Some of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s biggest wins have come on NASCAR’s largest tracks. But it is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ shortest track … Martinsville Speedway … that is a sentimental favorite for Earnhardt.
Part of that sentiment stems from Earnhardt’s love for the roots of racing, and no track has deeper roots in NASCAR than Martinsville Speedway. And some of that sentiment comes from Earnhardt’s great success on the half-mile oval.
NASCAR’s most popular driver doesn’t have a Martinsville win or one of the iconic grandfather clock trophies in his house, but his driver rating at Martinsville is consistently among the top two or three in the sport. He has 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes on the difficult short-track and has finished second twice and third four times.
Earnhardt, along with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne spent Tuesday testing at Martinsville in preparation for the October 26 Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500.
While some drivers don’t especially look forward to 500 laps on the tight confines of Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt relishes the two trips a year to Martinsville.
“I just love short-track racing. I don’t really like running into people, but I like rubbing,” Earnhardt said during his lunch break Tuesday. “I can appreciate someone using the bumper to get a spot without really causing too much of a problem for the guy who gets moved out of the way. I can respect that because you have got to do that sometimes.
“I feel like you come to expect that at this particular track. Since we’re all fighting to get around the bottom, you can only wait so long behind a guy before you have to get creative and get physical with the race car. I can take it as well as I can dish it.”
While Earnhardt gets around Martinsville as well as anyone in the sport, and has come so close to winning on several occasions, it hasn’t always been that way. Early in his career it was a struggle.
“I do enjoy racing here. The success we have here just comes from a lot of testing, a lot of practice,” said Earnhardt, who finished third in the STP 500 at Martinsville last spring. “When we first started racing here, I wasn’t very good and I remember coming several times and testing the first couple of seasons I was in the Cup series and that seemed to get us in a good direction. We got some good balance on our cars and what we need to get a car around this place and keep the tires on it.”
All four Hendrick teams will be back for another day of testing Wednesday. The test is open to the public at no charge. Grandstand gates open at 9 a.m.
Martinsville Speedway PR