Earnhardt finishes third, regains points lead at Martinsville, laments Letarte’s tenure drawing shorter
Mar 30, 2014, 7:26 PM EDT
As it turned out, though, Earnhardt had a strong day.
Not only did he finish third in the race, he regained the points lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings, knocking Carl Edwards off the top spot after just a one-week reign.
Since winning the season-opening Daytona 500, Earnhardt has now led the series after four of the first six races.
“We ran third today because we got great teammates that understand how to get around here and put good cars on the track, and we lean on that,” Earnhardt said. “It’s been a great experience seeing it happen, and I’m sure that one of us would have loved to have won that race for Rick.”
Earnhardt was like teammates Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, wanting to win Sunday, which would have been the 220th Sprint Cup race win for Hendrick Motorsports, its 22nd at Martinsville and would have successfully marked the 30th anniversary of HMS’s first-ever NASCAR win on April 29, 1984 at Martinsville.
Likewise, Earnhardt continues to chase his first win at Martinsville, still not having reached victory lane in 29 career starts there – or earning Martinsville’s unique prize to race winners of a grandfather’s clock.
“We’ll get more opportunities to win more races and I’m just frustrated I’ve been chasing the clock here for so long,” Earnhardt said. “Hopefully one of these days it’ll work out.”
Like Johnson said after the race, Earnhardt also gave it all he had in the closing laps, but still came up short.
“I was losing my car pretty fast there the last five laps, so I didn’t have anything else to get there,” Earnhardt said. “I got a couple lapped guys gave me the outside instead of the inside. That cost me a little time and maybe some wear and tire on my tires. I thought when we passed the 22 (Joey Logano), we might be able to roll up there and get in the middle of the race for that win, but no, those guys’ cars, they were pretty good.”
Interestingly, crew chief Steve Letarte apologized to Earnhardt in the final 40 laps for constantly reminding him to be patient and take it easy as the race closed in on the finish.
While Earnhardt appreciated Letarte’s concern, it also seemed to hit him yet again that this will be Letarte’s last season as his crew chief. Letarte will leave Earnhardt and Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season to become an analyst on NASCAR on NBC telecasts next season.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly what ran through my mind when he said that, when he was saying I’m probably getting on your nerves,” Earnhardt said. “I’m thinking, man, I’m just going to bring it on because I’ll be missing this next year. There’s nobody like him. I don’t expect the next guy to come in there and mimic him or be like him. We’ll work that out and communicate like we need to communicate going forward.
“But yeah, he does a great job of keeping my mind focused on the tasks. There’s several different things you’re doing in the car during a run, and you can easily get yourself carried away and race a guy and forget taking care of your car and taking care of your left-rear tire. It’s easy to get swept up in the competition of things, and (Letarte’s) good at sort of cheerleading you along the way and running the show. He does a good job on top of the box.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Mar 27, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT
Scott Speed, Loic Duval set for further Formula E starts in Long Beach.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Team should qualify for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, thus completing its comeback.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
British driver planned to use a blue helmet to pay homage to Mercedes title sponsor Petronas in Malaysia.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:31 AM EDT
British driver responds to the pace shown by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in FP1 by topping the second session on Friday.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:45 AM EDT
Catch all of the action from second practice live on NBCSN and Live Extra.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
Defending world champion forced to stop his car out on track early in practice, but Rosberg enjoys a more fruitful session.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Malaysian GP FP1 about to launch.
Mar 26, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Finnish driver believes that the team has made a big step forward over the winter.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
A quick look through the runners in Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 for 2015.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Difficulties faced by a number of teams give Sauber an early chance to rack up some points.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
“I find it quite funny and interesting that the opinion is coming from individuals who have had so much success.”
Mar 26, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
He’s finally the champion, but Will Power enters 2015 still with more to prove.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
NBCSN’s Will Buxton brings you the latest insight and interviews ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Mar 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Spaniard rejects claim that he thought he was in 1995 following his accident in pre-season.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano spent an afternoon in each other’s respective worlds — and cars — on Wednesday.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno give their verdict on this weekend’s Malaysian GP as Fernando returns, Manor hopes to fire up, and Red Bull prepares to declare war on Renault.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Formula 1 heads to Malaysia for the second round of the 2015 season, but will Lewis Hamilton be able to double up and maintain his winning streak?
Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Coyne heads into the season with two lesser experienced drivers, but looks to play spoiler.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
IndyCar has a wave of younger talent in the series, who need to start winning sooner rather than later.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Both drivers failed to race in Australia due to injury, but will return this weekend.
- Hamilton hits back by topping second practice in Malaysia 0
- Rosberg quickest in Malaysia FP1 as Hamilton hits trouble 1
- Now IndyCar’s champion, Will Power’s mindset hasn’t changed heading into 2015 0
- Alonso moves to clear up testing crash conspiracy theories 2
- NHRA Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon trades seats for a day with NASCAR counterpart Joey Logano 2
- Can IndyCar’s next generation take it to the established veterans? 1
- Fernando Alonso talks return in Malaysian GP 3