Martinsville: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Johnson Wins, Dale Jr. Grabs Top-Five Bud Team Leads the Most Laps, Climbs to 11th Place in Points Jimmie Johnson beat his teammate Jeff Gordon to the finish line by a few feet Sunday afternoon to win the Goody's 500 at Martinsville ...

Johnson Wins, Dale Jr. Grabs Top-Five
Bud Team Leads the Most Laps, Climbs to 11th Place in Points

Jimmie Johnson beat his teammate Jeff Gordon to the finish line by a few feet Sunday afternoon to win the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Denny Hamlin finished third, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team led the most laps and finished fifth. It is the best finish of the season for the Bud team, and it moves them six positions higher to 11th in the point standings. Dale Jr. led easily until the rain showers came, causing a 33-minute red flag period on lap 357. Dale Jr. climbed back into his car as the leader, but was showered in debris from a stationary jet track dryer. Some of the debris became lodged in Dale Jr's left eye, but he was able to continue. Following the stoppage, the changed track seemed to negate the speed advantage of the Bud car, and Dale Jr. fought back from 11th place after his final pit stop to gain his first top-five tally of 2007.

How dominant was Dale Jr. throughout the afternoon? According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, the No. 8 car recorded the quickest lap time on 97 of the 500 laps, had the best average running position (3.6) of any car, was never scored outside of the top-15 positions, and Dale Jr. ended the day with a driver rating of 133.1 - more than five points higher than any other driver. This is the third time in 15 career starts at Martinsville that Dale Jr. has led more than 100 laps, and it is his seventh top-five finish at the Virginia oval.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 8th, began the race cautiously, moving into the top-five on lap 64, then into second place after a great pit stop on lap 154. It took until lap 235 for Junior to finally take the lead from Jeff Gordon, and once in front, he stretched his lead to well over three seconds (a large margin on the tight and tiny Martinsville oval). Mother Nature intervened, however, and rains forced the race to be stopped for more than 30 minutes on lap 357. The red No. 8 car remained in front after the restart until pitting for the final time on lap 377. After the pit stop, Dale Jr. dropped to 11th place, but climbed back into the top-five by lap 411, where he remained for the final laps.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"If it wouldn't have rained, we would have been hard for the rest of he field to handle. It's disappointing to come to this place and run so well year after year and lead so many laps and still not have a win. But, I gotta give (crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. (and) the Budweiser guys all the credit for this car. We unloaded fast and stayed fast. They made it better during the race so the credit goes to my team. They set the car up to get better as the day went on, but we were never the same after the rain. We made a pit stop (on lap 377) and were never able to get back into the lead. We were still pretty good, but not like we were earlier. That's a shame, but we had a great car, great pit stops and we gained a lot of points.

"I got something in my eye when I got back in the car after the rain. The jet dryer was moving really, really slow - and I was helpless just sitting there while it blew (stuff) inside my car for what must have been 15 to 20 seconds. I mean, that's ridiculous. I was sitting there thinking 'Go! Move on! Let me out! Help!' It was crazy. They need to be better about that. Either dry the track before we get in - or keep those dryers moving."

"I don't have any issues with the Car of Tomorrow. We (DEI) don't have the resources a lot of these teams are putting into the new car, but we've worked hard and we had a good car the past two weeks. I was running the car really, really hard right there and probably heating the brakes up and working them up a little bit but the car is great. Like I said, the guys, man, they've been awesome. On pit road, I mean the pit stops have been great. They've been getting me out first. It makes them fans happy up there. They've had a great day today, hopefully we can bring home a win."

What would you have given for a longer, harder rain shower? "Awww....nothin.' Nothin.' I'll probably need some luck sometime down the road, so I don't wanna use up all my favors."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. restarted in second place behind Denny Hamlin on lap 158 - and Hamlin's team was quick to relay word of an issue they were having...

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Dale Jr., Hamlin's spotter just came over and said the tach (tachometer) isn't working on the 11 car. So, if you have to come in the pits behind him, he'll just slow down until someone hits him. I told 'em you'd be all into that!"

Dale Jr.: "Ha. Yeah. 10-4."

***

Dale Jr. and his cousin/crew chief Tony Eury Jr. both had one eye on the track and the other on the weather as they led the race.

Dale Jr: "Tony Jr. that was a good guess on your changes. Your adjustments were good. You've helped it in everyway. We're gettin' real close. We're coming up on being right."

Tony Jr: "10-4. You're lap times are good."

Dale Jr: "What's the radar like?"

Tony Jr: "I can't tell.... It could go right by or it could rain hard. It could go north of us. It's kind of like a horseshoe around us now."

***

Then, thirty laps later...

Dale Jr: "What's the deal with the rain?"

Tony Jr: "It's right on the other side of these grandstands looks like on the radar."

Dale Jr: "What the hell does that mean? Will it be here in five minutes? 10 minutes?"

Tony Jr.: "By the radar, it could rain at any minute."

***

By lap 355, the rains finally arrived, and the race was slowed first by a yellow flag, then a red flag to stop the race. When he stopped, Fox-TV's Darrell Waltrip radioed for a few questions.

Darrell Waltrip: "You're doing a lot better than a few years ago when you crashed a lot here."

Dale Jr.: "Yeah. We wrecked our stuff. We wrecked a lot of other people's stuff. We even hit a pace car. I think I wrecked about everything but the hot dog stand. I love that hot dog stand. I didn't wanna hit that."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Tony Eury Jr.