Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be eliminated from championship contention, but he proved his season wasn’t finished by winning the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 today.
The victory is Junior’s first career win at Martinsville, NASCAR’s oldest track.
“We’ve tried to win here so many years. This place is so special to me,” Junior said in victory lane. “I’ve wanted to win here so bad… Real emotional win.”
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the deadly plane crash that took the lives of Rick Hendrick’s brother, two nieces, close friends, business associates and his son Ricky. On what was a visibly emotional day for Mr. Hendrick, his car’s finished 1st and 2nd, with Jeff Gordon right behind Junior.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) October 26, 2014
— Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) October 26, 2014
Gordon quickly got to the lead after starting 13th, but got himself in a tough situation by getting penalized for speeding on pit road. He slowly worked his way back to the front but ran out of time on the final restart to catch Jr.
Two chase contenders took a major hit in points.
Kevin Harvick finished 33rd after being spun into the wall by Matt Kenseth. Kenseth appeared to lose control after wheel-hopping into the corner under Harvick. Although it didn’t appear to be intentional, Harvick had some choice words for Kenseth after the race.
“He won’t win this championship,” Harvick said. “If we don’t, he won’t.”
Keselowski finished 31st after his transmission faltered on lap 436, causing a pile-up involving six other cars.
Both Keselowski and Harvick will likely need to win one of the remaining two races before the eight-car field will be trimmed to four for the championship round at Homestead.
Fellow chaser Ryan Newman finished 3rd, followed by Tony Stewart (his best finish since the tragedy in Canandaigua), Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger. David Ragan rounded out the top-ten.
Dale Jr. earned his fourth victory of the season and finally captured the elusive grandfather clock that is the Martinsville trophy.
“I wanted that grandfather clock ever since I was a little boy,” Junior said.
“We’re gonna drink a lot of beer tonight.”