"Oh, man, we've been trying to win here for so many years,"
Earnhardt said. "And this place is so special to me. I've wanted to
win here so bad. We brought good cars. I'm out of breath from
celebrating more than driving. It's a real emotional win."
Jeff Gordon finished second to be the highest finisher among the
eight remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors and give
Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2 finish.
Because none of the Chase drivers won the race, no driver clinched
an automatic berth in the championship finale at Homestead.
After a red flag with about 10 laps remaining, Earnhardt and Gordon
led most of the field down pit road under yellow, while Tony
Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and David Ragan stayed out to restart
in the top three positions.
Earnhardt got up to second as soon as the race returned to green and
then got by Stewart for the lead after the two banged for the top
spot for a time.
"I just really had to get aggressive under Tony, and I think he
would have done the same thing," Earnhardt said. "I had to go
because I had the 24 (Gordon) behind me and coming hard and I
couldn't give up anything. So we had to go real hard right there."
Gordon and Ryan Newman also passed Stewart in the final laps to
finish second and third. Stewart held on to finish fourth, his best
finish since returning to the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway on
Labor Day weekend. Joey Logano finished fifth.
"It was a solid points day. It's a good thing the 88 (Earnhardt) won
and not the 24. That's a good thing," Logano said. "Overall, it was
a top-five, which is great. We've been top-fiving the heck out of
this Chase, which is what we need to do."
After Jamie McMurray dominated the opening stages of the race,
Gordon took the lead on lap 85. Gordon showed the way until he was
caught speeding on pit road during a caution on lap 189. Newman was
also nabbed for speeding in the pits during the same caution. As a
result of the penalties, Gordon and Newman restarted 30th and 31st
and just missed a spinning Ragan on lap 208.
"We got behind," Gordon said. "I made a big mistake on pit road and
was speeding. I knew it. We had to go back and claw our way back up
in there, so that was a great comeback and a total team effort by
Gordon raced his way back toward the front and was back up to 10th
by the time the yellow flag waved on lap 228. As he was racing his
way back up through the field, Earnhardt was a consistent
front-runner. After a caution on lap 294, the Hendrick Motorsports
teammates battled for the lead.
Earnhardt got that lead, but it was taken by Kurt Busch a few laps
later. Both Gordon and Earnhardt were at or near the front the rest
of the way.
The yellow flag waved 15 times throughout the 500-lap race, and the
red flag was displayed twice -- once for cleanup after a multi-car
crash involving Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, Kasey
Kahne and Martin Truex with just under 65 laps to go, and then again
with about 10 laps to go to clean up fluid from Kyle Larson's
[to top of second column]
Kahne and Brian Vickers were involved in multiple cautions
throughout the race. Vickers spun after contact from Kahne around
lap 160. On lap 221, Vickers retaliated, hitting Kahne. Keselowski
received damage from the lap 221 run-in between Kahne and Vickers.
Kahne and Vickers had one final run-un on lap 277.
After winning at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway a week ago,
Keselowski's day at Martinsville was a long one. He fell back early
because of an overheating issue, and then was caught speeding on pit
road during the lap 160 caution. He later fell off the pace because
of a mechanical issue and then suffered damage from two on-track
Other Chase drivers also had trouble at Martinsville. Kevin Harvick
spent a significant amount of time in the garage when his car
sustained significant damage in a wreck that also involved Matt
Kenseth and Stewart on lap 228.
"It was a long day; it was one of the low lights of my career,
honestly," Kenseth said. "I'm glad we got that finish even though
we've got the car all banged up and all the extra stuff going on. At
the end of the day, I'm glad we got the finish, but it was a rough
Kenseth continued and finished sixth, Clint Bowyer was seventh,
Denny Hamlin eighth, A.J. Allmendinger ninth, and Ragan rounded out
NOTES: Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson
are the winningest active drivers at Martinsville Speedway with
eight wins apiece. ... Brad Keselowski is the only remaining Chase
for the Sprint Cup driver with no career wins at Martinsville or any
of the three remaining tracks on the 2014 schedule. ... Kurt Busch
won at Martinsville the last time the Sprint Cup Series visited the
track in March, while Gordon won a year ago. ... David Ragan ran
with a special paint scheme on his No. 34 car, commemorating the
upcoming 2015 induction of Wendell Scott into the NASCAR Hall of
Fame. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove a Scott tribute paint scheme to
victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at
Martinsville on Saturday. ... Hendrick Motorsports recognized the
10th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of 10
Hendrick family members, friends and employees on their way to
Martinsville in 2004 with a special paint scheme on Johnson's No. 48
car. ... Martinsville Speedway is the only track remaining on the
Sprint Cup Series schedule that has been around since the first Cup
level NASCAR season in 1949.
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