Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost the argument but won the race.
Earnhardt's crew chief ordered the driver to stay on the track and pass up a tire change late in Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway .
Following orders reluctantly, Junior still pulled away from Jeff Gordon in a pair of overtime laps to win the race. His 15th career victory tightened up the championship chase with two races to go.
Kurt Busch overcame a couple of mistakes to finish 10th and held on to the series lead. But the top four drivers are separated by just 48 points heading into next Sunday's event at Darlington with Busch leading Gordon by 41.
The victory came a week after Earnhardt lost ground in the title chase by crashing through his own carelessness late in the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This time, he was steady when it mattered most.
Earnhardt, who had a dominant car through most of the Checker Auto Parts 500, leading a race-high 118 laps, was in third place, trailing Gordon and Casey Mears when a caution came out on lap 282 of the race scheduled to go 312. Junior argued with crew chief Tony Eury over the radio, lobbying to pit for tires, but Eury made him stay on the track and maintain his position.
Eury, known as Tony Sr., said he insisted Earnhardt stay out because it was so hard to get past lapped cars on the 1-mile oval and ``it was just better to keep track position.'
Earnhardt was a bit sheepish when asked about the verbal battle with his crew chief.
``Yeah, I was just getting worried man,'' he said, grinning. ``I cannot control myself inside a race car. I want tires, this that and the other. I didn't want to lose.
``I told Tony Sr., `The car's covering the field the best we ever did.' We've had good race cars and won races but nobody could run with this car today and I didn't want to lose this race.''
He didn't. And, after reaching Victory Lane, Earnhardt also was careful to watch his language after the use of a curse word during a live TV interview after his last victory -- Oct. 3 at Talladega -- cost him $10,000 and, far more important, 25 points.
``I was really scared that I might slip up because I have a lot of bad words in my vocabulary,'' Earnhardt said. ``I will always from here on out be nervous about that. Tony Sr. came up to me before I got out (of the car) and said, `Now, don't cuss.' I was glad he reminded me because you get excited.''
Junior had a top-five finish all but wrapped up in Atlanta the previous Sunday when he collided with rookie Carl Edwards and wound up 33rd there to fall to fifth -- 98 points out -- in the 10-race championship chase.
He was determined there would be no repeat of that.
``I told my guys I was going to try to make up for that this week,'' Earnhardt said. ``I've been feeling bad about it all week and really wanted to come back and do something for these guys today.''
After staying out during the caution, Earnhardt wound up passing Mears for second place on lap 298, moments before another caution came out for Jamie McMurray's wreck.
On the restart on lap 303, Earnhardt swung his No. 8 Chevrolet to the inside of Gordon's car, pulled alongside and shot into the lead.
``Gordon was a sitting duck there at the end,'' Earnhardt said. ``His car was terrible. He was lucky just to get what he got.''
``Junior had a dominant car all day long and we needed it to go green the whole way to have any chance,'' he said.
Earnhardt began to pull away when Mears, with a tire going flat, spun into the wall, bringing out yet another yellow flag on lap 307.
Moments later, Robby Gordon's engine blew. NASCAR stopped the cars on track on lap 310 as safety workers cleaned up the debris from Mears' crash and the oil from Gordon's engine failure.
Once the race resumed, NASCAR ordered one extra lap of caution, then finished with only the second green-white-checker overtime since the rule was adopted earlier this year to assure fans of seeing a racing finish.
Earnhardt easily pulled away once the green flag waved, running off to his sixth win of the season and second straight Phoenix victory. Ryan Newman, who struggled most of the day after starting from the pole, came on to grab second place from Jeff Gordon.
Kevin Harvick finished fourth, followed by rookie Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Busch.
Earnhardt is now third in the standings, 47 points behind. Johnson, whose string of three straight victories ended, is 48 back.
Most of the title contenders struggled during the race. Newman and Johnson lost laps when they pitted for what they thought were flat tires. Busch, who rebounded from an engine failure that left him 42nd at Atlanta, also had to bounce back Sunday after a spinout and crew error.
``I made a mistake early on with traffic and then the crew made a mistake running us out of fuel,'' he said. ``Then, at the end, there were lapped cars running side-by-side on this tight oval. It's not what w expected, but it was a good day.''
Harvick and Kahne bumped several times after the last restart and Kahne ran into Harvick's car on pit lane as they drove toward the garage after the race. Harvick got out of his car and said something to Kahne before being shooed back into his car.
``He pushed me all over the track,'' Kahne said. ``I didn't even get close to him. I don't know why he was mad.''
Harvick didn't see it quite that way. ``He started running into us after the (last) caution,'' Harvick said. ``I just wanted to stop and ask him what the problem was.''