Dale Earnhardt Jr. was more displeased over Mark Martin’s “maneuver” late in the race, than he was with his P21 finish. The pressure was already on Junior for this race (was his three year anniversary of last victory), but did what happen at the end of the race set Junior over the top?
Most drivers in the garage have nothing but praise and respect for the 52 year old driver. Martin’s experience and track record sets him apart from most drivers in a quite unique fashion. Martin is a humble guy, one that is not known for starting any kind of trouble with anyone, especially his own teammate. Having said all of this, would any of these characteristics of Martin make you think anything different of him?
Junior on the other hand has had quite a different story. Still respected among the NASCAR garage, Junior typically doesn’t start any trouble either. His passion is still there, some may have questioned it, but if you saw today’s race then you know for a fact that there is still that burning desire to win races. With that being said, does this excuse him for what he said at the end of the race?
Martin appeared to have had the air taken from his car as they were exiting the turn, during this time Junior was making his move on the outside (which didn’t help Martin any, if he was losing air). In a chain reaction, Martin moved up the track, pinning Junior into the wall. The damage was done on the 88 machine, which later caused Junior to have a cut tire, ending his hopes of a decent finish with a possibly top-five car.
Junior’s take on the incident, “I got on the outside of Mark and he just came on up, drove us into the fence off the corner. I don’t know if his spotter wasn’t spotting good, or whether he couldn’t see good, but he slammed us straight into the wall.”
Martin, in “typical” Martin fashion, owned up to the incident, ”I would have given him room if I’d known he was there,” Martin said. “It was too late. I had my front wheels cut and I let off the gas and that’s all I could do at that point. My mistake. My mistake.”
Surprising enough, Junior stated “I just try really hard to take care of people and try not to be careless, and I don’t like to put up with carelessness, that really just (ticked) me off what happened out there.” To Junior’s defense, he made these statements immediately after the race, not having any previous conversations with Martin.
Knowing Junior would be frustrated, Martin met with Junior in the 88 hauler to give his take on what happened. Junior later said “Mark gave me a good explanation of the air being taken off his car, everything is okay between us.”
With competition continuing to grow among NASCAR’s most elite teams, the last thing HMS needs is conflict among some of NASCAR’s most popular drivers.
The good thing is that everything has been cleared up between the two, and both are looking forward to Infineon next weekend.