Junior Strong Until Late Accident at Martinsville


Dale Jr. made a strong return to the Sprint Cup Series racing inside the top 10 for most of the day before a late-race accident left the No. 88 team with a 21st-place finish.

Race: Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway
Track Specs: half-mile speedway / 500 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 64 degrees
Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 21st

Making his return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series activity after a two-week hiatus to recover from a concussion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a top-10 contender the entire afternoon at Martinsville Speedway but was collected in an incident between Sam Hornish and Carl Edwards that relegated him to a 21st-place finish in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500.

The No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard team had just gambled on pit strategy, as it was riding in eighth place when the 10th caution flew with 25 laps to go. Seeing most of the cars pit in front of them, the team elected to stay out for track position. The gamble put the No. 88 on the front row, but with old tires it didn’t stay there. Earnhardt slipped outside the top five with 15 to go, and fell out of the top-10 four laps later.

Earnhardt was racing side-by-side with Edwards for 11th when Hornish tagged the back of Edwards’ Ford, sending it into a spin and collecting Earnhardt with him. The Dew Crew made a pit stop on lap 492 to repair damage and put Earnhardt back on the track for the final circuits. Earnhardt finished 21st on the tail end of the lead lap.

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson won the race and by doing so took over the points lead with three races to go. Johnson now has a two-point advantage over Brad Keselowski heading to Texas. Kasey Kahne finished third, Aric Almirola fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Bowyer’s 153 laps led were bested only by Johnson’s 191.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m pretty disappointed. The car was fast at the start but we got tight and it was a struggle from that point on. We really fought it. Then we made some poor choices at the end, and that’s frustrating. I will say it was good to be back in the car. It was good to be around my team. I don’t really know what happened to Carl (Edwards). He said somebody ran over somebody way on back, and that’s how our day ended.”

Martinsville Race Report
Start 20th
Finish 21st
Laps Completed (Led) 500 of 500 (0)
Pit Stops Laps 48, 100, 130 (2 tires), 342, 393, 441 and 492
Standings (from leader) 12th (-140)
Condition Running (damaged)