NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recalls his first Cup race at Martinsville


After the snow-delayed STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a moment to congratulate the “rookie” Alex Bowman on a successful debut at the treacherous short track. He was right about one thing: Bowman finished seventh in the race.

But he overlooked one little fact: this was not Bowman’s first Martinsville race.

As it turned out, confusing Bowman’s first attempt for his fifth was not Earnhardt’s only mistake at Martinsville. He made plenty of them in his inaugural trip to the bullring.

In his first Martinsville race, Earnhardt hit everything that moved and at least one thing that didn’t, he recalled on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

“I hit everything,” Earnhardt said. “I ran into a truck – a truck – behind pit wall in my first race. And then I proceeded to wreck again on the race track.”

Junior’s exploits did not go unnoticed. Dale Earnhardt Sr. kept a close eye on his son during the race and had a few choice words for him afterward.

“I remember I was starting a lap down on the inside back when the lapped cars would line up on the inside,” Earnhardt said. “A hundred laps into the race, I was a lap down already. The green flag comes out and I jump out to a straightaway lead over the leaders. That was the best thing that happened to me all day. Then I wrecked about three or four times.

“Finally, we get in the helicopter to go home and Dad and Michael Waltrip are in the helicopter,” Earnhardt continued. “And Dad is really PO’d because he finally come over the radio after the last wreck and said ‘Will you just tell him to park it?’ and they said ‘I think he’s done for the day because the steering wheel’s bent.’ So, Dad was chewing my butt for like 15 minutes. I said, ‘Did you see me straightaway the leaders?’ ‘Cause that was really cool, I thought. He didn’t care about that.”

For more about Earnhardt’s first race to Martinsville, watch the video above.