Las Vegas: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

No. 8 Budweiser team struggles at Las Vegas Dale Jr. finishes 35th, falls to seventh in point standings LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 7, 2004) -- Defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth held off rookie Kasey Kahne for the second week ...

Las Vegas: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

No. 8 Budweiser team struggles at Las Vegas
Dale Jr. finishes 35th, falls to seventh in point standings

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 7, 2004) -- Defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth held off rookie Kasey Kahne for the second week in a row to win Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kenseth, the defending race winner, led 123 of the 267 laps and beat Kahne by 3.4 seconds. Tony Stewart finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team started the day in the race, but ended it as a test session. With an ill-handling car that was nearly one second per lap off the pace, the Bud team was forced to pit road and eventually the garage for drastic changes to the car. The frustrating day sent Dale Jr. home in 35th place, and it dropped him from first to seventh in the point standings (125 points behind leader Kenseth).

The Key Moments:
Starting in 26th position, Dale Jr. climbed to 24th but no further. The red No. 8 fell a lap down to Kahne on lap 24, which prompted a handful of unscheduled pit stops and major chassis adjustments to help remedy the problems. The Bud team made pit stops on laps 27, 39 and 81 before surrendering to the garage for the first time on lap 106 to change the front sway bar, four shocks and four springs. Ensuing garage visits brought more of the same types of changes, and the Bud team finished 71 laps behind the leader.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"Yeah, it's really disappointing. We were about a second off the pace, no matter what we did. I know it's going to be a black Monday at the shop, but I also know we're going to do an awful lot of laps in testing this week at Kentucky (Speedway) to figure out what was wrong.

"We've always been good at Atlanta, so we should be OK. I mean, we started last year with two finishes like this and came back strong the rest of the year. Yeah, we should have tested here, but it's too late now. I know we're going to do what we can to figure out what we need to do to correct whatever was wrong."

Best Radio Conversations:

Not even 20 laps into the event, Dale Jr. already sensed problems with his race car:

Dale Jr.: "I'm really, really, really, really, really loose in, and I'm really, really, really loose off. It just slides in the middle. No grip."

A green-flag pit stop on lap 81 included more changes to the track bar, but as Dale Jr. made evident, it did little to improving the handle of the race car:


Tony Jr.: "What's it doing now?"
Dale Jr.: "Wreckin'."

Following the first trip to the garage, Dale Jr. returned to the track to find the same problems as before:

Tony Jr.: "How's that?"
Dale Jr.: "Nothing different."
Tony Jr.: "Still wrecking going in?"
Dale Jr.: "I'm not wrecking right now, but I'm close. I'm too slow to tell."
Tony Jr.: "It's just slow?"
Dale Jr.: "Yep, I guess we need to be handling better to go faster."

-dei/budweiser-

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