15Th Place Finish On Emotional Night

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Barring a fierce vibration following the restart on lap 155 of 160 the "M&M's"® Racing Team could have easily picked up its fifth top 10 of the season and quite possibly its first top five of the year. What was the story of the night was an emotional visit to victory lane by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Daytona International Speedway.

For 155 laps, it was an outstanding night for the "M&M's"® Racing Team. The initial plan was for Schrader to hang in the back of the field for the first 30 or so laps so he could get a feel for how aggressive the race was going to be. Schrader didn't wait the full 30 laps, however, and decided to make his move through the pack around lap 20. As proof of how strong the "M&M's"® Pontiac was for the night, Schrader had broken into the top 10 by lap 33 when he was posted in the ninth position.

Once Schrader and the "M&M's"® Racing Team were in the top 10 they rarely dropped below 10th. The "M&M's"® Pontiac didn't handle as well on the bottom of the race track, although Schrader drafted on both the high side and low side, depending on where he had the most momentum. The pit crew played a major role in maintaining their top-10 position. The highlight for the pit crew was a stop on lap 89 where the "M&M's"® Pontiac entered pit road in sixth, but exited running fourth.

The race came down to a final six-lap shootout with Schrader and the festive Fourth of July "M&M's"® Pontiac posted in the third position. In the 15 laps leading up to the final restart, the "M&M's"® Racing Team pitted for two tires and fuel under green on lap 140, which turned out to be their last stop of the day. While their three-car draft was working to catch up to the lead pack, a major wreck on the tri oval left 15 cars with damage and the "M&M's"® Pontiac running third.

The race restarted on lap 149 only to see another caution on lap 151. With less than 10 laps to go in a race, the rules state that the field restarts single file, taking any lapped or damaged cars out of the equation. With Schrader still running third, the race restarted with six laps to go, but Schrader radioed in immediately that he felt a significant vibration that was steadily getting worse. By the final lap Schrader had been caught in the middle of the pack of cars he was drafting with and relegated to 16th position. Following the race NASCAR issued a penalty to driver Tony Stewart and the "M&M's"® Racing Team was then posted officially in the 15th position.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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