LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY, CONCORD, N.C.
WINNER: Jimmie Johnson POLE SITTER: Ryan Newman
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jimmie Johnson, 1,747 (+71 over Greg Biffle)
WHAT HAPPENED: Johnson (left) earned his third consecutive victory at the
Coca-Cola 600, edging out Bobby Labonte, who was trying to end a 47-race
winless streak on the 10th anniversary of the first victory of his Cup
THIS RACE IN 2006: May 28, Fox/FX
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, DOVER, DEL.
WINNER: Greg Biffle POLE SITTER: Jimmie Johnson
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jimmie Johnson, 1,912 (+46 over Greg Biffle)
WHAT HAPPENED: In winning for a series-high (to that point) fourth time, Biffle
avoided wrecking--at least until after the crash-filled race at the Monster
Mile, when he drove his number 16 Ford into the wall during his celebratory
THIS RACE IN 2006: June 4, Fox/FX
At Charlotte, Junior (8) and Waltrip tangled--and provided a fitting image of
DEI's woeful season.
Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Surviving a Real Back-and-Forth Season
IT ALL seemed to make sense back at Daytona last February, the Big Swap at Dale
Earnhardt, Inc. The opening race of the 2005 season was three days away, and
Richie Gilmore, the director of motor sports at DEI, was leaning against a
stack of tires in the garage, talking about his off-season decision to switch
the cars, crews and--most significant--the crew chiefs of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
and Michael Waltrip. "I think this move will work out for the best for
everyone," said Gilmore. "Some days Junior and Tony Eury Jr.
[Earnhardt's crew chief in '04] were best friends, some days they were
archenemies. Something had to be done."
As every fan
knows, it didn't work out. The matching of Earnhardt with Pete Rondeau, who had
been Waltrip's crew chief, sputtered from the start. Rondeau, one of the most
introverted guys in the sport, and the mercurial Earnhardt struggled constantly
to communicate. When Junior described what he was feeling while driving the
car, Rondeau would have trouble decoding the words and deciding what needed to
the regular season, with Junior standing 11th in points, Rondeau was fired. But
even that moment was not the low point for DEI; the nadir came a few days later
at the Coca-Cola 600, when Junior bumped into Waltrip, causing them both to
wreck. For months there had been rumors that Waltrip's days at DEI were
numbered, and after the crash it was clear that Little E and Waltrip would not
be teammates for long. ( Waltrip announced on Sept. 23 that he will race for
Dodge owner Bill Davis in '06.)
failed to qualify for the Chase, Gilmore announced a third change in
leadership: Steve Hmiel, who'd been Junior's interim crew chief following
Rondeau's dismissal, would move back to his old job as the team's technical
director, and Eury would return as crew chief for the Chevy.
Big Swap Part II
makes sense. Though Eury and Earnhardt often squabble over seemingly trivial
matters (they're cousins and they bicker like only family members can), they
excel at making adjustments on the fly. They worked together from 1998 through
the end of 2004 and during that time won two Busch Series titles and 15 Nextel
Cup races. In their first race together in '05, the Sylvania 300 in New
Hampshire on Sept. 18, Junior had his best performance in months, qualifying
third and finishing fifth.
-- LARS ANDERSON
REPRINTED FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Aug. 8, 2005
Tony Stewart swept to victory on the road course at Sonoma for the first of
five wins in seven races.
IT PUTS an
asterisk beside [the win], because I really wanted to race Gordon.
-- TONY STEWART after transmission problems forced Jeff Gordon from the