Dale Earnhardt Jr.: End of final Martinsville Cup race ‘a big deal’ for NASCAR

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia – The last Martinsville race of Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Cup career left the driver “jacked up.”

And he didn’t even finish in the top 10.

Fresh off a 11th-place finish in the First Data 500 in his special “Gray Ghost” paint scheme, the 14-time most popular driver took to Periscope with a big grin on his face and a simple message.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week.”

The racing, cheering, booing and the anger. All of it going on seemingly non-stop for 15 minutes after the race’s chaotic finish.

“I was so jacked up when I got out of the car I felt like I had drank a pot of coffee with everything going on at the end at the finish,” Earnhardt said.

It started when Joey Logano spun 13 laps from the overtime finish because of a cut tire he received after contact with Kyle Busch and continued when Chase Elliott forced Brad Keselowski out of the racing groove to take the lead during the ensuing restart.

It escalated when Denny Hamlin turned race leader Elliott into the outside wall with two laps to go in the original 500-lap distance. Hamlin then lost the lead on the last lap of the overtime finish when Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, forced  him out of the way in Turn 1. It all concluded after a Talladega-like crash at the checkered flag with a shower of jeers and cheers as Elliott and Hamlin exchanged words on the track.

“That was a wiiiild finish, man!” Earnhardt said. “I ain’t seen nothing like that ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a short track finish that was so crazy.”

At the time of his Periscope, Earnhardt didn’t even know where he had finished. But he was sure of something else after the first Cup race at Martinsville to finish under the lights.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week,” Earnhardt said. “NASCAR needs short track racing, particularly and preferably under the lights. If that was going on more often than not in the sport, you wouldn’t have enough tickets. You’d have to build tracks just like Bristol with all the grandstands you can find.

“That’s so much better than a lot of the things that we do. I don’t really know how to put it into words. But that kind of action and drama, that’s what grows the sport and gets people talking. My God. We don’t need guys getting turned around and wrecked every week. I guess what I’m saying is, drama and exciting finishes, the fans in the grandstands cheering like crazy and booing and cheering and booing and cheering after every interview for 15, 20 minutes after the race.

“We need that every weekend.”

Earnhardt, who has three races left as a full-time Cup driver, also was excited about the discussions the race will prompt in the week leading up to this coming weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Woo, that was a big deal for the sport,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll be talking about that a lot this week. Man, is it going to be dominating the headlines and storylines. We won’t be talking about PJ1 and all that mess.

“Martinsville under the lights sure did deliver.”