Skip to content

Earnhardt finishes third, regains points lead at Martinsville, laments Letarte’s tenure drawing shorter

Mar 30, 2014, 7:26 PM EDT

(Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet) (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet)

With so much emphasis on Kurt Busch winning and Jimmie Johnson finishing second in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was practically a forgotten man.

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

Latest Posts
  1. Honda’s superspeedway oval aero kit set to be revealed Thursday at IMS

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:44 PM EDT

    HondaSStease Getty Images

    Honda set to take the wraps off its superspeedway oval challenger this Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  2. Ten with Townsend: Long Beach and Barber debrief

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

    DixonGRbarber Getty Images

    NBCSN’s Townsend Bell looks back at the instant classic that was Barber, for MotorSportsTalk.

  3. Beyond RHR, Munoz and Andretti both score second straight top-10 at Barber

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Munoz, Andretti end sixth and 10th, adding to RHR’s fifth place, to give Andretti Autosport a triple top-10 at Barber.

  4. Williams reports 34m Euro loss for 2014; bullish on future finances

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas AP

    Williams has a down financial year in 2014 but should be much better off in 2015.

  5. Power recovers to fourth at Barber after early drive-through for contact with Sato

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    PowerBarber2 AP

    Power ends P4 at Barber despite drive-through penalty early in the race.

  6. WATCH: Indy Lights races from Barber at midnight ET

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Watch the pair of Indy Lights races from Barber at midnight ET.

  7. Relief, gratitude define the day where Newgarden finally gets first win (VIDEO)

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Newgarden rolls out the thank you mat after scoring his elusive first IndyCar victory.

  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay disappointed, but relieved after Barber performance

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay not satisfied with first top-five finish of 2015.

  9. Montoya, Castroneves still 1-2 in IndyCar points; Newgarden jumps to P4

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:42 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Penske pair still 1-2 after tough afternoon in Barber.

  10. Graham Rahal can’t close deal in runner-up finish at Barber

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT

    GrahamBarberWin

    Graham Rahal comes up short in best performance in a year.

  11. Josef Newgarden scores his first IndyCar win at Barber

    Apr 26, 2015, 5:37 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Newgarden scores first career win at Barber.

  12. IndyCar: Graham Rahal is halfway leader at Barber

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:43 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    We’re halfway at Barber, with Graham Rahal the leader at Lap 45 and pit stops underway.

  13. Button records new personal best in London Marathon

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Virgin Money London Marathon Getty Images

    Button joined by wife Jessica and Manor sporting director Graeme Lowdon at the event on Sunday.

  14. WRC: Kris Meeke claims maiden win at Rally Argentina

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Meeke 264 Getty Images

    Meeke becomes the first British driver to win in the WRC in 13 years.

  15. SPOILER: Indy Lights race two from Barber Motorsports Park

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Results from the Indy Lights’ series second race at Barber Motorsports Park

  16. WATCH LIVE: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    BarberRibbon15 AP

    Watch the fourth round of the IndyCar season, from Barber Motorsports Park, at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

  17. WSR: Vaxiviere claims last gasp win at Motorland Aragon

    Apr 26, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    Lotus youngster beats Nyck de Vries in a truncated second race of the Formula Renault 3.5 season.

  18. What to watch for: IndyCar at Barber (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra)

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    BarberW2W4 AP

    What to watch for ahead of Round 4 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

  19. MotoGP: Marquez fractures finger in dirt bike accident

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Marc Marquez AP

    Marquez undergoes minor surgery on his left hand, and is in doubt for next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.