Martinsville II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Kurt Busch Wins at Martinsville; No. 8 Budweiser Team gets another top five. Kurt Busch won Sunday's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday afternoon, holding off a frantic charge by Johnny Benson, who finished a career-best second.

Kurt Busch Wins at Martinsville; No. 8 Budweiser Team gets another top five.

Kurt Busch won Sunday's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday afternoon, holding off a frantic charge by Johnny Benson, who finished a career-best second. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team finished fourth, their best-ever finish at the small .526-mile oval. Ricky Rudd was third, passing Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap. This is the second time this season that the Budweiser team has finished in the top five at Martinsville, a mark topped only by the team's two victories at Talladega. The fourth-place finish pulls them to 12th in Winston Cup points, less than 80 points out of the top 10 and less than 200 points out of the seventh position with four races left in the season. The finish also extends a hot streak for the Bud team, recording a fourth top-five finish in seven races and a fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Since the race at Michigan in August, Dale Jr. has gained five positions in the Winston Cup standings.

The Key Moments: Dale Jr. and the Bud team started 10th, and enjoyed one of the fastest cars on the track for each of the 500 grueling laps on the small oval. Most of the trouble suffered by the team took place on pit lane. The drama started as Dale Jr. pulled from his pit stall on lap 102, and made contact with the no. 32 car driven by Ricky Craven. The damage was minimal, and the team restarted in the ninth position. The second pit road incident of the day took place on lap 206, when the no. 25 car driven by Joe Nemechek dove in front of the Bud car, causing heavy contact and delaying Dale Jr's departure from his pit stall. The damage was again minimal and cosmetic, but dropped Dale Jr. to 21st position on the restart. (In Dale Jr's words: "Man, we're way at the back...") In the remaining laps, the red Bud car moved forward, regaining the top 10 on lap 239 with a quick two-tire pit stop. With 70 laps to go, Dale Jr., who had been conserving his car for much of the day, began a charge that took him from seventh to third place, before falling to fourth on the last lap. The Bud car finished the day without major structural damage, but with a body that was beaten, scratched, nicked and dented in what seemed like an endless array of locales.

Dale Jr's Quotes: "It was a grind all day. It was fun and I think most all of the drivers did a helluva job. I did not want to give up third to Rudd but I did all I could to hold him off and he got me there on the last lap. There was only one groove - the high groove - and everybody figured out pretty early on that the only way to pass is to get up into the guy in front of you. I think everybody understood that, so it just became the way you had to pass. Everybody seemed to keep their cool mostly, but you had to use the corners of your car about every turn. You were either playing offense or defense each time.

"I have to give my guys credit because they gave me a really good car that allowed me to make up what we seemed to lose each time on pit lane. We had some good stops, but some wild stuff goin' on after we'd leave the box.

"The track was one groove, so I suppose we'll have to get used to it or put with it for several more years maybe when we get some rubber down in two or three years, it'll be a two-groove track."

Best Radio Conversations WBecause of the tight conditions, it seemed as if there was some sort of contact on each lap among the 43 combatants. At one point, Dale Jr. did some serious jousting with Rusty Wallace, who reportedly threatened to spin Dale Jr. out (though in more graphic terms). During a yellow flag period, Dale Jr. and his spotter discussed the rough nature of the race to that point.

Ty Norris (spotter): "Man, there are some guys like the 31 (R. Gordon) and the 2 (R. Wallace) that are just body-slammin' people out there!"

Dale Jr. : (laughs) "Hell yeah! I'm body-slammin' back! I just about took the tailpipe offa Rusty's car there. He hit me three corners in a row and still couldn't get past me, so I gave his crew a little extra to work on. It sounded like a firecracker went off when I hit him, or what it sounds like when you open up the door on one of our engine dynos"

During the next yellow flag period (just past the halfway point of the race), Dale Jr. mused on the length of the race distance.

Dale Jr: "These races are at least 100 laps too long. It's kinda pointless to just be out here running all these extra laps. Why is this race so long?"

Norris: "(Sales at) the concession stand I just can't believe we invest so much in our teams and make such an effort to come to a place where we can't even race without tearing our (stuff) up. It's hard to stay positive."

Dale Jr: "I hear ya. You're where I was at yesterday. But tomorrow, you'll look back and laugh at it." Norris: "Yeah you're right. Let's finish where we're at (second place) or one better and then we'll love this place all over again"

Dale Jr. (laughs) "Yeah, I can see how your day can go to the bottom in only one second"

Dale Jr. was told late in the race that his brother Kerry had finished fifth in the Busch race this afternoon at Memphis.

Dale Jr: "Hey, that's great."

Norris: "Awesome."

Dale Jr. "That's good for him It was Memphis right? That has similarities to Phoenix, so it's something they can build on! (Suddenly realizing his distaste for testing, Dale Jr. thinks fast) NOT that I wanna go test there before Phoenix!

Today's Stats
Started: 10th
Finished: 4th
Points Position: 12th (gained one position)
Money Won: $75,870
Laps Led: --
Best Pit Stop: Lap 206 / Stop #4 of 7 / 4 tires, Fuel / 14.76 seconds

Bonus Awards from today's action at Martinsville:

Best performance by a visiting sports celebrity in the Budweiser pit area: Picabo Street (She's our winner for the second week in a row. Sorry kids, she's NOT dating Dale Jr!)

Best performance in a pre-race visit by a rock band: Third Eye Blind

Best analysis of the Winston Cup Championship race by a fan calling a radio talk show: "Uh... yeah well, I think this year it's Tony (Stewart's) year I mean... uh he's either gonna win it or he's not"

Most Deplorable Fan Behavior: With approximately 100 laps to go, a "fan" dressed in a firesuit patterned after the late Dale Earnhardt's GM-Goodwrench uniform, along with look-alike hat and sunglasses, walked in front of the grandstands across from the Budweiser pit area and began waving to the fans as if he were the late, great Big E himself. Most, if not all of the DEI team saw the buffoon, but turned away to concentrate on trying to win the race. This "fan" may be lucky there was a fence and a race track between himself and the team.

-dei/budweiswer-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Rusty Wallace , Joe Nemechek , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Ricky Craven