NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., returns to Martinsville Speedway looking for his second win of the season. Having never won at the half-mile paperclip, Earnhardt Jr. has ten top-5 and fifteen top-10 finishes out of twenty-eight starts.
When speaking with members of the media on Friday, Earnhardt Jr. talked about how he would like to get his second win of the season at Martinsville this weekend. He said, “This is a track I have been trying to get a win at for a long time. I grew up in a house full of clocks so it’s been pretty illusive. We have had some good cars in the past here that I’ve felt like could have won races and we just weren’t able to get the job done for whatever reason, somebody was faster or whatever. Looking forward to having another opportunity. Just every time we come here we are excited. I love short-track racing. I love this track. I love the history of this place, what it represents. It’s a joy to run here and a lot of fun to race. It can be frustrating and you’ve got to battle all day long to maintain your track position, but it’s a good challenge, a fun challenge.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, have had much success at Martinsville Speedway over the years. When asked what he can take from watching them run here that he can apply to his set-up, Earnhardt Jr. replied, “We use a program called dart fish where basically it overlaps my lap with another car. Maybe we look at the guys who sat on the pole or qualified in the top three and then look at my qualifying lap. I can do that for last year, the year before, we can go as far back pretty much as we want and see what guys are doing differently. How they are getting in the corner, how they turn into the corner. I can try to learn things that way. As far as my teammates go I’m out on the track with them. I know their tendencies and it depends on how their car is driving and how their car is handling as to how they are going to run, drive the corner and approach each corner. Yet Jeff has a real good knack for finding out how to get his car around this place depending on how his car drives. He can change his approach to the corner and how we enters the corner to affect the speed on his car quite well here. Obviously Jimmie has got a lot of success here, but he seems to be very consistent in how he drives and deliberate in how he drives this track. They are definitely two guys that have had a lot of success here so you sort of tune in to what they are doing, how they are setting up their cars and what their comments are about their cars. You try to stay on top of that and try to understand how their weekend is going and try to use any of that stuff to your advantage for sure.”
Already having one win this season and practically already being locked into the Chase, Earnhardt Jr. was asked if he will be more offensive at Martinsville now and if fans could see a last lap pass. He said, “Yeah we have had that happen in the last couple of years regardless how the points system is stacked up we have had guys pushing each other around here quite on a regular basis so I assume if there is anyone within reach on that last lap of the leader the leader is going to have his hands full. That is fair. I can tell you though as far as being offensive, defensive, you are only as offensive as your car will allow you to be. I can attest to that over the last six years that if your car is fast enough you want to drive it as far as it can go. If your car is quick enough to be in the lead you want to get it there. If it’s not you go as far as you can and try to defend that situation and wait until you have an opportunity to improve the car. I don’t think I’ve ever raced here walking on egg shells. I think you can get in trouble pretty quickly if you do that. You definitely have to be offensive all the time and always try to be aggressive in how you drive the race track and how you race with the competition.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet will start the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday at 1:00pm local time in twenty-sixth