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Why did Dale Jr. get in the #5 car? For much of the day Sunday, it looked like the first two-time Texas titlist would be Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team, as they led 96 laps, and repeatedly opened leads of three seconds or more before a strange incident ended any chance of victory. On lap 252, while running second, Dale Jr. was behind the lapped car of Tony Stewart rounding turn four when the aptly-nicknamed "Smoke" spun out, creating a giant wall of thick tire smoke. As Dale Jr. slowed down in the midst of the murky mess, #5-Kyle Busch, who was running third, slammed hard into the Bud car from behind. Despite the damage, the Bud crew went to work on the red #8 machine, making repairs and keeping Dale Jr. on the lead lap despite multiple pit stops under the caution flag. The race ended for the Bud car on lap 288 when the engine imploded, resulting in a 36th-place finish.
However, Dale Jr's day was not done, as a crewmember from Kyle Busch's crew interrupted Dale Jr's media session to ask if Driver #8 would step into the #5 car (the car that had smashed into his own only 30 minutes before) to finish the race after Busch had left the premises. Soon, Dale Jr. was being strapped into the Hendrick Motorsports car, and he completed the final 10 laps of the race, improving Busch's finishing position one spot ahead of Hendrick teammate #48-Jimmie Johnson. At the conclusion of the afternoon, Dale Jr. found his own car in 36th, and - for the first time ever - had driven a car other than the #8 Budweiser machine in a Nextel Cup event. Dale Jr. dropped to 18th place in the Nextel Cup standings, but is only 43 points out of the top-12.
Dale Jr. was soon pulled from the media swarm to climb into the #5 car. After the race, the media throng again clamored for comments. What did the car drive like?: "Like it was wrecked." Why would you get in another car? "Because they asked me. I have some friends on that team - and I'll always jump at a chance to climb into someone else's car to see what it's like. They used to do that all the time back in the day. You'd have relief drivers getting into someone's car almost every week, so it was kinda like a step back into NASCAR history or something. Old school! It was cool."
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