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Junior Survives Wild Finish to Claim 3rd at Martinsville

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 4/1/2012

Race: Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway
Track Specs: Half-mile oval / 500 laps
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 63 degrees
Race Winner: Ryan Newman
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 3rd

Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbed to second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and now is only six points out of the lead after scoring a third-place finish in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. It is Earnhardt Jr.’s third top-five in six races in 2012 and 10th top-five in 25 starts at the half-mile Virginia short-track.

Junior was one of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers in contention for the company’s 200th victory. The trio of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. combined to lead 443 of 500 regulation laps and was running 1-2-3 when David Reutimann’s stalled car brought out the sixth caution four laps from the scheduled conclusion.

With a green-white-checkered finish looming and the No. 88 Chevrolet’s gas tank nearly dry, Earnhardt Jr. pitted for fuel and two fresh left-side tires. Gordon and Johnson did not. On the ensuing restart, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman triggered a four-car accident that took out Gordon and Johnson, while Earnhardt Jr. squeezed through the carnage to climb from sixth to third. The second green-white-checkered attempt put Junior on the preferred inside line, but a broken sway bar arm prevented a serious bid to take the lead away from Newman. With the checkered flag finally waving 15 laps after the previously scheduled ending, Newman outlasted A.J. Allmendinger for the win, while Earnhardt Jr. secured third place by holding off Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. started the race in 14th, but promptly climbed the leaderboard until taking the lead with a pass of Gordon on lap 229. The No. 88 driver led the next three laps before giving up the spot for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. His stint out front marked the third race in 2012 in which he has led laps.

Earnhardt Jr. has now finished seventh or better in his last four races at Martinsville. He finished second in this race last year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
“It was a crazy ending. The 15 (Clint Bowyer) drove hard into the bottom (on the first green-white-checkered restart). That’s his right. He was just trying to do whatever he had to do to win the race. It’s a green-white-checkered, so that’s what you’re going to get here. I think Clint did what he needed to do and just caused a little bit of trouble on the inside down there, and we ran into the 24 and luckily didn’t knock our tire off of it. It was a pretty hard hit. Then we knocked into something over there and was dragging the sway bar around the last couple of laps. I guess with all that, we’re lucky to get out of here with a third. I hate Rick (Hendrick) didn’t get his 200th win. He certainly had the best cars here today. I don’t know what the 10 (David Reutimann) was thinking with a broken sway bar arm driving around there at 15 miles per hour for two or three laps and not pitting. Come down pit road, man. How many laps down are you? Get down pit road and get out of the race. The race shouldn’t have ended like that. It’s unfortunate.”

Martinsville Race Report
Start 14th
Finish 3rd
Laps Completed (Led) 515 of 515 (3)
Standings (from leader) 2nd (-6)
Pitstops Laps 100, 232, 323, 362 and 500 (2 tires)
Condition Running


After Ford EcoBoost 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +3 Kevin Harvick 5043 0
2 +1 Ryan Newman 5042 -1
3 -2 Denny Hamlin 5037 -6
4 -2 Joey Logano 5028 -15
5 -- Brad Keselowski 2361 -2682
6 -- Jeff Gordon 2348 -2695
7 -- Matt Kenseth 2334 -2709
8 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301 -2742
9 -- Carl Edwards 2288 -2755
10 -2 Kyle Busch 2285 -2758
11 +2 Jimmie Johnson 2274 -2769
12 +2 Kurt Busch 2263 -2780
Full Standings