Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, gained the victory for the running of the 66th Annual Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, held at Martinsville Speedway, Sunday. Earnhardt Jr. won after leading 79 laps of Sunday’s race.
This is Earnhardt Jr.’s 23rd career victory in 538 NASCAR Sprint Cup series races. And his first victory at the paperclip shaped track in 30 starts at Martinsville, and his fourth victory for the 2014 season, only in 2004 has Earnhardt Jr. gained more victories (six).
“I wanted to win here so bad, we have tried to win here so many years and this place is so special to me,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I wanted that grandfather clock since I was a little boy and I got it today…A real emotional win,” said Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane. “I can’t believe we won here.”
With a late caution leaving 5 laps remaining in the race, Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte chose to come down pit road for fresh rubber, leaving Earnhardt Jr. to start in fifth place. With fresh tires Earnhardt Jr. drove through the field with ease, passing Tony Stewart and regaining the top spot with 3 laps to go. But it wouldn’t be easy as Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon tracking the #88 down Earnhardt Jr. was able to hold him off with a margin of victory by 0.344 seconds.
This weekend marks the 10-year anniversary that claimed 10 lives, including team owner Rick Hendrick’s brother, son, nieces, his team’s head engine builder and general manager, on Oct. 24, 2004 in a plane crash going to Martinsville for raceday.
“I’m just really emotional. This means so much to all of us,” said Earnhardt Jr., who was with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, at the time of the tragic accident. “I lost my daddy a long time ago. And I know how hard that is. I can’t imagine losing the magnitude of people that Rick did. My heart goes out to him. This honors them.”
Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon gave HMS the one-two finish, with Gordon leading the most laps of the race at 130 of the scheduled 500 laps.
“I thought we had the car to beat,” Gordon said after the race. “Those last couple of laps were just wild. This means so much to Hendrick Motorsports. It’s the best way to pay tribute to everyone we lost 10 years ago.”
“I would have loved to get that win to move on to Homestead. But I’m real happy for Dale. I know this means so much to him.”
Ryan Newman finished third, with Tony Stewart finishing in fourth, and Joey Logano finishing in fifth. Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger and David Ragan round out the top 10 finishers of the race.
Gordon leaves Martinsville as the Series points leader, having finished in second, with Ryan Newman second, after finishing third, Joey Logano sits in third, and Matt Kenseth in fourth. The top four drivers will move into the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the finale.
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.