NASCAR Notes: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is Quite Finished Yet
BY DAVE GRAYSON
Considered a serious favorite to win the 2014 NASCAR Chase For The Championship, we all witnessed the disappointing chain of events that led to NASCAR’s popular driver’s surprising elimination following round two of the championship run.
It began with a blown tire and a hard crash into the wall at Kansas. This was followed by a broken shifter at Charlotte that led to yet another poor finish. At the Talladega race, Earnhardt was one of a small group of drivers who had to go all in for the win to remain in the championship hunt. Unfortunately, despite a strong showing, that also didn’t quite pan out. At the time, Earnhardt said “there’s four races left, four trophies to be collected and we’re going after all of them.”
He started that process at Martinsville where he scored his first win at the speedway, his fourth win of the season and 23d career win.
After being summoned to pit road for fresh tires, during the final caution flag of the race, Earnhardt surrendered the race lead, and potential win, and restarted fifth. New race leader Tony Stewart opted to roll the dice, stay out on older tires and go for the win. On the restart, Earnhardt’s superior Goodyear tires only needed approximately to laps to pass Stewart for the win. That hero or zero tire call by crew chief Steve Letarte turned out to be a great move.
In victory lane, an elated Earnhardt dubbed his first win at Martinville as being emotional. “the team on pit road was great,” he said adding “Steve,(Letarte), and the guys did a real good job all day. They gave me such a good shot at it there with the call at the end to take tires. I can’t believe we won here. That means so much to all of us. It’s just real emotional.”
A long standing tradition since the 1960′s, a race winner at Martinsville is presented with an exquisite, custom made, grandfather clock. It’s the only opportunity for a race driver to literally win the time of day. Earnhardt looked at his beautiful clock and said: “I grew up with a grandfather clock in our house from this place. I always wanted one.”
Granted, with his money, he could easily afford to place a custom clock in every room of his home, including the bathrooms. However, all the store bought clocks in the world could not possibly out class winning a clock at the Martinsville Speedway just like his famous father did.
Despite the disappointment of being eliminated from the Chase, Earnhardt is still enjoying one his best seasons in the last ten years. Regarding that post Talladega race comment about collecting the remainder of the available trophies this year it’s very possible, especially after that total team performance we witnessed at Martinsville.
Finally, Dale Earnhardt JR gets credit for making the most obvious comment from the Martinsville weekend: “we’re going to drink lots of beer tonight.”