Earnhardt Nation comes alive in Martinsville
Published 9:59 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Jim Hart/Contributing Writer
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag this past Sunday at Martinsville, making it his 23rd victory in 538 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series one of his most memorable. Earnhardt led his teammate, Jeff Gordon, to the checkers to win the 66th Annual Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 and take home a most coveted Martinsville Grandfather Clock for the very first time.
In Victory Lane, he mentioned that he had always wanted one and now finally had one and had a special place in his home just for that clock. It was difficult to hear during post-race ceremonies, and at one time Jr. got the whole trailer rocking with his teammates and crew all jumping up and down in celebration. Every time Jr. raised his hands and recognized he crowd, he energized them and Junior Nation came alive. One of NASCAR’S most popular drivers demonstrated this popularity Sunday with a lot of enthusiasm from what seemed to be half of the fans in attendance.
His win all but completely overrode the Race for the Chase, which is in full swing and with many popular and favored drivers now excluded including Earnhardt Jr.
This was the first race of the next tier of the Chase following the previous race where four drivers were eliminated. Earnhardt Jr.’s win even adds a little more drama since he is not a Chase contender. Now, two spots will be selected at the end or this 4 race tier by points (A win guarantees a spot in the final tier).
It was a good thing that it was the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 as well due to the excitement of the race and the tight racing that was shown. There was an awful lot of crumbled fenders and bent metal during this race. Several cars were completely torn up and almost every car showed some damage from the “fight on the track.” Kasey Kahne (a previous contender for the Chase) was credited with a 40th place finish and his car looked more like a “go cart race car” at the end of the race than a full-sized automobile.
Kevin Harvick also finished the race in a more “compact auto.” Harvick is a favored contender in the Chase, but finished 33rd Sunday and now sits in 8th place 33 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. There were a total of 15 cautions for a total of 105 caution laps during this circular demolition derby, which created lots of excitement for the fans watching as the close racing, rubbing and sometimes pushing ignited. There was also a total of 32 infractions imposed on the teams.
Following this race at Martinsville, the eight contenders for the championship are Jeff Gordon followed by Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. They head to Fort Worth, Texas, this Sunday for the AAA Texas 500 followed by Arizona and then the grand finale in Homestead, Florida.