By admin | October 24, 2010
By Richard Allen
During the middle stretches of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway it looked like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. might be on the way to his first victory in over two years.
After a pit stop exchange in which Junior pitted when many others did not, he was set up to move to the front later when those in front of him finally did pit. With each pass that brought him closer to the front the crowd roared and waved their approval.
Earlier, twitter communications had rolled in blaming crew chief Lance McGrew, a popular target among Junior’s fans, for bad strategy that was sure to doom the driver’s chances. However, as the strategy was allowed to play out the tweets become less hostile.
The sport’s most popular driver finally took the lead from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon on lap 285. Even the other drivers had taken note of the crowd’s enthusiasm. Just before that lead change Gordon had radioed to his crew that Junior “is about to make a lot of people happy.” Eventually, the #88 car would be at the front of the field for 90 of the race’s 500 laps.
Later, the car’s handling went away which led to an all to familiar shouting match between the driver and crew chief. And along with that came the increasingly more hostile twitter blasts of McGrew.
But all in all it turned out to be a good day. Earnhardt wound up with a solid 7th place result on a day when he spent a good portion of time at the front of the field. He remains in 19th place of the Sprint Cup standings.
As the car crossed under the checkered flag Earnahrdt and McGrew exchanged apologies with each other for their previous anger and thanked each other for the efforts that led to their best finish in five weeks.
This team now has a bit of somewhat unfamiliar momentum to build on going into Talladega, which has provided Junior with more wins than any other venue on the circuit.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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