Electric Earnhardt

  By Jeff Birchfield
  star staff
  jbirchfield@starhq.com
  BRISTOL -- The excitement in Dale Earnhardt Jr's voice told it all.
   "I'm worn out," said the driver of the Budweiser Chevrolet. "This is one of the biggest wins of my career, this is Bristol, baby! This is huge for me, my team. This is awesome."
  Winning Busch pole qualifying on Thursday and the Food City 250 Busch race Friday night, Earnhardt capped off the weekend with his first win in the Sharpie 500 Nextel Cup race.
  Earnhardt passed Jeff Burton on lap 416 and led the rest of the way.
  Overall, the 29 year-old from Kannapolis, N.C. led six times for 295 laps in a dominant performance. In doing so, he became the first driver to sweep both Cup Series and Busch Series races at Bristol on the same weekend.
  "I came to a lot of races here when my dad drove, the winner remembered.
  "He made this place magical for Earnhardt fans including myself. I didn't think the car was that good, but she was fast."
  Ryan Newman finished second place in the No. 12 Alltel Dodge, a straightaway behind.
  "That was an awesome run for our team," said Newman. "Our team is as happy as men who landed on the moon. The guys did a good job with the strategy to finish second. It was a mentally demanding race, your mind gives out a little bit."
  Jimmie Johnson wound up third in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. It was a good finish for Johnson, who had fallen out of the last three races.
  "It was a very hard race," said Johnson. "We chose to pit a lot at the beginning to get our car good enough. We were able to stay up front and fight. I lost a lot of positions the last restarts and had to use the car up.
  "After the hard few weekends we've had, finishing third was like a win for us. When you have three DNF's, all for different reasons, it takes a toll on you. We're happy to be back on track."
  Burton, driving only his second race for Richard Childress Racing, finished fourth.
  Elliott Sadler in a Ford was fifth. Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge teammates Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray were sixth and seventh, respectively, just ahead of the race leader on the lead lap.
  Kurt Busch, winner of the previous three BMS races, brought his Ford home eighth. Matt Kenseth and Dale Jarrett also in Fords, rounded out the top ten.
  Jeff Gordon, who won Friday's pole with an event record speed of 128.570 miles per hour, led the first 57 laps before turning over the top spot to Rusty Wallace during the first sequence of pit stops.
  Wallace only held the top spot for six laps before Earnhardt dove to the inside to take command. Forty laps passed and Wallace retook the lead from Earnhardt. Fourteen circuits later Earnhardt swooped back underneath Wallace, thirteen later it was Wallace back in front for the fourth lead swap in 70 laps.
  Undeterred, Earnhardt would again pass Wallace before the 200-lap mark. The great racing between the beer cars subsided when Wallace stayed on the track too long and ran out of fuel. He lost three laps in the exchange. Earnhardt soon had to pit himself handing the top spot to Jamie McMurray.
  When the stops cycled around, Earnhardt had reestablished himself atop the standings.
  He made a bid to eliminate the competition, one by one lapping the field. Gordon fell victim to the Junior onslaught on lap 268.
  The caution came out five times in the race's first 90 laps, but not again until lap 328. Only six cars remained on the lead circuit at the time of the yellow flag.
Johnson, who started the race at the back of the field due to a crash in practice that forced him to use a backup car, made his charge complete on lap 356 passing Earnhardt for the lead. Two laps later, the caution flew for debris on the track. Earnhardt made a strategy move dipping down on the pit lane for new rubber.
  Earnhardt soon raced to the runner-up spot when second place runner Jarrett spun out. Earnhardt powered by Johnson on lap 376.
  Twelve circuits passed, when an accident involving Jarrett, Wallace, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Carl Edwards brought the caution out again.
  Burton was the man out front, staying out on the track with Newman, who had reentered the lead lap due to a NASCAR rule that rewards the first car one lap down, in second and Earnhardt in third.
  Gordon was the recipient of the rule during this caution period, but failed to adhere to a technicality that placed him at the back of the field. He was brought back into the pit area putting him two laps down.
  Gordon finished 14th, but retained his status as series points leader, 24 markers ahead of teammate Johnson. Earnhardt is now third, 75 points back.
  In the "Chase for the Championship" format Newman moved back into the top ten, now 26 points ahead of Kahne. All the drivers positions 12-15 Jeremy Mayfield, Mark Martin, McMurray and Jarrett are within 45 points of the tenth place.
  The points race took a back seat on this night to Earnhardt's weekend sweep. He has recorded the last two Cup-Busch weekend sweeps, last fall at Talladega and 2004 season opener at Daytona.
  "I am so glad to get one of these trophies," said Earnhardt about his 13th career Nextel Cup win. "I've been looking at these a long time. I love putting an Earnhardt back in victory lane at Bristol.
  "Thank the Good Lord, I never thought I would win a Busch race and Cup race at Bristol on the same weekend."