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Riding with Junior: Chicagoland
OK, just his helmet. Throughout the rest of the Nextel Cup season, come back here to see what Junior and his crew talk about on the radio. Every week, we'll have text from Junior's best conversations during the races. You can't get any more inside the game than this.
Jeff Gordon took advantage as leader Matt Kenseth spun out with less than five laps to go, winning the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It is Gordon's 75th career Cup victory. Jeff Burton finished second while Kyle Busch was third. The No. 8 Budweiser team with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a very strong day, leading 27 laps and finishing in the fifth position. The finish strengthens their hold on the third-place position in the NASCAR Nextel Cup point standings. The Bud team has led eight races this season, and have finished in the top-five six times with eight top-10 finishes. It is the 65th top-five finish in Dale Jr's career (237 starts).
The Key MomentsDale Jr., starting 25th at Chicagoland for the third consecutive season, wasted very little time moving forward, consistently running the fastest laps among the entire field, taking into the top-10 by lap 51, and then used strong pit strategy to take the lead on lap 110. The sequence of pit stops dropped the Bud car as far back as 14th with less than 50 laps to go, but making three-wide passes for position, combined with taking advantage of the misfortunes of others who spun or ran out of fuel, Dale Jr. passed point leader Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to take the fifth-place finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes
Best Radio ChatterDale Jr. had one of the fastest cars for much of the afternoon. However, the Bud car needed about 20 laps into a run before the rest of the field began slowing down significantly, making long green-flag runs essential to get them to the front. As the race came into the final 100 laps, the yellow flags began to multiply, causing frustration among the team and driver.
Steve Hmiel: (spotter at lap 199) "Coming to the yellow flag, Junior..."
Dale Jr.: (frustrated) "Debris?!"
Hmiel: "No, the 96 car spun and didn't hit anything."
Dale Jr: (mock melodramatic tones) "WHY?!? WHY did he spin!?!?!... Damn, I was just coming on strong."
Hmiel: "Tony Jr., do you think anyone can make it from here?"
Tony Eury Jr.: (crew chief) "We can."
Hmiel: (surprised) "Oh! Cool!"
Tony Jr: "Yeah, we'll be good. If ya wanna save some fuel for a green-white-checker, Junior, that's cool. But we're OK."
Riding with Junior
The frequent yellow flags continued on lap 216.
Dale Jr.: "We were just starting to get good there. How did we look?"
Tony Jr: "Good. You looked good. And we're not coming to pit road."
Dale Jr.: "10-4 on that. If it goes green, we'll be the best at the end of the run."
Tony Jr: "That's why we're staying out."
Dale Jr.: "That was a sweet-ass pass on the 11 (D. Hamlin) and 41 (R. Sorenson) cars! I've had some bad-ass passes today!"
Hmiel: "Yeah, but I dunno what the 12 (R. Newman) was doing. He's really been in the way."
Dale Jr.: "He's just a real hard racer. He just races hard like that every lap."
Dale Jr. ran the final lap side-by-side with point leader Jimmie Johnson, racing for the fifth position.
Tony Jr: "Get him! Get him in that corner!"
Hmiel: "HOP IT! HOP IT!"
Tony Jr: "GREAT! You got him. A great top-five. Way to carry us today, driver"
Dale Jr.: "Y'all gotta be proud. You built me a fast car. It was fun - a lotta fun with this car. Everybody oughta be proud."
Today's StatsStarted: 25th
Laps led: 27 laps
Points: 3rd place (no change)
Best Pit Stop: Stop 2 of 5 / 13.5 seconds / 4 tires and fuel