Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team began yesterday’s Auto Club 500 at California from a best-ever starting position of fifth place, but their day went awry on lap 20 with a flat right front tire. After recovering from falling a lap down, the team suffered major engine problems on lap 67. After a lengthy stay in the garage for repairs, Dale Jr. returned to the track for less than 10 laps before the engine exploded for good, sending the Bud car spinning in turn number three. The team was credited with a 40th place finish after completing only 75 of the 250 laps. After two races, Dale Jr. is now unofficially 42nd in Nextel Cup points.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr:
“I was really, really worried about the engines today because we blew two motors at the test in Las Vegas (in January) and I saw (teammate) Martin (Truex Jr.) blow up early on. We were able to get this one into the garage the first time without blowing it up like a grenade. If it’s still intact, it’s a lot easier for our guys to take it back to the shop and figure out what may be causing the problem. But, we went back out and it blew up big time. We’re lucky to have next weekend off so we can spent that extra week figuring it out and be ready to race at Vegas. Everybody needs to keep their heads up and we’ll figure it out.
“We had a really good car. The set-up was good, and we were able to hang with Matt (Kenseth, the race leader) after we had the flat tire even though we had a bad vibration from a loose wheel. That’s a good sign because we knew we had a fast car that could run at the front. If we get this bad luck behind us, look out.”