Earnhardt biggest 'Chase' loser in Martinsville

The sixth Chase race is now in the NASCAR annals and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Elliott Sadler have emerged from Martinsville as the biggest losers. Transmission issues and a late-race accident sent Earnhardt to a dismal 33rd place result, while...

The sixth Chase race is now in the NASCAR annals and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Elliott Sadler have emerged from Martinsville as the biggest losers. Transmission issues and a late-race accident sent Earnhardt to a dismal 33rd place result, while Sadler was embroiled in late race turmoil of his own, wrecking with 24 laps to go. The biggest gainer of the week was Jimmie Johnson: his second consecutive chase win moves him up four spots with four races left for the series title.

1. Kurt Busch: Busch led 116 laps before the handling went south on the No. 97 Ford. He still managed to pull off a fifth-place finish, and remains the leader in the NEXTEL Chase for the Championship.

"We had to get the best finish we could, we came back and finished fifth," said Busch. "It wasn't like we were just out there riding around."

2. Jeff Gordon: During practice and qualifying the newly resurfaced track at Martinsville seemed to be throwing Gordon for a loop. He had his worst time trial effort here since 1993, and started 15th.

Gordon was junk all day, the five-time Martinsville winner never seeming to adjust to the new surface and be able to work his way through the field.

Then Gordon's car fell off the jack during pit stops on lap 184, sending the No. 24 Chevy back down pit road a second time to survey for damage. He restarted 26th, but used pit strategy to gain track position and ended up coming back from a lap down to finish 9th.

Gordon moves up one spot to second, trailing Busch by 96 points.

Note: Due to the loss of friends and team members in the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash, Gordon was not available for any post-race interviews.

3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr: Earnhardt ran consistently all afternoon until lap 290 when his frustrations began to surface. Earnhardt booted the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards, causing a single car spin.

Earnhardt's problems compounded when the No. 8 Chevy had to make five trips down pit road at lap 334 to adjust the trackbar. He restarted at lap 335 in the 22nd position.

The problems mounted for the No. 8 team. On lap 417, Earnhardt was forced to pull the Budweiser Chevy into the garage for repairs to his transmission.

"We couldn't get the car to turn all day long, the car was skipping all day long and finally tore the rear end out," said Earnhardt. "We normally don't have problems like this, but sometimes you get a bad batch of parts. It is not the time to be having it though."

Earnhardt got back on track but on lap 466 Kyle Petty smacked into the left front of Earnhardt's ride causing significant damage.

He finished 33rd, and drops one spot to third in rankings 125 points from first.

4. Jimmie Johnson: After a horrible start to the Chase, the No. 48 Chevy team has finally found their groove. Johnson won today's event, and climbs four spots to fourth 207 markers out of the top spot.

Note: Due to the loss of friends and team members in the Henderick Motorsports plane crash, Johnson was not available for any post-race interviews.

5. Mark Martin: Solid run, managed to stay out of trouble to finish 12th. He sits fifth in standings, 224 points out of the lead.

"Another great run for the Viagra Taurus," said Martin. "We need to be this consistent every week and keep gaining points."

6. Tony Stewart: Stewart landed 15th spot and sixth in rankings, 246 points behind.

Note: Due to the loss of his personal friend and pilot in the Henderick Motorsports plane crash, Stewart was not available for any post-race interviews.

7. Elliott Sadler: Sadler wasn't lightning in a bottle, but he was staying out of trouble and mounting a decent top-20 finish until lap 449. As Sadler attempted to pass Robby Gordon, the two connected sending the No. 38 Ford into a single car spin.

Sadler restarted one lap down in 27th place. On lap 476, Sadler made contact with the No. 01 of Joe Nemechek destroying the front end of the Yates Ford.

"I just saw a lot of smoke," said Sadler. "My spotter told me to go high and that's probably where Joe ended up at. It's just a frustrating day. We just missed it on pit strategy a little bit and then Robby (Gordon) just cut down on me and spun me out. I don't really understand that.

"Well, I do understand that, it's Robby Gordon."

Sadler's 32nd place result drops him to seventh in points, 255 shy of Busch.

8. Matt Kenseth: Embroiled in an accident on lap 105 with Dale Jarrett, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and Jimmy Spencer. Kenseth was able to drive away. Quietly ran in the top-15 the rest of the race.

"We missed the setup a little and struggled all day," said Kenseth.

He finished 16th and is eighth in points, trailing by 260.

9. Ryan Newman: Pole sitter Newman carved out a third place finish and remains ninth in series points. He trails leader Busch by 266 markers.

"There was a lot of beating and banging there on the giving and receiving end," said Newman. "But the bottom line was we had some not so good pit stops to start with and we had some real good pit stops to end with."

10. Jeremy Mayfield: Mayfield was involved in an early incident with Brendan Gaughan and Sterling Marlin on lap 15. There was no significant damage on the No. 19 Dodge and they rebounded to a 6th place finish.

"It was a real strong run all day," Mayfield said. "They guys made great calls in the pits and we had great stops all day. We we're just trying to finish."

Mayfield stays 10th in rankings, 364 points behind.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Jimmy Spencer , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Brendan Gaughan , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports