Dale Earnhardt Jr. entered Martinsville Speedway with high hopes after scoring his first Grandfather Clock last fall. However, he wouldn’t have anything close to the day that he wanted, finishing 36th.
Earnhardt Jr. started the day running up front in the top-10, however had to make an unscheduled pit stop at lap 73 for a vibration – loose left front wheel. His problems would only get worse from there as the shifter would break. The team went to work over the course of the next few yellows, trying to make repairs, and thought they had it fixed at about lap 150. However, it broke about 10 laps later, resulting in more repairs needed.
“A lot of guys I think are having some transmission or gear problems,” Earnhardt expressed. “We got some real bad vibration in the car 30 laps into the race and it just kept breaking the shifter. The vibration is so bad it breaks the shifter off. It breaks right off, right at the top of the transmission. It’s just swinging up there just like a tuning fork. We got another shifter on it, a different one finally. We didn’t know if that was going to hold up.”
The repairs left Earnhardt Jr. running back in the 20s, and when the accordion wreck happened, he had nowhere to go. As a result, his No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet would suffer heavy front end damage, resulting in having to go behind the wall for repairs.
“They stopped down there in the corner,” he added. “I didn’t know they were stopping. I don’t know why they stopped. Somebody got checked-up there and we didn’t see it, didn’t have time, whatever; and knocked the radiator out of it.”
This marks the second event in six races that Earnhardt has suffered problems, following heavy contact with the wall at Phoenix International Raceway. Earnhardt says, though, there’s nothing that you can do with bad finishes, but rather learn from everything that happened to be stronger next time.
“We will have better days and we have some good speed in our cars,” he said. “We don’t need to be too worried. We don’t need to panic, just kind of get through the weekend and get back to the race track as soon as we can.”