Martinsville: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Beaten and Battered, Dale Jr. Finishes 13th at Martinsville Jeff Gordon rallies to win from three-lap deficit MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 10, 2005) -- Jeff Gordon rallied from a three-lap deficit early in the race to win Sunday's Advance Auto Parts...

Beaten and Battered, Dale Jr. Finishes 13th at Martinsville
Jeff Gordon rallies to win from three-lap deficit

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 10, 2005) -- Jeff Gordon rallied from a three-lap deficit early in the race to win Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his 71st career victory and sixth at this half-mile short track. Gordon held off Kasey Kahne on a restart with three laps to go and raced to a .593-second margin of victory. Mark Martin finished third, Ryan Newman fourth and Rusty Wallace fifth. Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team scored an exhausting 13th-place finish, this in a Chevrolet that was beaten and battered by race's end. Dale Jr. stayed on the lead lap the entire day despite fender rubs, spinouts, and even a throbbing foot caused by the brake pedal. Still, the Brew Crew managed a 13th-place finish, and as a result, Dale Jr. improved one position in the Nextel Cup point standings to 16th (649 points). He is now just 83 points out of the top-10.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr. spent the first 100 laps of this 500-lap event climbing back to his original starting position of 26th, all this because of damage sustained to the left-front fender on the very first lap. Junior fell as far back as 40th, but he gradually grinded his way through the field despite wild wrecks and copious cautions around him (there were 16 on the day). One of those cautions was for Junior himself, as he did a complete 360-degree spin coming off of turn 2 on lap 282. He managed to stay on the lead lap, although his rollercoaster of an afternoon was far from over. Two major fender rubs -- the first on the left-front tire that haunted the Bud team for 50 laps, and the second on the right-rear tire in the race's final stages -- proved untimely, as both occurred when Dale Jr. was putting heat on the top 10. Dale Jr. was in 14th on the final restart with three to go and managed to get by Dale Jarrett at the end.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"This was one of the craziest races I think I've ever been in. We had all kinds of problems, but somehow made a halfway decent day out of it. It would've been nice to come out of here with a top-10, but at this point I'm just happy we finished on the lead lap and got out of here in one piece. The 77 got into the back of me with about 50 to go, and that right-rear fender was just leaning all over the tire, and it was just too hard to drive after that. It was just hard racing. We had good pit stops all day. That helped. We caught some lucky cautions here and there, and even caused one without losing a lap. I'm exhausted, but I'm proud of this Budweiser team for hanging in there. We picked up another spot in the point standings, and we'll take it."

Best Radio Chatter:

Early contact with other cars caused fender damage and, with that, the threat of a tire rub. Dale Jarrett, who gave Junior a lift to the track in his helicopter Sunday morning, offered some assistance early in the race:

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Dale Jarrett says your left-front is OK."

Dale Jr.: "OK, I was beside him but didn't want to give up the position."

Steve: "No worries, he was just letting you know your left-front (tire) isn't rubbing. You helicopter guys gotta stay together!"

During the seventh caution on lap 181:

Pete Rondeau (crew chief): "How's your car there?"

Dale Jr.: "It's good.  My foot hurts from mashing the brake
pedal.  We need a cushion pedal."

Pete: "Junior, you looked really good down here. I can't see in (turns) 3 and 4, but here in 1 and 2 the line you took was really good."

Dale Jr.: "I was just doing that (taking a higher line) because my brakes hurt, and my foot is killing me!"

After all that had happened, Dale Jr. found himself in 10th place with 50 laps to go:

Pete: "You're doing good. We can get a top-10 out of this."

Dale Jr.: "I don't wanna put no goals out here. I'm about as happy just to be on the lead lap as you would be with a top-10. Been a crazy day."

Pete: "Well, you get a top-10, and we'll both be happy!"

Dale Jr. (laughing): "Yeah, I hear ya."

-dei

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Mark Martin