For as long as he has been racing in NASCAR’s most elite series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has yearned for a trophy that has always eluded him. While his fathers most chased after trophy was the Harley J. Earle trophy, Junior’s has been the Grandfather clock from Martinsville Speedway.
“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,” Junior commented, talking about his father’s six win’s at the short track.
Even though it has eluded him, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been close to winning previously.
“I think the best car I had here was when we knocked the right-front fender off and we ended up running fourth that day,” Junior said, reminding everybody of the race that he had back in April of 2006. “I was coming back through the field and spun out on the inside of (Ryan) Newman in (turns) three and four and had that not happened I think we would have been in position to win the race because we were by far the quickest car. Just we had to go back to the back of the field after that additional spin and we didn’t have enough race left to get back to the front. We ended up finishing fourth, but that car was really fast.”
Earnhardt already has one win this year – Daytona 500 – and potentially has secured his spot in the Chase with it. However, with a potential different winner this week, Junior talked about how more winners could mean more defensive Chase position holders.
“If we have a new winner every week, if we get into week 13 and 14 and we have got 12 winners at that particular point with 10 races left in the regular season guys are going to get a little more protective of their position in points,” Earnhardt commented. “I hope that we don’t really get to that situation. You would like to not have to worry about it the whole process of going through Daytona and winning and feeling like we were in was a great feeling. Not having the burden of worrying about points and being able to just race one weekend after the next and not worry about anything else was great. Having to fall back into that mode of concentrating on your point’s position, your track position, maximizing every race to get the most points that is a bit of a burden.”
But something makes us think Junior isn’t too concerned yet.
For now, Earnhardt is concerned on getting a clock and helping Hendrick Motorsports celebrate their 30th anniversary. Earnhardt Jr. was asked about the evolution of Hendrick during his Friday media availability, commenting that it’s interesting to see how the team has evolved and changed over the years.
“They were tough competitors when I was young going to races watching my father race. Just they seemed like they had so many resources and they had quite the dynamic when it came to drivers. It was just a team that always was going to be challenging for the win and challenging for championships, especially once Jeff (Gordon) got there they were almost unstoppable at that particular point in the ‘90’s,” Junior commented.
Since then, Hendrick Motorsports has continued to win and perhaps they have even gotten better throughout the years. Junior thinks it might be Rick Hendrick in general, saying that, “Everybody really strives from the top to the bottom to give their best.”
Knowing his team, along with his teammates’ track record, we won’t be too surprised if one of them end up in victory lane at Martinsville today.