Junior finishes 7th to lead JRM parade; Keselowski 22nd
February 16, 2009DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2009) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski looked to be back to their winning ways at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, racing among the top-10 for the majority of the 120-lap Camping World 300. However Earnhardt Jr. didn’t get the necessary drafting help in the final laps to mount a charge to the checkers, but still had enough to finish seventh in the No. 5 Hellmann’s Chevrolet. It was his 10th top-10 finish at Daytona. Keselowski cut a tire after hitting the wall with 12 laps to go en route to a 22nd- place finish. Tony Stewart led 23 laps to secure the victory in his No. 80 Hendrick Motorsports entry. Carl Edwards finished second and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-three.
No. 5 Hellmann’s Team / Earnhardt Jr.
Start – 24th / Finish – 7th / Laps Led – 0 / Points – 146
Earnhardt Jr. qualified 24th, but was forced to the rear of the field after the Hellmann’s crew had to repair a tire rub before the race. Although battling a loose race car in the early stages, he still managed to gain 21 spots in the first 15 laps of the event.
During a lap-28 caution, the No. 5 Hellmann’s Chevy sustained minor damage to its right side when a race off pit road resulted in contact with Keselowski’s No. 88 and Matt Kenseth’s No. 17. Earnhardt Jr. brought the car back down pit road, and the Hellmann’s crew determined the damage was minimal. He took the lap-31 restart in 26th.
Over the course of the next 50 laps, Earnhardt Jr. showcased his skills in the draft, as he moved the Hellmann's Chevy inside the top-five. With help from Keselowski, the duo pushed their way towards the leaders. Still battling a severely loose condition, the Hellmann’s crew made several chassis and air pressure adjustments during each of the team's pit stops.
Strategy became a factor on the last set of stops, and Earnhardt Jr. elected for a two-tire stop on lap 111. The two-tire call was effective, but in the closing laps Earnhardt Jr. was left without much drafting help and unable to mount a charge back inside the top-five. The Hellmann's Chevrolet crossed the finish line in the seventh position.
“I know a lot of guys would be happy with seventh, but we’ve seen better days, and I guess our expectations are a lot higher here at Daytona,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The car was so loose I never could hold it to the mat. We almost wrecked a few times, and it was just hard to get up there and race with those guys. But it’s good to get this season going, and get our partnership with Hellmann’s and the other Unilever brands started off with a top-10 finish. We’re happy to have them on board, and it was a lot of fun driving the Hellmann’s Chevrolet.”
No. 88 GoDaddy Team / Keselowski
Start – 15th / Finish – 22nd / Laps Led – 6 / Points – 99 / Point Standings – 22nd
Brad Keselowski started 15th in the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, and fell no further than that position until a brush with the outside wall on lap 108 caused the rear tire to go flat. While he was forced to pit twice to have the damage repaired, Keselowski remained on the lead lap and finished the race in the 22nd position.
Keselowski had spent most of the afternoon in the top-10, even leading six laps, while mixing it up with fellow Chevy drivers Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart at the front of the pack. Keselowski entered the top-five on lap 53 and was able to gain the lead on lap 67 with drafting help from Clint Bowyer. He maintained the lead until pitting under caution on lap 73.
His trouble came on lap 108 as the field became increasingly aggressive in the dash for the win. Keselowski was among the top-10 when the GoDaddy.com Chevy swung wide and brushed the outside wall. Keselowski tried to continue racing, but bent sheet metal cut down the right-rear tire, forcing him to pit road.
“The GoDaddy.com Chevrolet was so strong today, and I definitely felt like we had a top-five car had I not scraped the wall,” Keselowski said. “It was amazing how good your car handled when you were able to make it out to the front of the pack. I had so much fun racing up there with Dale and Tony.”
Next Up for JR Motorsports:
Event: Stater Bros. 300 at Auto Club Speedway
Date: Saturday, Feb. 21
TV/Radio: ESPN 2 (coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. EST) / MRN (broadcast begins at 7:00 p.m. EST)
JRM Entries: No. 88 GoDaddy (Brad Keselowski)
Did you Know: There is 2,500 miles between the first two events of the season. Daytona Beach, FL is followed by Fontana, CA making for the longest trip of the year for the race teams.