In 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been eliminated from the playoffs but he still had some unfinished business. Martinsville loomed and he wanted a grandfather clock to go along with the six that his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. had.
With fresh tires, Dale Earnhardt Jr. charged through the field, muscled Tony Stewart out of the lead and watched a determined Jeff Gordon grow larger in his rearview mirror.
On the restart Earnhardt recalled: “I got some tires here so I’m coming fast. I gotta be quick about this because behind me is Jeff Gordon and he’s on (fresh) tires, too. And he’s been pretty much the best car all day. … So I catch Tony. I gotta hurry to get by Tony because if Jeff Gordon can get to my bumper, he’s going to use it. And so I gas it up here [hitting Stewart in the left door] and I’m like, ‘Sorry, Tony I got to hit you in the door.’ … If I don’t throttle up there I’m gonna get beat down the straightaway and Gordon’s gonna be right there.”
Earnhardt held on to win his only Martinsville race – and that is quite understandably his favorite Martinsville memory.
It’s not his only memorable moment, however. In the video above, Earnhardt also recalls one of his first trips to Martinsville when he practically hit everything inside the track – including a truck in the infield.
Earnhardt can’t remember how many times he wrecked that day, but he does remember the exchange with his father during the ride back North Carolina. Dale Sr. was not impressed with his performance.
Since the season resumed in May, Harvick and Keselowski have had similar stats. Harvick has four wins since May; Keselowski has three. Harvick has six finishes of third or better; Keselowski has five such finishes. Harvick has 13 top 10s in 16 races; Keselowski has the same total.
Cup heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for a doubleheader. Saturday’s race is at 4 p.m. ET. Sunday’s race is at 4:30 p.m. ET. Both races will be on NBCSN.
Here is this week’s power rankings:
Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 1): Has seven consecutive top-five finishes and might have challenged for his fifth win of the season had a pit call not taken him out of sequence and forced him to pit under green. Good chance his streak continues this weekend at Michigan. Since the track was repaved in 2012, Harvick has 10 top-five finishes in 16 starts.
Brad Keselowski (Last week: No. 2): Scores at least three wins for the fifth consecutive year. The Michigan driver has never won a Cup race at Michigan. He has three top 10s there in his last four starts.
Denny Hamlin ( Last week: No. 3): Was in contention for his sixth win of the season before losing a duel with Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire. Thirteen of the 22 lead changes were between Hamlin and Keselowski. They combined to lead 186 of the last 198 laps. He has four wins, seven finishes of third or better and 10 top 10s since the season resumed in May.
Aric Almirola (Last week: No. 4): Has a career-high nine consecutive top-10 finishes. Can he make it a perfect 10 Saturday at Michigan? He has only one top 10 at the track in his last five starts.
Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 7): Has three finishes of third or better in the last four races. Scored third at New Hampshire despite penalty for an uncontrolled tire. His eight top-five finishes at Michigan are second only to the nine he has had at Kansas for most among active tracks.
Cole Custer (Last week: No. 5): Has four top 10s in the last five races, including his Kentucky win.
Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 9): Has four top 10s in the last five races. He won the Michigan Xfinity race in June 2019.
Joey Logano (Last week: Unranked): Has two top-five finishes in the last three races. He won at Michigan in June 2019.
Chase Elliott (Last week: Unranked): Has four finishes between ninth and 12th in the last five races.
Matt DiBenedetto (Last week: Unranked): Has two finishes of sixth of better in the the last four races.
DGM Racing stated that it will appeal the penalties. The team stated: “DGM Racing is aware of the allegations against us. We feel we followed all the proper protocol and will be appealing the penalty. We are unable to comment further. Thank you for the support we have received so far.”
NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will race for the first time on the Daytona road course this month. There will be no practice before each race. Drivers are not permitted to compete in more than one series event as a way to get extra track time.
NASCAR viewed that as an illegal test because of the car used. Section 5.1.a of the Xfinity rule book states: “Private vehicle testing by any race team, employee, contractor, affiliate, associate, subsidiary, or surrogate is strictly prohibited.”
Section 5.1.d of the Xfinity rule book states: NASCAR, in its sole discretion, will determine in advance what constitutes an authorized test. In general, only tests conducted under the NASCAR National Series Unified Testing policy are considered to be authorized tests.”
Seeing the “snowball effect” of a lack of sponsorship, cost for additional cars next year and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, car owner Bob Leavine said Tuesday that it was clear that he needed to sell Leavine Family Racing.
The team announced Tuesday that it has been sold. The buyer has not been revealed.
Leavine said Tuesday that the team had 11 races available for sponsorship on rookie Christopher Bell‘s car before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the sport in March for 10 weeks. The team’s biggest sponsor, Leavine noted, was his construction company, which also has been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the virus.
“We haven’t really sold anything and probably won’t sell anything going forward this year,” Leavine said Tuesday of sponsorship.
“We definitely did not get out of our charter what we put into our charter,” said Leavine, who has not publicly revealed what was paid for the charter. “So, from our standpoint, it is very difficult to say that it was a great investment. It just allowed us to run full time for the five years after we bought it. That’s the best thing I can say for the charter system.”
“We had a whole lot of things banking on the Next Gen coming in,” Leavine said. “Our deal with JGR, our affiliation required us to do certain things. We were looking forward to being a standalone team with one or two cars. So, the pandemic, and sponsorship and how it affected (his construction business), our major sponsor, and then having to come back and buy all the cars again for next year, because we had planned on not needing cars next year.
“It was a snowball effect on multiple things. We saw no way out. We could not afford the affiliation, and what we did this year, next year. That’s what we banked on. Okay, we will do this one year, run good, get our charter value up, and we had a plan. That plan came tumbling down with the pandemic. Then you take a bad business model; it doesn’t work for us.”
Leavine said he lobbied NASCAR and owners in the spring for particular changes, which he did not reveal. When those ideas were rejected, Leavine said he was “very disappointed in what came out of that meeting. I knew that was probably going to be the straw that broke our back. I had to start looking for how best do we protect our team. How best do we keep people employed. A lot of things went into that decision.”
Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Matt DiBenedetto and Bell.
“I really gave it all I had for the 10 years and the last five primarily when we went full-time, and I committed, and I thought we could make a difference and be a good team,” Leavine said. “A responsible and respected team in NASCAR. To walk away and not have completed that, I’ve never had to do that before and give up on anything. But I could not let it destroy our business – a 41-year old business – in Texas during these times, so you have to protect something and that’s a profitable organization.”