Race 2: Subway 400
After the height of winning the Daytona 500, James Davies came straight back down to Earth after a dismal qualifying session saw him 43rd and slowest in qualifying. While Davies was understandably displeased with the result, he remained confident that he would be able to put in a good performance.
Obviously I'd like to start better than last, but that's how it goes sometimes. I wasn't able to get the car through the corners fast enough, and I cost myself time by running wide in 3 and 4 on both my laps. Still, from practice, we gather the car's pretty quick in a straight line, so we should be able to make up a few positions on race day. We just can't afford to get stuck back here, or we could get lapped early and find ourselves with little hope for a good result.
1. 21 - Ricky Rudd 24.735
2. 97 - Kurt Busch 24.762
3. 9 - Bill Elliott 24.766
4. 99 - Jeff Burton 24.771
5. 20 - Tony Stewart 24.781
6. 40 - Sterling Marlin 24.814
7. 18 - Bobby Labonte 24.816
8. 01 - Jerry Nadeau 24.818
9. 6 - Mark Martin 24.839
10. 15 - Michael Waltrip 24.841
41. 119 - Richard Young 25.227
42. 25 - Joe Nemechek 25.375
43. 27 - James Davies 25.445
With a lot of ground to make up during the race, James Davies wasted no time in getting past the drivers at the back. After only four laps, Davies was solidly in the midfield, and it did not take him long to crack the top ten. This was despite the fact that, according to Davies' crew chief, his car was not much different than in qualifying, and although Davies was practically unbeatable in a straight line, he paid for this by being unable to negotiate the corners quickly enough. He was able to make up ground by braking very late into the corners, and making full advantage of his immense speed.
By the time he had broken into the top ten, however, his progress had slowed, with Davies meeting increased opposition and faster cars. This culminated in Davies making contact with Bill Elliott, unable to slow in time to avoid the former champion. Elliott spun out, and collected 4 other cars, all of whom were forced to retire due to the damage they received. In an interview later, Elliott was quite critical of Davies' dive-bombing tactics, and suggested that NASCAR look into warning the Welshman.
In the meantime, Davies was up to 7th under caution, although a poor restart saw him slip to 11th, just in time for the second caution. This was brought out by Greg Biffle spinning out Jack Sprague, who had brushed the wall exiting turn 4 and lost some speed. Davies was annoyed at the timing, as the yellow flag was thrown just before he crossed the line, and felt that he was capable of making up at least a position or two. This turned out to be a moot point, as all 4 of the cars that had scampered past Davies pitted, putting him back in 7th place. In fact, most of the field pitting, with only the top 6, Davies, and 5 other cars staying out.
After the second caution, Davies again lost time to those in front on the restart, however, with weaker cars behind him, he was able to wind himself up without too much pressure for his position. It took him about 6 laps after the caution to catch back up to the leaders, and then proceeded to pick off cars one at a time as the fought amongst themselves for position, although his lack of pace in the middle of the corners was costing him time. In fact, only a nudge from Davies into turn 1 allowed the 27 car to pass Kevin Harvick, although he was able to pass race leader Ricky Rudd without too much difficulty. This meant that James Davies had gone from 43rd to 1st in less than half the race.
From here on, Davies merely held his position, as his tyres wore down and his car got increasingly undriveable, Davies at one point even querying over the radio, "How the hell did I ever get into the lead with this thing?" The car was understeering heavily in the middle of the corners, but still, Davies held off repeated attacks from various drivers, some on fresher rubber, some not. Eventually, Davies had had enough, and came in for his final stop, only to overshoot his pit box and cost his team valuable time while they wheeled him back so they could change his tyres and adjust the car. By the time Davies had gotten back up to speed, he was the last car running, 5 seconds from going 2 laps down to the leaders.
James Davies was quite frustrated with himself after overshooting his pit box, and he channelled this frustration into focusing on putting in some quick lap-times. Thanks to his newfound determination and fresh tyres, Davies was the fastest man on the track for a time, eventually catching back up to the leaders, and fighting with them to gain his lap back. His drive had taken some life out of the tyres, though, but he was still able to remain competitive. With about a dozen laps remaining, and all the cars who had pitted under the second caution now making their final stops, Davies was fighting with the cars who had made their final stops for the net lead of the race. One of these drivers was Jerry Nadeau, who braked quite early for turn 3, catching Davies out, and sending Nadeau spinning. This brought out the race-defining final caution.
At this point, only a few drivers still had to pit. Ryan Newman, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Petty were all receiving service at this point. Terry Labonte and James Davies were the only drivers to have already pitted and remain on the lead lap. This led to a big advantage for those who were in the pits, as they effectively gained a free pitstop, slotting themselves ahead of (or, in Jeff Gordon's case, in-between) Labonte and Davies, especially Ryan Newman, who had a big buffer of lapped cars in between himself and 2nd-placed Jarrett - this was because the race had less than 10 laps to run as of the restart, thus meaning the restart was single-file. The other lead lap cars who hadn't pitted had to drop behind the top 6 drivers.
On the restart, Davies was caught napping, but somehow did not lose a place to the cars behind him. With only a handful of laps remaining, Davies began charging back towards the top 5 cars, passing Petty, Labonte, and Jarrett. However, Newman and Gordon were too far ahead for Davies to challenge, but nonetheless, he was pleased with his race, saying
This is a great result, after starting last, we should all be proud of our performance today. Not only did we finish well in the top 5, but we also got some bonus points for leading. It was all really down to our straight-line speed - without that, I wouldn't have been able to drive so aggressively into the corners to compensate for our lack of pace in the middle of the corners. It's just a shame I overshot the pit on my last stop - had that not happened, I could've won again today. Still, 3rd is nothing to be sniffed at lightly, especially given our starting position.
I'm sorry about the incidents I got into with other cars - even though I've got a couple of good results under my belt, I still probably don't have enough experience to justify my aggression against other drivers, and that showed when I screwed up a couple of times. It's a shame for them, but there's nothing I can really do about that now, other than apologise and try to drive a bit more carefully in traffic in the future.
1. 12 - Ryan Newman 119.087 mph
2. 24 - Jeff Gordon +1.277
3. 27 - James Davies +2.339
4. 88 - Dale Jarrett +2.395
5. 5 - Terry Labonte +3.536
6. 45 - Kyle Petty +3.945
7. 40 - Sterling Marlin +4.354
8. 7 - Jimmy Spencer +4.675
9. 97 - Kurt Busch +4.834
10. 8 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. +4.986Championship after race 2
1. 27 - James Davies 355
2. 5 - Terry Labonte 330 (-25)
= 88 - Dale Jarrett 330 (-25)
4. 18 - Bobby Labonte 285 (-70)
5. 24 - Jeff Gordon 284 (-71)
6. 7 - Jimmy Spencer 277 (-78)
7. 10 - Johnny Benson 274 (-81)
= 45 - Kyle Petty 274 (-81)
= 40 - Sterling Marlin 274 (-81)
10. 12 - Ryan Newman 268 (-87)