JR Motorsports Race Report: Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, (Feb. 28, 2009) – Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, featured lead changes, fuel strategy, and many yellow flags, as the 43-car field endured 12 cautions, two red flags and 17 lead-changes before the checkered flag flew. Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied from the back of the pack after a mid-race pit-road penalty to find himself among the top contenders for the green/white/checkered finish. He finished fifth for his first top-five of the season. Brad Keselowski and the No. 88 Klondike crew – a team poised to be major contenders in the 200-lap race – had its hopes dashed after getting caught in an early wreck. The damage didn't knock Keselowski out of the race, but it forced the Klondike team to the garage for extensive repairs. He finished 27th. Greg Biffle won the race, breaking a 76-race winless streak. Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-three finishers.
No. 5 GoDaddy Team / Earnhardt Jr.
Start – 15th / Finish – 5th / Laps Led – 0 / Points – 155
Earnhardt Jr. began the race in the 15th position with the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet and battled with a tight racecar in the early stages of the race, which was plagued by seven cautions through the first 50 laps. The multiple cautions gave crew chief Brian Campe plenty of opportunities to help the handling of the GoDaddy.com Chevy. The crew made several chassis adjustments during the first few rounds of stops and performed flawlessly on pit road, resulting in several quick stops.
The No. 5 was forced to the tail end of the longest line after a pit road speeding penalty on lap 71. However, Earnhardt Jr. made quick work of the traffic. He pushed his way inside the top 10 by lap 100 and eventually moved the GoDaddy.com Chevy inside the top-five for the closing laps of the race.
After a major crash in turn one that involved Denny Hamlin and Mike Bliss with two laps to go, the field was set for a dramatic green/white/checkered finish.
Earnhardt Jr. took the final restart in the fourth position and quickly passed Jason Leffler for third as the field made its way through turns one and two. But with the cars bunched for a wild scramble on the final lap, Earnhardt Jr. lost two spots and finished fifth. It was his second top five in three Nationwide Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I'm glad we were able to get our GoDaddy team a top-five finish," Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. "We're happy with the result but there are still some things we need to work on. We fought a tight car for most of the race. That seemed like our biggest problem. We just couldn't seem to get the car dialed in the way we needed. But the crew had some great stops on pit road today, so we're proud of that.
"Anytime you have a green/white/checkered/ finish you know things are going to get crazy. We were in position to make a run at Edwards and Biffle in the closing laps, but we just didn't have the car to do it. Those two were the class of the field all day."
No. 88 Klondike Team / Keselowski
Start – 8th / Finish – 27th / Laps Led – 0 / Points – 82 / Point Standings – 22nd
Starting eighth in the No. 88 Klondike Chevrolet, Keselowski found trouble from the onset, as he and Mike Bliss made contact while trying to avoid a larger wreck on lap eight. The damage forced Keselowski down pit road for repairs four separate times under caution, as he worked to stay on the lead lap. But not long after the restart, a sheet-metal rub cut the left-front tire down on lap 16, sending Keselowski into the outside wall.
Unhurt in the accident, Keselowski drove the Klondike car to the garage for extensive repair work. Crew chief Tony Eury Sr. and the Klondike crew made swift restoration to the front-end of the car, and Keselowski was able to rejoin the field on lap 59 in attempt to gain as many points as possible in the championship hunt.
“We have had three great race cars to start the season, but we can’t seem to close the deal,” Keselowski said. “My team has done an awesome job and it’s certainly no fault of theirs, it’s just a little bit of racing luck. Man, when it turns around though, we’ll get up there and run up front.”
Next Up for JR Motorsports:
Event: Sharpie MINI 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Date: Saturday, March 21
TV/Radio: ABC (coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. EST) / PRN (broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. EST)
JRM Entries: No. 88 GoDaddy (Brad Keselowski)