Points Position: 17th (no change)
Money Won: $57,605
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 10 / Stop #1 of 4 / 4 tires, Fuel and Track-bar adjustment / 15.46 seconds

Don't forget the King of Beers on the internet at: www.Budweiser.com

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Hank Parker Jr. , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman